AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner Inc. CEO Jeff Bewkes have pledged that threats by President-elect Donald Trump to block their proposed merger -- in part because of CNN's coverage of him and his campaign -- would not affect the network's reporting, even as the companies are trying to get the deal through the Trump Justice Department.
That came at a Senate Antitrust Subcommittee oversight hearing on the deal Wednesday (Dec. 7).
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) called the threat of differential treatment of the deal due to CNN's coverage of the President-elect abhorrent and asked Stephenson and Bewkes for assurances the situation would not lead to any changes in CNN's coverage.
Blumenthal said he might agree with Trump's opposition to the deal as too much concentration. "Donald Trump says he is going to block this merger and I take him at his word," he said, but added that the suggestion that public officials would use the blunt instrument of a deal review to silence or change news organizations was both "absolutely abhorrent" and a threat to free speech.
As to getting the execs' committment that CNN's news coverage would not be influenced in any way by that threat, Bewkes said yes, and Stephenson "yes, of course."