Fox News media analyst downplays severity of Trump's attacks on the First Amendment

Howard Kurtz: “Maybe the president was not actually serious about TV licenses, this is his way of venting when he gets mad at the media.”

From the October 15 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz:

Video file

HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): Guy, it happens to be a fact that the [Federal Communications Commission] doesn't regulate national networks, only local stations, and even there it's supposed to be on the basis of community service not news content. What do you make of President Trump going there? 

GUY BENSON: So, as we exhibited on this show just a few minutes ago, NBC and other networks are not above serious criticism and sometimes really, maybe bashing, sometimes. 

KURTZ: And the president has every right to go after any news organization or story he wants. 

BENSON: Exactly.


BENSON: And to challenge the stories and to go after their veracity. Taking it the next step, talking about licensing and these sort of vague mused threats about shutting down speech that you don't like is off-base, over-the-top, and wrong. And, I would just point out, if you are agreeing with him now, and you're a conservative, recall the reaction at this network when President Obama's administration tried to marginalize Fox. There was a hue and cry here and elsewhere. That was right. This is a step further from Trump, and it's wrong. 

KURTZ: Right. But maybe the president was not actually serious about TV licenses, this is his way of venting when he gets mad at the media. 

JESSICA TARLOV: Yeah. But he's the president of the United States of America. And people listen to him, and they believe him even when he lies. When you hear the chanting and the like “whoo-ha,” right, in that interview alone, you know how Trump's base feels about him. You know that they think that Hillary Clinton lied about everything, and Donald Trump told the truth about everything even though we know that the facts do not bear that out. And it's extremely dangerous. It's a authoritarian talk, dictator talk. Guy and I have spoken about this a million times, that he doesn't seem to have a strong conception of what the First Amendment really means. 

KURTZ: And speaking of the First Amendment. That quote from the president, “It's disgraceful that the press can write whatever they want.” Well sometimes it is disgraceful what the press writes, but it doesn't mean they don't have the right to do it. 

ERIN MCPIKE: They do. It's the First Amendment. But “just venting” is becoming a really big problem. Some of the stories that have come out since have shown -- Well, we know from the stock market, in fact, that three companies that own the broadcast networks actually lost a little bit of value after he made that comment. The other thing I would point out is that Tom Wheeler, who was an FCC commissioner under President Obama, said that “it could also be taken as instruction to supporters who could act on his behalf.” In other words, that conservative groups could challenge the licenses of some of the local networks because of what Trump is saying.

KURTZ: Yes, local stations owned by Comcast.

MCPIKE: So, this venting is a problem.


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