Secretary of Defense James Mattis was in no mood for an NBC News story that claimed President Donald Trump wanted to vastly increase the number of nuclear missiles.
In a statement many Pentagon and defense reporters called unusual, Mattis said the story — without mentioning NBC — was completely false and irresponsible.
“Recent reports that the president called for an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal are absolutely false,” he said. “This kind of erroneous reporting is irresponsible.”
The reason why defense reporters called the short, but harsh, statement unusual was due to how Mattis almost never refutes specific stories.
The NBC report claimed Trump wanted to increase in the United States's nuclear arsenal “nearly tenfold”:
According to the officials present, Trump's advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.
One of the reporters who authored the story said NBC News didn't explicitly report that Trump “called for” more nukes, only that he simply wanted more.
NBC News didn't report Trump “called for” more nucs. On the contrary, we reported Trump said he wanted more but no one took it as an order.
— Courtney Kube (@ckubeNBC) October 11, 2017
Trump himself commented on the story that caused controversy of its own. Speaking with reporters in the Oval Office, he suggested he wants to challenge NBC News's “license.” He later sent tweets comparing NBC to CNN, the network he routinely criticizes.
Trump also told them on the record that he does not want to obtain more nuclear missiles.