President Donald TrumpconfidantRupert Murdochcontacted AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson twice in the last six months to ask about a sale ofCNN, sources toldBloomberg on Friday, raising more concerns that federal pressure concerning a merger involving CNN’s parent company could be politically motivated.
It’s not clear if the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox was interested in purchasing CNN or if Murdoch was simply gathering information. One source said he offered to purchase the network in both phone calls, while another said Fox has no interest in acquiring CNN, according to Bloomberg andReuters, which first reported the calls.
CNN has come under the microscope of the Justice Department’s new antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, who warned that eitherCNN’s parent, Turner Broadcasting, or DirecTV would have to be sold before the federal government would allow a planned $85.4 billion merger between Time Warner and AT&T. Stephenson has said he has no interest in selling CNN.
A Murdoch purchase of the network could threaten to quiet a voice that has been critical of theTrump administration. The president has consistently accused CNN of being “fake news.” Meanwhile, the Murdoch-owned Fox News network has steadfastly offered sympathetic coverage of the Trump White House.
Earlier this year, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Time Warner executive Gary Ginsberg and said that 20 percent of theCNN staff should be firedbecause they were so “wrong” about the Trump campaign, sources told The Wall Street Journal. A White House official said the comments were not intended to be taken seriously, but they rattled Time Warner, the Journal reported Friday.
The merger wouldconsolidate tremendous powerin two united behemoth communication companies. But critics fear that the federal government may be using its power not to battle a monopoly but tohurt CNN.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.