President Donald Trump’s threat to revoke broadcast licenses based on his unhappiness with news coverage isn’t the first from a president. A similar episode in the early 1970s involved President Richard Nixon, The Washington Post, and a Jacksonville TV station.

 

At the time, WJXT TV-4 was one of two Florida stations owned by Post-Newsweek Stations, a broadcasting subsidiary of The Washington Post Company. The other station was WPLG in Miami.

Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham said in 1973 that the licenses of the two stations had been challenged earlier because of the paper’s major role in uncovering the Watergate scandal.

“Post Publisher Claims Vendetta,” was the headline over a July 30, 1973, story in The Florida Times-Union.

In an interview with NBC, the story said, Graham said former Attorney General Richard Kleindienst contacted the Post in 1971 “threatening us with a campaign against the press and with criminal prosecution if we did not return the Pentagon papers after the Supreme Court decision allowing their publication.”

Graham said Kleindienst “went on to point out that papers with criminal decisions against them obviously could not own television stations.”

In subsequent stories in 1974, the Post reported that transcipts of White House tapes revealed that Nixon told two aides in September 1972 that he would make trouble for the newspaper.

“The main thing is the Post is going to have damnable, damnable problems out of this one,” Nixon was quoted as saying. “They have a television station … and they’re going to have to get it renewed.”

Within months, a 1974 story in the Times-Union reported, “challenges were filed against the renewal of licenses” for WJXT and WPLG. Among the challengers in the Jacksonville case was George Champion Jr., Florida finance chairman of the 1972 Nixon re-election campaign.

WJXT endured a series of challenges before the FCC officially granted the station a renewed license in November 1975.