A story published by NBC News on Wednesday claiming that President Trump had sought a tenfold increase in the nuclear arsenal of the United States was dismissed by Defense Secretary James Mattis.
The article, which relied entirely on anonymous officials, was published just a week after the network published another disputed article claiming that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had considered resigning.
In a statement released by the Department of Defense (DoD), Mattis said the article was “absolutely false” and that “this kind of erroneous reporting is irresponsible.”
— Dana W. White – DoD (@ChiefPentSpox) October 11, 2017
President Trump came out forcefully against the claims, writing on Twitter that the story was “pure fiction” and “made up to demean.”
During a joint meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House Trump said that the current nuclear arsenal of the United States is already sufficient, and that no increase is needed.
“When they said I want ten times what we have right now, it’s totally unnecessary. Believe me. Because I know what we have right now,” Trump said.
Instead of increasing the number of nuclear weapons, Trump said he wants the current arsenal to be maintained and modernized, and to be in “tip-top shape.”
“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write,” Trump said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dismissed an NBC News article last week claiming he had considered resigning. Tillerson said that he had never considered resigning and criticized those who “try to sow dissension to advance their own agenda by tearing others apart in an effort to undermine Trump’s own agenda.”
Responding to a question about Tillerson on Wednesday, Trump said “we have a very good relationship. The press really doesn’t understand that, but that’s okay. We actually have a very good relationship.”
When asked by a reporter whether he believed that “there should be limits on what the press should write,” Trump replied “No, the press should speak more honestly.”
In his tweet earlier in the day Trump raised the possibility of the broadcast licenses of NBC and other networks being challenged.
“At what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!,” he wrote.
With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
The Federal Communications Commission, an independent federal agency, does not license broadcast networks, but issues them to individual broadcast stations that are renewed on a staggered basis for eight-year periods.
Comcast Corp, which owns NBC Universal, also owns 11 broadcast stations, including outlets in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas and Chicago.
Shares in media companies fell after Trump’s tweet, potentially reflecting concerns the war of words could escalate. Comcast was down 0.8 percent, while Disney shed 1.4 percent. CBS Corp fell 1.2 percent and Twenty-First Century Fox slid 2.8 percent.
The agency does not issue similar licenses for cable networks like CNN and MSNBC, or regulate internet news or other websites.
Reuters contributed to this report