CNN and NBC viewers were not happy at their use of profanity when covering President Donald Trump's remarks during a recent meeting on immigration.
A Federal Communications Commision spokesman told Variety they received a "handful" of complaints after the networks used the word "s—hole" in their coverage of controversial remarks the president made made to lawmakers during the meeting.
CNN featured the term on its chyron, and it was also repeated on-air multiple times. However, the FCC’s jurisdiction over indecency and profanity does not cover cable and satellite programming.
The word was used once on "NBC Nightly News," with anchor issuing a viewer warning in advance to cover their bases. CBS and ABC chose not to use the word.
According to Variety, the FCC considers a number of factors before acting on a complaint, including the context, which in the case of a news story can make a difference. Broadcasters said they were confident they could get away using the word on the air given that the person who said the term was the president of the United States.
“Factors in determining how FCC rules apply include the specific nature of the content, the time of day it was broadcast, and the context in which the broadcast took place,” the FCC says in guidance to consumers making complaints. The prohibition on such content applies to broadcasts between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Trump appeared to deny using the term “s—hole countries” to refer to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations. He said in a tweet Friday that it was “not the language used.” Later, though, he wrote that, “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems.”
Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Lawmakers who attended the meeting, including Illinois Democratic senator Dick Durbin, said that reports of Trump using the slur were accurate. Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, tweeted Friday that “the words used by the President, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not ‘tough,’ they were abhorrent and repulsive.”
The FCC can fine or sanction stations who broadcast obscenity, indecency, or profanity. A station can be fined up to $383,038 for any “single indecent broadcast.”