For the most part, people just shrugged. Comcast executives barely batted any eyelashes. The company didn’t bother to comment. And Google searches for “Comcast customer service” trended lower than in recent days.
Still, the president’s missive was yet another example of his yearslong effort to punish media companies for news coverage he doesn’t like.
In recent months he has targeted Comcast, one of the country’s top providers of broadband and cable TV, and the owner of NBC News and MSNBC. He has nicknamed the company “Concast” in nearly a dozen tweets since March. And he has dubbed MSNBC, known for its liberal programs, as “MSDNC,” a reference to the Democratic Party.
Trump’s provocations rarely get much attention, even on Twitter, his platform of choice.
Saturday’s anti-Comcast post received fewer than 10,000 retweets in 10 hours. On Facebook, where it was reposted, it received fewer than 7,500 comments. One of the comments with the most reactions said, “You spend way too much time on social media.”
Strangely, his post was a reaction to a three-year-old tweet by former Arkansas governor and Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee, who wrote in 2017 that the mafia has “better service than Comcast.”
“Sure they shoot you, but it’s over with and they don’t charge you for the bullet,” Huckabee riffed.
It was unclear how the old tweet suddenly grabbed the president’s attention. But he wrote in response, “Concast is known for its terrible service. On top of that they provide FAKE NEWS on MSDNC & @NBCNews. Drop them and go to a good provider!”
So he linked his disapproval of Comcast’s news division to his suggestion to “drop them.”
While the public seems inured to the president’s use of his platform to denigrate American companies, it is an abuse of power, nonetheless, said Norman Eisen, who worked in the Obama White House as a special assistant to the president for ethics and government reform. Eisen is now a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
“It is an abuse of power for an American president to use the awesome authority of the Oval Office to target an American company,” Eisen said Saturday. “It is even worse because here he is retaliating against the exercise of the First Amendment-protected constitutional rights.”
Eisen worked with the Democrats during the impeachment inquiry last winter, serving as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee.
“In the impeachment and trial, we pointed out the president’s propensity for abusing his power for purely personal and political ends, and warned that it would continue,” he said. “This tweet is proof of both. History teaches us where it can lead when leaders send signals like this.”