President Donald Trump today suggested that the Federal Communications Commission should challenge an NBC license because of "fake news."
"With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!" Trump tweeted.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel offered a brief response to Trump, saying that's "not how it works" and linking to a manual that discusses the FCC's regulation of broadcast radio and TV licenses. (We asked Rosenworcel to expand on her thoughts but haven't heard back yet.)
Threats from public officials to stifle protected speech can violate the First Amendment. Adam Steinbaugh, who previously practiced law and is now a writer and free speech advocate, pointed to a federal appeals court decision from 2003 that tackles this subject.
The court decision said:
[A] public-official defendant who threatens to employ coercive state power to stifle protected speech violates a plaintiff's First Amendment rights even if the public-official defendant lacks direct regulatory or decision-making authority over the plaintiff or a third party that facilitates the plaintiff's speech.