While advocates of press freedom condemned the comments and lawmakers urged the Federal Communication Commission to specifically rebuke them, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has so far refused to denounce President Donald Trump's threats to strip news outlets of their "licenses"—something he himself doesn't have the power to do but which critics say speaks directly to his "authoritarian" tendencies.
But while members from both parties condemned the implications of Trump's remarks—and other FCC commissions assured the public that they would stand in the way of such attempts—many said that Pai's strategic "silence" on the issue is cause for deep concern of its own.
As The Nation's John Nichols said in response to Pai's refusal to speak out: "Worry."
FCC chair Ajit Pai has refused to comment on Trump's talk of using the FCC to punish dissenting media.— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) October 13, 2017
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"When it comes to defending press freedom from this president’s threats, " Nichols wrote in a column on Wednesday, "this is mission critical for those who take seriously their duty to defend the First Amendment that Donald Trump so casually disregards."
And Bloomberg's Todd Shields notes how "the presidential threat evoked memories of intimidation by President Richard Nixon, who urged his lieutenants to interfere with the renewal of the Washington Post's licenses for Florida TV stations in 1972."
And so why Democrats on Thursday called for hearings over Trump's veiled threats about media licenses, advocacy groups like Free Press did their best to turn up the heat on Pai: