WASHINGTON -- The U.S Department of Justice has told AT&T executives that they may need to divest Time Warner's Turner Networks -- including CNN -- for the regulator to approve AT&T's multibillion-dollar acquisition of the media giant, according to several media reports on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump has been a fierce critic of CNN -- which he frequently accuses of airing "fake news" -- and made a campaign pledge to reject the AT&T deal if elected president.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
"This is a lousy deal that would raise prices and give AT&T way too much power. The Justice Department should reject it. Making AT&T sell must-have content properties like the Turner Networks and CNN, or even divest a nationwide video-distribution platform like DIRECTV, could be legitimate ways to soften the concentration harms if the deal goes through.
"If today's news is just cover for an attack on CNN, it's only the latest example of how Trump is all too willing to abuse his power to intimidate the press. He's also threatened to yank NBC licenses as punishment for critical coverage even as his FCC bends over backwards to remove all obstacles to right-wing broadcaster Sinclair's takeover of Tribune Media.
"It's certainly a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the First Amendment. This is how leaders behave in dictatorships, not democracies."