AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson on Monday said that forfeiting CNN as part of his company’s acquisition of Time Warner, the cable network’s parent company, is off the table. Stephenson said his company would not consider anything else that would look like an abdication of the First Amendment.
“There has been a lot of reporting and speculation whether this is all about CNN,” Stephenson said in a press conference after the Department of Justice filed a complaint to block the merger.
Stephenson said that he doesn’t “know” whether the network, for which President Donald Trump has demonstrated a deep, abiding and vocal enmity, has played any part in the administration’s move to block the acquisition.
“But nobody should be surprised that the question keeps coming up, because we’ve witnessed such an abrupt change in the application of antitrust law here,” he said.
Stephenson said that such a compromise with the Justice Department would be “a nonstarter.”
“The bottom line is that we cannot and we will not be party to any agreement that would even give the perception of compromising the First Amendment protections of the press,” he said. “So any agreement that results in us forfeiting control of CNN, whether directly or indirectly, is a nonstarter.”