The setup: At a hearing two weeks ago, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai repeatedly dodged questions from Senate Democrats over whether he agrees with President Trump that the "FAKE NEWS media" was the "enemy of the American people." Those lawmakers followed up with questions in a letter later that week.
The cleanup: Responding to the letter, Pai asserted his independence from the White House and said he did not think that the media was the "enemy" of the American people. But he still took steps to avoid directly taking on the president:
"I should note that at the hearing, I was asked if I agreed with the President that the media was the 'enemy' of the people. However, the President has made clear that he was referring to 'fake news.' As I stated at the hearing, these comments are part of a larger political debate into which I will not be wading."
Why it matters: One way for Pai's liberal critics to undermine his work is by suggesting he's taking his cues from the White House — because the FCC is an independent agency. It comes at a time when the public perception of his leadership at the FCC is being shaped before big fights on net neutrality and other issues.