President Donald Trump on Wednesday lashed out over a critical news report and escalated his previous attacks on the press by seeming to suggest that news organizations he disagrees with be shut down, alarming free-speech advocates who compared the tactics to intimidation efforts by the Nixon administration.
The president’s outbursts, which marred an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, came in reaction to an NBC News report that he had pushed senior aides in July for a major expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The president’s request reportedly prompted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to refer to Trump as a “moron” after the meeting at the Pentagon.
On Twitter, Trump called the report “pure fiction made up to demean” him and questioned whether networks that report “Fake News” should be stripped of their broadcasting licenses – although the Federal Communications Commission licenses individual stations and affiliates, not networks.
“Bad for the country!” Trump wrote.
Later, in response to questions from reporters in the Oval Office, Trump denied expressing a desire for more nuclear weapons and again criticized NBC.
“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write,” Trump said. “And people should look into it.”
Trump said he was not calling for limits to be imposed on the media, but he said that “the press should speak more honestly.”
“I mean, I’ve seen tremendously…