On Oct. 11, President Donald Trump threatened to take NBC off the air.
Objecting to a particular NBC report, Trump threatened to use the authority of the federal government to retaliate, reports The New York Times.
In an Oct. 12 story, NBC reported that Trump said during a meeting in July that he wanted to increase the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile by a factor of ten.
Ironically, in his September speech at the United Nations, Trump referred to North Korean dictator Kim Jongn as "rocket man," as quoted by CNN.
The NBC report cited three unnamed officials who were in the meeting, and who were surprised by the president's comment, explaining that such a move would violate treaties signed by the United States under presidents of both political parties.
As the meeting broke up, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a "moron." In response, Trump announced that he could beat Tillerson in an I.Q. contest.
Trump objected to the NBC report in a series of Twitter messages.
"Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked," he tweeted.
"It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should look into it," he told reporters covering his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
When asked if he favored limits on what the media can say, the president replied: "No. The press should speak more honestly."
Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, spoke to the issue. "Broadcast licenses are a public trust. They're not a political toy, which is what he's trying to do here."
Wheeler added that "if some conservative groups were to take this as their marching orders, it would be an interesting situation to see what the Trump F.C.C. did."
Free speech activists were quick to denounce Trump's comments.
"This is not just a huge issue from a First Amendment standpoint, it is at best a weird way to go at it and nonetheless very problematic," said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, an advocacy group on communications issues before the F.C.C. "The message is clear, you don't have to work hard to see how those words are chilling."
Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North America program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, compared Trump's position to that of authoritarian regimes. "Donald Trump's assertion that NBC's license could be challenged not only puts him in unfavorable company but emboldens other governments to embrace authoritarian tendencies," she said.
Sen. Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, responded with a letter to the current F.C.C. chairman. "I ask for your commitment to resist the president's request and call on you to publicly refuse to challenge the license of any broadcaster because the president dislikes its coverage," he said.
In March, Trump suggested that limits be set on what The The New York Times should be able to print, as Vanity Fair observes.
"The failing [New York Times] has disgraced the media world," Trump said in a March tweet. "Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?"
The popular alt-right website Natural News has urged Trump: "Reactivate the House Un-American Activities Committee and start arresting seditious traitors in the left-wing media."