Trump’s attack on NBC could result in a chilling effect

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President Donald Trump attacked NBC on Twitter, calling for a challenge and potential revocation of their license.

Though the threat has no tangible value – national news networks don’t carry broadcast licenses, individual stations do – First Amendment lawyer Dan Barr believes the Trump’s statements could still be in violation of the network’s right to freedom of speech.

Now that the NBC has been singled out, they might be more hesitant to release stories the president would find unflattering, according to Barr. This type of intimidation is known as a chilling effect, and if challenged in court, the president’s threats could be ruled in violation of the First Amendment.

TED SIMONS: COMING UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON," A DISCUSSION ON FREE SPEECH IN LIGHT OF N-F-L PROTESTS AND THE PRESIDENT'S THREATS AGAINST A MAJOR TV NETWORK. ALSO TONIGHT, A NEW CITY COULD BE IN THE WORK AS SAN TAN VALLEY MOVES TO INCORPORATE. AND A NEW DOCUMENTARY LOOKS AT THE HISTORY OF ASTRONOMY IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA. THOSE STORIES NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."

--VIDEO BEGINS—

TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. FREE SPEECH IS AT THE CENTER OF A COUPLE OF HIGH-PROFILE DEBATES, INCLUDING N-F-L OWNERS REQUIRING PLAYERS TO STAND DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AND PRESIDENT TRUMP THREATENING N-B-C'S BROADCASTING LICENSE. HERE NOW IS DAN BARR, AN ATTORNEY WHO SPECIALIZES IN FIRST-AMENDMENT ISSUES. GOOD TO SEE YOU BACK HERE. THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. START WITH THE N-B-C THING, THE PRESIDENT CHALLENGING N-B-C'S LICENSE. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?

DAN BARR: FIRST HE’S GOING TO HAVE TO FIND N-B-C'S LICENSE BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE ONE. THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE TELEVISION LICENSES ARE LOCAL TV STATIONS. N-B-C OWNS ABOUT 22 LICENSES FOR TELEMUNDO STATIONS AND OTHER LOCALLY OWNED STATIONS. THE PRESIDENT REALLY CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT LICENSES FOR T.V. NETWORKS OR FOR BROADCAST STATIONS. THE F-C-C IS AN INDEPENDENT BODY. LICENSES COME UP FOR RENEWAL EVERY SEVEN YEARS. THERE IS A PROCESS IN DOING IT. WHETHER THE PRESIDENT LIKES IT OR NOT, HE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

TED SIMONS: FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND, COMCAST OWNS THE LICENSE?

DAN BARR: COMCAST OWNS THE LICENSES THAT ARE ASSIGNED TO THE VARIOUS INDIVIDUAL T.V. STATIONS, THE OPERATED AND OWNED T.V. STATIONS.

TED SIMONS: THIS IS A TWEET THE PRESIDENT TWEETED “WITH ALL THE FAKE NEWS COMING OUT OF N-B-C AND THE NETWORKS, AT WHAT POINT IS IT APPROPRIATE TO CHALLENGE THEIR LICENSE? BAD FOR COUNTRY.” OKAY, AT WHAT POINT IS IT INAPPROPRIATE FOR THE PRESIDENT, WHO IS THE GOVERNMENT, AND WHEN WE TALK ABOUT FIRST AMENDMENT IT’S THE GOVERNMENT SUPPRESSING SPEECH.

DAN BARR: IT’S AT EVERY POINT IT’S INAPPROPRIATE TO DO SO. HE CAN CERTAINLY BE UPSET WITH THE CONTENT OF N-B-C NEWS, IT'S NOT UNUSUAL FOR PRESIDENTS OR ANY POLITICIANS TO BE UPSET WITH NEWS STORIES ABOUT THEM, BUT FOR HIM TO THEN CHALLENGE THE VALIDITY OF N-B-C'S LICENSE, AND TO SAYTHEY ARE UNDESERVING OF THAT, PUTS PRESSURE ON THEM. NOW, NOBODY THINKS THE PRESIDENT CAN TAKE AWAY N-B-C'S LICENSES. HOWEVER, IT DOES PUT PRESSURE ON N-B-C OR ANY OTHER NEWS ORGANIZATION THINKING, MAYBE WE WON'T DO THE NEWS STORY ON TRUMP BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT TO DEAL WITH THE HASSLE THAT COMES WITH IT. SO MAYBE THEY WON’T DO STORIES ABOUT-THAT ARE CRITICAL OF TRUMP, THAT ARE BASED ON TWO SOURCES, THE NEWS DIRECTOR MAY SAY I WANT THREE SOURCES. IT'S GOT TO BE RIGHT.

TED SIMONS: BUT AGAIN, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT IF THE FIRST AMENDMENT KEEPS THE GOVERNMENT FROM INFRINGING ON MY FREE SPEECH RIGHTS AND THE PRESIDENT, WHO IS NOTHING IF NOT THE GOVERNMENT, IS VOCALIZING HIS WISH TO HAVE THOSE FREE SPEECH RIGHTS SUPPRESSED, IT DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT.

DAN BARR: IT’S NOT ONLY NOT RIGHT BUT WHAT HE’S TRYING TO DO IS TO DELEGITIMIZE THE NEWS MEDIA, TO SAY YOU CAN'T BELIEVE THEM. YOU CAN ONLY BELIEVE ME. SO WHEN N-B-C DOES A STORY SAYING THAT THE SECRETARY OF STATE CALLED DONALD TRUMP A MORON, YOU SHOULDN'T BELIEVE THEM. THEIR CREDIBILITY IS SO LOW THAT I THINK THEIR LICENSE SHOULD BE TAKEN AWAY. IT HEARKENS BACK TO WATERGATE WHERE RICHARD NIXON WANTED TO TAKE AWAY THE LICENSES BELONGING TO THE WASHINGTON POST, WHICH OWNED SOME T.V. STATIONS AT THE TIME.

