Trump’s ‘Access Hollywood’ Video Generated FCC Indecency Complaints

Matt Billings/

Almost two dozen people filed indecency complaints with the Federal Communications Commission over the broadcast of a leaked 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape of President-elect Donald Trump, but it didn’t appear to be a coordinated campaign, according to documents obtained by Morning Consult.

While the complaints centered on news networks’ airing the tape, there weren’t any complaints about coverage of sexual assault allegations against Trump.

“Generally, there is no particular pattern to complaints unless they are made as part of a coordinated effort,” said Arthur Scrutchins, an FCC attorney, in an email to Morning Consult. “Some consumers are easily offended while others have a high tolerance for what is being shown on television.”

Coordinated filing efforts for FCC issues often include hundreds or thousands of filings all featuring similar language. That was not reflected in the documents provided.

The FCC received 20 indecency complaints and one privacy complaint from viewers, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Names and addresses were redacted. Eighteen of the 19 Complaints pertaining to the “Access Hollywood” tape were largely aimed at CNN, saying they took offense at airing the tape without censoring inappropriate words.

The filings complained that cable news networks covering the contents of the “Access Hollywood” tape did not censor words such as “p****.” (Many complainants used the full word in their filings.)

Complainants said they were upset with displaying the word or playing the tape with the words p****, s*** and b****. ” In their broadcast of the actual taped audio and associated subtitles, CNN did not bleep out the words p**** or b****,” one complaint read. “I was watching the show with my 13-year-old and was completely stunned they did not edit those words in the subtitle or audio. I continued to watch and they did it several more times.”

A few of the complaints said CNN was spending too much time on the tape.

“I understand that the news media need to make this news but kids are watching and can read,” one person wrote. “How many times do we need to hear this tape or see the video. We get the point.”

The FCC explained in its response to the filings regarding CNN that the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction to change the content of cable television.

A separate complaint, against MSNBC, said the FCC should investigate Trump “talking dirty about women.”

The privacy complaint targeted CBS News, with the complainant saying Trump was “taped without his knowledge in a private meeting.”

The individual felt that CBS should be held “accountable” by the FCC. Contents of the tape were first reported by the Washington Post in early October.

A complaint unrelated to the “Access Hollywood” tape said a news station in St. Louis showed a video of protestors in which a “F*** Trump” sign was “clearly visible.”

The broadcast of that shot on KSDK, an NBC News affiliate, was at 11:10 p.m. local time, according to the complaint.

The broadcast of profane language is prohibited between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., the FCC says on its website. Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., a station “may air indecent and/or profane material,” the agency says.

Morning Consult