President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that he might challenge the licenses of TV networks that are critical of him, pointing to reports that he has categorized as “fake news.”
The suggestion was made on Twitter after NBC News reported early Wednesday that the president wanted to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal tenfold over the summer and suggested as much in a meeting with high-ranking national security officials.
The comment was made during a July 20 meeting that included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to NBC News.
During the meeting, the president was shown a slide that depicted the decrease in U.S. nuclear weapons that started in the late 1960s, the news station reported.
“Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve,” NBC News reported, adding that those present were surprised by the request. “Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup.”
After the meeting, NBC News reported, Tillerson was heard calling the president a “moron,” a remark that the president has called “totally phony.” The State Department last week denied that Tillerson called Trump a moron, although the secretary declined to deny the report himself.
Trump denied on Wednesday afternoon that he ever suggested the United States increase its nuclear arsenal.
“I never said that,” he said during a news briefing with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Right now we have so many nuclear weapons I want them in perfect condition, perfect state. ... It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and someone should look into it.”
His comments Wednesday afternoon echoed ones he made earlier in the day on Twitter.
“Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal,” Trump wrote. “Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!”
He followed with a second tweet calling NBC News “bad for (the) country.”
“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?” Trump wrote. “Bad for country!”
The president’s suggestion is unlikely to do much to ease his frustrations. The Los Angeles Times reported that NBC and other networks don’t hold licenses that cover their entire networks. Instead, licenses are issued to local stations.
“Under deregulatory measures that Republicans successfully pushed over the past generation, challenging a license on the grounds that coverage is unfair or biased would be extremely difficult,” the newspaper reported.
It’s not the first time Trump has threatened news organizations that are critical of him.
During the race for the White House and again in March, Trump suggested that it might be worth loosening libel laws in order to make it easier for people to challenge inaccurate stories, Bloomberg News reported.
Last week, the president asked in a tweet why the Senate Intelligence Committee was not looking at American media companies.