CNN’s relationship with Trump a ‘concern’ for AT&T’s Stephenson, report says

AT&T Randall Stephenson at Senate hearing

As his company seeks to have its $85.4 billion bid to buy Time Warner Cable approved by the federal government, the increasingly tense relationship of Time Warner cable news unit CNN with the Trump White House has become a “concern” for AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, according to the New York Post.

This morning, the paper highlighted the tense juxtaposition, quoting an AT&T spokesman as strongly denying that AT&T has had any discussion with Trump so far about the merger. 

“We have never discussed the merger with the president or anyone on his team. We have been very cautious not to do so,” the spokesman said.

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Media pundits have questioned a January meeting between AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Trump that occurred a day after the president called CNN “fake news” in a press conference. 

Since that time, the relationship between the White House and CNN has grown even colder. This week, for example, CNN newsman Jake Tapper conducted a tense interview with Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, in which he accused the Trump administration of having “little regard for facts or truth.”

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Stephenson has not officially registered his concern in public comments. Speaking during AT&T’s fourth-quarter earnings call last month, he called Trump “impressive,” while lauding the possibilities of reduced regulation and corporate taxes under the new president.

“If we want to get off this 1% to 2% growth plane, there is nothing that will trigger that like tax reform. I mean, everybody knows the numbers,” he said. “We have the most uncompetitive tax structure in United States--it’s the highest tax rate in the developed world in the United States.

“And to bring that into competitive levels, and you pick your number what tax rate you think that is, will have a stimulative effect, we’re convinced. In fact, we know at AT&T, if you saw tax rates move to 20% to 25%, we know what we would do; we would step up our investment levels and there are things we would like to accelerate, if we had a more favorable tax environment.”