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FCC rejects group’s request to probe Trump coronavirus broadcasts

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Monday it was rejecting a petition that sought an investigation into broadcasters that aired statements U.S. President Donald Trump made in press conferences about the coronavirus pandemic.

Free Press, a media advocacy group, last month filed an emergency petition with the FCC to investigate the broadcast of what it said were false statements about the health crisis by Trump.

In a statement on Monday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said “the federal government will not — and never should — investigate broadcasters for their editorial judgments … We leave it to broadcasters to determine for themselves how to cover this national emergency, including live events involving our nation’s leaders.”

The petition suggested Trump during a March 19 press briefing had mischaracterized the efficacy of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible remedy for coronavirus. It cited a 1992 FCC rule barring the broadcasting of hoaxes.

The White House declined to comment.

The FCC order, signed by its general counsel and media bureau chief, said the Free Press petition sought an expansion of the broadcast hoax rule in “order to enable government-led flyspecking of broadcasters’ editorial judgments” on airing statements by Trump and other government officials.

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