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WASHINGTON — Testifying Wednesday at a Senate oversight hearing, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai evaded repeated questions about whether he agreed with President Donald Trump’s claims that the press are “the enemy of the American people.”

Both Sens. Tom Udall (D–New Mexico) and Maggie Hassan (D–New Hampshire) pressed Pai to affirm his support of a free press, but he repeatedly refused to give a straight answer.

Both senators cited former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now a special adviser to Common Cause and Free Press board member, who wrote an Op-Ed this week in The Hill calling on Pai to declare his support for press freedom and stand against government pressure on news organizations.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“Ajit Pai’s refusal to speak out against attacks on the press is outrageous and dangerous. We’re entering uncharted waters when the nation’s top media regulator — head of the allegedly independent agency that guards the public airwaves — won’t stand up for press freedom.

“In the past, Pai has spoken out repeatedly about his support of free speech, but he’s tongue-tied when it comes to questioning Donald Trump’s insistence that the media is the enemy of the people. As someone with immense power over media companies, we need to know where he stands.

“This week, Chairman Pai was renominated for a second term at the FCC. No senator should consider reappointing him unless and until he stands up for press freedom, denounces the characterization of the media as enemies of the public, and can demonstrate he is fit for the job.”

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