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FCC chair ‘stands by’ Sinclair merger review after Trump tweets it’s ‘sad and unfair’

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Last week, the commission voted unanimously to take a closer look at the deal

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai And FTC Chairman Joseph Simons Testify To Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing On Their Dept.’s Budget Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

During an oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday afternoon, FCC chairman Ajit Pai responded to a tweet from the president saying the commission’s call for a hearing over Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media was “disgraceful.” Pai said he “stands by” his decision but did not address the president’s tweet directly.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) was the first member to interrogate the commissioners on whether they agreed with the president’s tweet. Pallone claimed that the merger would pose serious anti-competitive concerns and hurt consumers in tweets responding to the president this afternoon.

On Tuesday evening, President Trump tweeted out his disappointment in the FCC disapproving of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, calling it “so sad and unfair.” In it, the president points out the deal between Comcast and NBCUniversal that the commission, which was Democrat-led at the time, approved in 2011. “Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair,” the president said.

The tweets come after the FCC voted unanimously last week to hold an administrative hearing on the proposed merger, potentially jeopardizing the entire deal. Prior to the vote, Pai said he had “serious concerns” regarding the merger.

Following the declaration for a hearing, Sinclair proposed changes to its deal in order to assuage the worries of the commissioners. The proposed changes included acquiring several other Tribune stations in Chicago and Texas and placing them into a trust that would be sold by an independent trustee. These changes did not appear to influence the FCC’s decision to move the calls for a hearing forward.