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FCC chief takes heat on Trump's media comments

Robin Groulx / Axios

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai found himself answering for President Trump's media bashing at a Wednesday Senate hearing, less than 24 hours after the president renominated him as the top regulator.

The top line: The chairman wouldn't say directly whether he agreed with President Trump's statements that certain media outlets are the "enemy of the American people" because he didn't want to "wade into the larger political debate." He did, however, express support for the First Amendment. He responded similarly when asked about White House adviser Steve Bannon's declaration that the media should "keep its mouth shut." Pai said that he had "not made comments like that."

The details: Pai also said he hasn't spoken with anyone in the administration about AT&T's proposed $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, which the president has criticized. He also generally reiterated that the FCC would act independently of the White House.

Why it matters: The exchange underscores how Trump's continued attacks on the media raise questions for Pai. Telecom giants regulated by the FCC have expanded their push into news content, from the AT&T deal to Comcast's investment in multiple digital media outlets to Verizon's purchase of Huffington Post owner Aol.

Note: Comcast's NBC is an investor in Axios and Andy Lack is a member of the Axios board.