March 09, 2017

ICYMI: Senator Hassan Presses FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to Denounce Trump’s Attacks on the First Amendment

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, during a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee hearing, Senator Maggie Hassan pressed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on whether he agreed with President Trump’s comments that the news media is the “enemy of the people.” Chairman Pai repeatedly declined to answer, raising concerns about his commitment to protecting the freedom of the press.

Click here for video of the exchange or see below for highlights of coverage:

CNN: The country's top media industry regulator really doesn't want to talk about President Trump's attacks on the media.

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was grilled by two senators Wednesday about whether he agrees with Trump's recent claim that the media is the enemy of the American people.

Pai demurred to both senators. "I don't want to wade into the larger political debates," he said. When pressed about his response, Pai added: "I believe that every American enjoys the First Amendment protections guaranteed by the Constitution."

"I wish your answer had been a little different," Senator Maggie Hassan said in response to Pai.

The unusual exchange came during a broader Senate oversight hearing on the FCC. It highlights the concern among some legislators over how Trump and his appointees will regulate the media industry he has attacked.

Vice: Hassan, who observed that Pai's official FCC biography states that he "has been an outspoken defender of First Amendment freedoms," reiterated Udall's earlier query about whether Pai agrees with Trump that news organizations are "the enemy of the American people."

"If you're an outspoken defender of the free press, that should be a pretty easy question for you," Hassan added.

Pai once again declined to answer the question.

"There's a larger political debate here that I don't want to wade into," Pai said. "All I can tell you is that I personally believe that every American enjoys the First Amendment freedoms that he or she is granted under the Constitution."

Hassan expressed disappointment at Pai's response: "I wish your answer had been a little different," she said.

The Hill: … Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) pressed Pai on whether he agreed with Trump, noting that the FCC chairman has described himself as a champion of a free press.

“Senator Udall asked you a question a little while ago, asking whether you agreed or not with the statement that the media is the enemy of the American people, and it seemed to me that you kind of declined to answer that,” Hassan said.

“I’d just like to give you another chance, because it seems to me that if you’re an outspoken defender of the free press, that should be a pretty easy question for you.”

Wired: …Hassan (D-NH) pushed Pai for an answer. “It seems to me that if you’re an outspoken defender of the free press that should be a pretty easy question for you,” she said.

Pai punted again…

The Verge: Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) pressed Pai for an opinion on the media, pointing out that he has direct oversight of companies that President Trump routinely criticizes. In particular, they honed in on Trump's comments that media outlets are the "enemy of the American people" and asked Pai if he agreed.

But Pai dodged, declining to assert that the media is not the enemy of the American people and instead arguing that he's long been a supporter of the First Amendment and that he believes "every American enjoys the First Amendment protections guaranteed by the Constitution."

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