President Trump took aim at AT&T on Monday morning, floating the idea that his supporters should boycott the company’s various services as retribution for what he views as unfair news coverage by CNN. “I believe that if people stoped using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced to make big changes at @CNN, which is dying in the ratings anyway,” Trump tweeted. “It is so unfair with such bad, Fake News! Why wouldn’t they act. When the World watches @CNN, it gets a false picture of USA. Sad!”
Trump’s latest complaints about CNN come amid a state visit to London, with his anger seemingly triggered by watching the network’s coverage there for “a short while” in the president’s words. In that tweet, he asked, “why doesn’t owner @ATT do something?”
Trump did not directly ask his social media followers to boycott AT&T’s wireless service and other products, but even musing about the possibility is likely enough to frustrate the company’s executives. Back when the Justice Department was fighting AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, many viewed Trump’s distaste for CNN as a motivating factor in why the government was so determined to overturn the deal.
I believe that if people stoped using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced to make big changes at @CNN, which is dying in the ratings anyway. It is so unfair with such bad, Fake News! Why wouldn’t they act. When the World watches @CNN, it gets a false picture of USA. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has come to CNN’s defense since taking ownership of the news network. When the White House temporarily revoked the press pass of reporter Jim Acosta, he publicly complained about it. “You didn’t like the line of questioning? Well, that kind of seems to be violative of our protections of freedom of the press,” he said back in November. A couple months earlier in September, Stephenson said, “we’ve seen no evidence that that’s the case,” when he was asked if Trump’s hatred of CNN would cause trouble for AT&T in other areas. “The contest is over and it seems that everybody is moving on.”
But Trump’s latest tweets are at odds with that notion. The president is again putting major pressure on an independent media organization and firing off a warning salvo against its parent company. The AT&T/WarnerMedia merger is a done deal (and one that handed the Justice Department a bruising defeat in court), but Trump is showing that he’s still capable of causing headaches for AT&T if what he sees on the TV news channel displeases him. For his part, Stephenson has said, “the full weight and resources of AT&T will be committed to protecting First Amendment rights wherever our people operate.”