Just days earlier, Trump’s Justice Department filed a contentious lawsuit to block AT&T’s purchase of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner. The action raised concerns that the federal government is trying to silence CNN’s critical coverage of the president, rather than fears about a powerful media monopoly.
Bloomberg reported that Trump confidant Rupert Murdoch, head of 21st Century Fox, asked AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson twice in the last six months if CNN was going to be up for sale.
The president also accused CNN of spreading “fake news” around the world, saying CNN International represents America “very poorly.” CNN snapped back that it’s not the network’s job to represent the U.S. to the world — it’s the president’s.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper responded to the president’s tweet with a thank you to network reporters risking their lives around the globe.
Trump’s animus toward CNN is well known, but the White House insists the president hasn’t discussed the merger nor the lawsuit with the Justice Department.
In a meeting before the lawsuit was filed, sources told The New York Times that the Justice Department had warned AT&T that either CNN’s parent, Turner Broadcasting, or DirecTV would have to be sold before the federal government would allow the planned $85.4 billion merger. CEO Stephenson has said he has no interest in selling CNN.
Earlier this year, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Time Warner executive Gary Ginsberg and said that 20 percent of the CNN staff should be fired because they were so “wrong” about the Trump campaign, sources told The Wall Street Journal. A White House official said the comments were not intended to be taken seriously, but they rattled Time Warner, the Journal reported.
The Justice Department says it is taking legal action because the combination of AT&T and Time Warner would create one of the biggest media monopolies in American history.
Jake Tapper noted that the timing of Trump’s tweet about CNN coincided with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signing of a law that allows American media outlets in Russia to be registered as “foreign agents.” The law is in retaliation for the U.S. government’s request that the American office of the Russian TV network RT be registered as a foreign agent.
Norm Eisen, ethics chief for the Obama White House, also noticed the interesting timing with the Putin move. He also warned the “dodo-in-chief” that Trump’s tweets against CNN could become part of the Justice Department lawsuit against the merger.