What Trump is trying to do to CNN may be even shadier and more corrupt than you thought.
Donald Trump hates CNN. He’s been very vocal and up front about it, to the point of being obsessive. We’ve all grown accustomed to his routine obnoxious attacks on the network. Throughout the campaign, he vowed that he would block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which owns CNN, if he became president, apparently to punish the cable news network.
And so now I suppose it should come as no surprise that Trump’s Justice Department told AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson this week that, if they want approval for the merger, CNN must be sold off. And guess who’s waiting behind the scenes trying to buy CNN?….Trump’s good buddy and Fox News chief, Rupert Murdoch.
Reuters reported on Friday,
“According to one of the sources on Friday, Murdoch called Stephenson twice, unprompted, on May 16 and Aug. 8 and on both occasions asked if CNN was for sale. Stephenson replied both times that it was not, according to the source.”
In fact, it looks like Murdoch may be one of the big factors pushing Trump to (illegally) block this merger for political reasons.
Vanity Fair explained on Friday,
“According to executives I spoke with, the theory is that Murdoch privately encouraged Trump to scuttle the deal as revenge for Time Warner rejecting Murdoch’s $80 billion takeover offer in 2014. “A direct competitor, who was spurned from buying us, perhaps is trying to influence the judicial process? That’s corruption on top of corruption,” one Time Warner executive told me. “It’s bad enough what the president has been doing.””
A Murdoch spokesperson said on Friday, “If Trump is doing this to punish CNN we have nothing whatsoever to do with it.”
Murdoch’s Fox News is nothing short of state sponsored TV. And now it looks like he and Trump are trying to find a way to expand their Trump propaganda reach even further.
As Vanity Fair points out,
“There is some evidence to support the theory. Publicly, Murdoch has been critical of the deal, while privately, he’s told executives it’s a business threat. “He said he’d work behind the scenes to stop it,” one person close to Murdoch told me. And, executives point out, Murdoch has long used his media properties to prop up politicians to advance his business interests.”
A group of eight Democratic Senators sent a letter on Friday to the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division demanding that the department “oppose any attempt by the White House to interfere with antitrust law enforcement decisions, particularly for political reasons.”
“There is no law against a company owning two cable networks, but there is a Federal Communications Commission prohibition on owning two broadcast networks. A Fox deal with CNN could also raise antitrust concerns because of the market share that a combined company would have among cable news viewers.”
But it looks like Trump and Murdoch are out of luck, at least for now, because Stephenson said on Thursday that they are definitely not selling CNN. And he said he is prepared to take the blocked merger deal to trial.
There’s still a chance that this can be settled out of court. But it’s more likely that this deal is going to be tied up in the courts for years and won’t be settled until long after Trump is gone.
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