Donald Trump 'may block $85bn Time-Warner-AT&T merger unless 'CNN boss is ousted'

The President has repeatedly accused the network of 'fake news'

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 07 July 2017 14:55
Mr Trump and Mr Zucker have a long history
Mr Trump and Mr Zucker have a long history

The Trump administration may reportedly block the $85bn merger of CNN’s parent company with a major telecommunications group, unless the so-called “fake news” network’s boss is made to resign.

During the election campaign, Donald Trump enjoyed a love-hate relationship with CNN, which provided him with huge amounts of air-time - much more than they offered to his rivals.

Yet, as the campaign continued, he increasingly focussed his anger on the network, accusing its reporters of “fake news” and sometimes refusing to take questions from its journalists. Last week, Mr Trump tweeted a piece of edited video footage that showed him wrestling to the ground someone who face had been replaced by the CNN logo.

Now, it has been reported that the White House is considering hitting back at CNN in another, arguably more sinister manner, by holding up the merger of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, with AT&T. The merger, which was agreed by the two sides last October, has to be approved by the Department of Justice.

“While analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card,” the New York Times said.

Meanwhile, the Daily Caller, a conservative news website, was more explicit. It said the White House did not support the pending merger while Jeff Zucker remains president of CNN. “Zucker could be fired in order for the merger to go through,” the website said.

CNN hits back at Trump

While he was campaigning for the White House, Mr Trump said he would block the desired merger “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few”.

On June 26, Mr Trump tweeted that “fake News CNN is looking at big management changes”. Two days later, he was reportedly said to have told a private Republican fund-raising event he had heard Mr Zucker was “going to resign at some point pretty soon”.

If Mr Zucker were to be forced because of Mr Trump’s ire, it would add a strange twist to the story of their relationship. It was Mr Zucker, while serving as the head of NBC Entertainment, who gave the New York tycoon his start in reality TV when he signed off on the The Apprentice, which Mr Trump went on to host for 14 seasons.

“The show was built as a virtually nonstop advertisement for the Trump empire and lifestyle,” according to the book Trump Revealed, by journalists Marc Fisher and Michael Kranish.

The White House has yet to comment on the suggestion Mr Trump may seek to use the Time Warner merger as “leverage”. The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to inquiries.

In an interview with the Times, Mr Zucker, who had said he increasingly feed for the safety of his journalist in the light of the anti-media rhetoric that appeared to be growing, he said he had not talked about the merger with Jeffrey Bewkes, the chief executive of Time Warner.

He claimed the issue did not affect his journalistic or management choices. He said: “It’s not something I think about.”

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