WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - The head of the Federal Communications Commission told the U.S. Congress that he did not agree with President Donald Trump’s comments that certain media outlets are an “enemy” of the people and would act independently of the White House on media-related matters.
In a letter released on Monday, Republican chairman Ajit Pai, tapped by Trump in January to head the body that regulates broadcast television, radio and other media outlets, told Senate Democrats in response to a series of questions that he did not agree the media is the “enemy of the American people.”
Pai, who has been nominated to a new five-year term at the FCC by Trump, had refused to say during a Senate hearing earlier this month whether he agreed with Trump media comments.
In February, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK.”
On March 10, 13 Senate Democrats sent Pai a letter again demanding he answer, arguing his “silence on the matter and refusal to take a stand against threats levied at the media is troubling.”
In the letter dated Friday, Pai said he had been asked during the hearing if he agreed with Trump that the media was the “enemy” of the people. Pai said Trump “has made clear that he was referring to ‘fake news.'”
Pai said he would regulate the media in an impartial manner and would not penalize free speech by television or digital media “even if requested by the administration.”
He said he would act independently of the White House and would report to Congress attempts by White House officials to influence decision making with respect to media interests.
Trump has clashed with media outlets on numerous occasions, especially cable networks like CNN. Trump has often taken to Twitter to label stories he disagreed with as “fake news.”
During his election campaign, Trump said AT&T Inc’s $85.4 billion bid to buy Time Warner Inc, owner of CNN and the Warner Bros movie studio, was an example of a “power structure” rigged against him and U.S. voters and should not be approved. “It’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” he said during the campaign.
Since his election, Trump has not commented on the merits of the deal.
Pai said last month he does not expect the FCC to review the transaction.
In his letter, Pai reiterated his “strong support for the First Amendment rights of the media and all Americans” and said he has “consistently opposed any effort to infringe upon the freedom of the press and have fought to eliminate regulations that impede the gathering and dissemination of news.” (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)