Donald Trump’s ongoing war with the media over “fake news” escalated on Wednesday with the president calling for networks, and specifically NBC, to have their licenses revoked over reporting what he called “pure fiction.” And one Republican senator inserted himself in the middle of the fight Wednesday evening.
The White House and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis denied the report.
Trump’s threat to pull NBC’s license drew Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., into the fight. The centrist Republican Sasse is a frequent right-wing opponent of the president.
Sasse released a statement asking if the president was recanting his oath of office due to his challenge of the First Amendment.
“Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter,” the brief statement reads. “Are you tonight recanting the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment?”
The tweet containing Sasse’s question had received about 9,000 retweets and 19,000 likes within the first three hours of posting.
It did not elicit a response from the president.
Not only Sasse responded to the president’s threats, however, with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel firing off two tweets on Wednesday afternoon. The first tweet quoted Trump’s threat and read simply “Not how it works” along with a link to the FCC’s regulations manual. She also tweeted later, “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy. Hope my FCC colleagues can all be on the same page with respect to 1st Amendment.”
In the category of “There’s always an opposite Trump tweet,” the president commended the late disgraced Fox News executive Roger Ailes for not being intimidated by then-President Barack Obama’s threats against reporters in a May 2013 tweet.
I commend Roger Ailes for publicly supporting @FoxNews’ employees against the Obama administration’s intimidation of its reporters.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2013
Trump spoke to Sean Hannity in a wide-ranging interview on Fox News Wednesday night and again attacked the media — but praised Hannity.
“Media is bad,” Trump said. “They are really dishonest people. Very, very dishonest people in many cases.
“I will say this, you have been so great,” Trump told Hannity moments later. “I’m very proud of you. I am a ratings person. Has anyone seen his ratings? What you are doing to your competition is incredible. No. 1 and I’m very proud of you — an honor to be on your show.”