Political division has cast a long shadow over one of the biggest deals in media history: a merger between AT&T and Time Warner. Antitrust regulators have passed the deal to assets sales in order to approve the $85.4 billion handshake.
There are, however, conflicting versions of the meeting between AT&T and the Justice Department. One version stated that AT&T offered to sell CNN along with its parent company, Turner Broadcasting, to get approval. Another version states that it is the Justice Department the one pushing the sale.
“I have never offered to sell CNN, and have no intention of doing so,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson last Thursday.
The merger took on political significance when President Donald Trump talked about it on the campaign trail last year, amid disputes over CNN’s critical coverage of his presidential bid. Then-candidate Trump went so far as to say at a rally that he would veto the sale if he became President.
“The president did not speak with the attorney general about this matter, and no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter,” White House Spokesperson Raj Shah said to Reuters.
“Until now, we’ve never commented on our discussions with the D.O.J.,” Stephenson said. “But given D.O.J.’s statement this afternoon, it’s important to set the record straight. Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.”
The confrontation between the D.O.J. and AT&T will have at his center the embattled channel, since both sides recognize it as an important issue for their agendas. AT&T doesn’t want to give away any property that brings quality content as they seek leverage in the Time Warner deal; the D.O.J. likely just wants to trim the potential monopoly no matter any political or antitrust agendas.