Presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly told a Time Warner executive early this year that 20% of CNN’s staff should be fired for their faulty analysis of the 2016 presidential election — a statement that may take on new resonance given the Justice Department’s surprising objections to Time Warner’s proposed $85 billion merger with AT&T.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Kushner made those remarks to Time Warner executive Gary Ginsberg, who reportedly said that the company would not be able to do that.
A White House official told the Journal that Kushner was not serious about the mass firings and was only trying to make a point, but the statement was still taken seriously inside Time Warner headquarters.
Both Kushner and President Trump have repeatedly been publicly critical of CNN’s coverage of the administration, leading some observers to wonder whether the White House’s objections to the AT&T-Time Warner merger are because of antitrust concerns or due to the president’s antipathy towards CNN.
According to The New York Times, directors of the companies involved in the proposed AT&T-Time Warner were told by officials of the Justice Department, which must approve massive mergers that could create antitrust issues, that the deal would only be approved if AT&T agreed to sell either Turner Broadcasting — the network of channels that includes CNN — or DirecTV. Justice Department sources claimed that it was AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson who proposed selling CNN in that meeting.
“I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN, period,” Stephenson said Thursday. “And likewise I have never offered to sell CNN. There is absolutely no intention that we would ever sell CNN.”