TED SIMONS: I REMEMBER EARLIER IN THE YEAR, TRUMP THREATENED C-N-N’S COMPANY, TIME WARNER WHEN THEY WERE TRYING TO DO THE DEAL WITH AT&T, HE THREATENED THAT MERGER BECAUSE HE WAS UPSET WITH C-N-N. HE DOESN'T QUITE GET THE IDEA THAT HE IS GOVERNMENT, DOES HE?

DAN BARR: NOT ONLY THAT, I DON'T THINK HE GETS HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS, SOMETIMES. THE F-C-C IS AN INDEPENDENT GOVERNMENTAL BODY. THE COMMISSIONERS ARE APPOINTED FOR FIVE-YEAR TERMS AND IT’S STAGGERED. FOUR COMMISSIONERS WERE APPOINTED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA. THERE IS NO WAY ON EARTH THEY'LL DO DONALD TRUMP'S BIDDING TO PUNISH N-B-C. IT'S EMPTY RHETORIC IN ONE WAY, BUT IT'S NOT IN ANOTHER. FOR N-B-C, THEY HAVE PLENTY OF VIEWERS WHO VOTED FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP AND SUPPORT HIM AND TO HAVE THE PRESIDENT CRITICIZING YOUR VERY LEGITIMACY IS SOMETHING THAT CAN BE DAMAGING TO THEM.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS THE N-F-L, THE PLAYER PROTESTING, IT’S BEEN DESCRIBED AS A FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUE, IS IT THE STRIKE ME AS THE EMPLOYEES AND EMPLOYERS ARE SAYING DON’T DO IT. THE EMPLOYERS CAN SAY THAT, CAN'T THEY?

DAN BARR: SURE, THE EMPLOYERS CAN SAY THAT. NOW YOU HAVE A FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO SAY IT, YOU CAN’T BE PROSECUTED FOR IT. THE EMPLOYER CAN SAY, WE’RE GOING TO REQUIRE YOU TO DO THIS. LET’S TAKE AN EASY CASE FIRST. IF A PLAYER WERE TO GIVE A NAZI SALUTE DURING THE FIRST AMENDMENT, NO ONE WOULD THINK ANYTHING OF THE OWNERS FIRING THE PLAYER, THAT’S EASY. OR PULLING DOWN HIS PANTS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. EMPLOYERS CAN DO THAT. THE PROBLEM COMES WHEN YOU HAVE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE N-F-L TO DO THIS AND IT BRINGS TO MIND THE QUOTE FROM FEDERICO FELLINI, THE ITALIAN DIRECTOR YEARS AGO THAT CENSORSHIP IS ADVERTISING PAID FOR BY THE GOVERNMENT. HERE YOU HAD NINE N-F-L PLAYERS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON, NINE IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE TAKING A KNEE OR SITTING DOWN DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. THE ISSUE HAS NOW EXPLODED FAR BEYOND WHAT IT EVER WAS.

TED SIMONS: BUT AGAIN, IT HEARKENS BACK TO WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT EARLIER WITH N-B-C. WHEN THE PRESIDENT SAID THE N-F-L SHOULD FIRE PLAYERS WHO KNEEL, IS THAT NOT THE GOVERNMENT PRESSURING AN EMPLOYER TO PUNISH AN EMPLOYEE FOR SPEECH?

DAN BARR: SURE. AND THAT’S WHY YOU SAW THE N-F-L INITIALLY ACT SO STRONGLY ABOUT IT. THE PLAYERS AND OWNERS INTERLOCKING ARMS AND KNEELING ON THE FIELD. PEOPLE WHO BEFORE WERE NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THESE NINE PLAYERS KNEELING BECAUSE THEY WERE SORT OF UNDER ATTACK. NOW THE N-F-L IS SAYING, WE WANT TO GET PAST THIS ISSUE AND JERRY JONES, OWNER OF THE COWBOYS, COMING OUT AND SAYING WE'LL BENCH PLAYERS IF NOT TERMINATE THEIR EMPLOYMENT IF THEY DON'T STAND FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. QUERY WHAT HAPPENS IF SOME OF THE BETTER COWBOYS DECIDE TO TAKE A KNEE DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. I DON’T THINK HE’S GOING TO BE FIRING EZEKIEL ELLIOTT AND DAK PRESCOTT ANYTIME SOON.


TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION BEFORE WE GO: THE PRESIDENT CAN CRITICIZE -- HE SHOULDN'T USE HIS POWER TO PRESSURE PEOPLE WHO EXPRESS THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS, BUT HE IS. IS THERE ANY STOPPING THAT?

DAN BARR: HE HAS A FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO SAY THESE THINGS AS WELL. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IN OTHER COUNTRIES WHERE THE GOVERNMENT TELLS PEOPLE WHAT THEY HAVE TO THINK AND WHAT THEY CAN'T THINK. IT'S NOT UP TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. HE HAS BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN TO TELL N-F-L PLAYERS WHAT THEY CAN AND CAN'T PROTEST DURING GAMES. IF FANS DON'T LIKE IT, OKAY. THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENED WITH COLIN KAEPERNICK. A LOT OF FANS DIDN'T LIKE HIM TAKING A KNEE AND HE'S PAID THE PRICE FOR THAT. IT'S NOT THE VENUE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT THEY CAN AND CAN’T THINK AND WHAT THEY CAN AND CANNOT DO.

TED SIMONS: THANKS FOR BEING HERE. COMING UP, HOW SAN TAN VALLEY IS MOVING TO BECOME ITS OWN CITY. THAT'S NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."

Dan Barr: Attorney, Perkins Coie

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