Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

FCC Gets Complaints After TV News Repeats Trump's Crude Word

  • Agency not bound to act on complaints about televised accounts
  • Trump on Friday denied comment but senator insists it was made

Regulators fielded complaints about TV news broadcasts that repeated President Donald Trump’s crude characterization of Haiti and African nations during a closed-door discussion of immigration issues.

The complaints arrived Thursday and Friday at the Federal Communications Commission, according to spokesman Neil Grace. He declined further comment.

Trump on Friday denied reports that he used the word “shithole” during a White House meeting with Republican and Democratic senators on Thursday. The president’s denial was deemed “not true” by Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who attended the meeting.

The FCC forbids the broadcast of profane content -- "grossly offensive" language that is considered a public nuisance -- between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience. The same rules do not apply to cable, satellite TV and satellite radio because they are subscription services.

For violations, punishments can include fines that would fall against individual TV stations, which hold licenses granted by the FCC. The agency judges complaints individually and don’t always act, for instance deciding there wasn’t reason to punish Stephen Colbert’s coarse joke on his late-night show suggesting sexual contact between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Historically, the courts and the FCC have exempted broadcasters from ‘indecency’ fines if language deemed offensive is used in a bona fide news story,” said Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters trade group. “We’re confident the news exemption that absolved broadcasters of indecency fines in the past will apply in this case, as well.”

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE