Trump’s Attacks on the Press: Telling Escalation From Empty Threats
President Trump usually ignores the criticism that comes his way from MSNBC, the reliably liberal cable channel that, his advisers argue, will attack his administration no matter what.
But two reports by the channel’s parent network, NBC News — including a scoop that the president sought to expand the nation’s nuclear arsenal — set off some of Mr. Trump’s most hostile rhetoric yet about the freedom of the press.
“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked,” he wrote on Twitter. “Not fair to public!”
A few caveats to keep in mind. Rage against the media is political Wagyu for the president’s base. And Mr. Trump’s notion of suspending licenses — along with his proposal, tweeted last week, that late-night comedians be subject to the “equal time” rule — is essentially unworkable, given how government regulation of the airwaves actually works.
So was it a genuine threat — or just another comment from a president who seemingly thrives on narrative tension simply trying to top himself?
“One has to suppose that he’s looking for ways to shock people,” Russell Baker, the gimlet-eyed longtime observer of Washington, said in a rare interview on Thursday.