President Donald Trump has intensified his war with the media by launching an attack on the “frankly disgusting” freedom of speech bestowed upon US journalists.
The embattled President told reporters in the Oval Office it was “frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should look into it”, criticising the “tremendously dishonest press”.
Mr Trump, who has made some 1,300 false statements since taking office, has long complained of “fake news” hampering his administration.
Free expression is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Mr Trump on Wednesday threatened to consider whether TV networks’ licences could be reviewed over unflattering coverage of him.
He later added: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked”.
“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” Mr Trump wrote in a tweet.
Mr Trump’s tweet came in response to a story written by NBC, which said that Mr Trump had sought to increase America’s nuclear arsenal tenfold after taking a look at a briefing slide that showed steady reduction of the US nuclear arsenal since the 1960s. The story cited three officials who were reportedly in the room when Mr Trump made the comments.
Singling out NBC News for criticism, he added: “Not fair to public!”
A Republican senator, Ben Sasse, challenged Mr Trump’s outburst. He said: “Words spoken by the President of the United States matter. Are you tonight recanting the oath you took on 20 January to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment?”
And Ed Markey, a Democrat, urged the chairman of the Federal Communication Commission to ignore the President’s apparent call to action.
Maggie Hassan, another Democrat, called it “an unacceptable attack on the free press”.
According to The Hill, Mr Trump later said he had no plans to seek to limit journalistic activity.
Earlier this year, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr Trump used his speech to reiterate his belief that “fake news” media outlets using anonymous source were the “enemy of the American people”.
“They are the enemy of the people,” he said in February. “Because they have no sources. They just make them up where there are none.”
The President has regularly targeted news networks critical of him since January, when he gave a press conference as President-elect and shouted down a CNN reporter as “fake news”. The term – which Mr Trump says he invented but had been used frequently before to describe the proliferation of stories written by anonymous bloggers to spread lies during the 2016 election – has since become one of his go-to insults when the media publishes critical coverage of the Trump administration.