CNN and other outlets are in Donald Trump's 'crosshairs': WarnerMedia CEO

Max Zahn

President Donald Trump doesn’t just have a vendetta against CNN — he has one against all media outlets that publish coverage he dislikes, says John Stankey, who oversees CNN in his role as WarnerMedia CEO.

“I wouldn't say that CNN per se is exclusively in the president's crosshairs,” he says.
”I would actually say that media that doesn't subscribe to the president's narrative is in the president's crosshairs.”

Stankey said the prevalence of misinformation in the current news environment has made the job of reporters more difficult than at any time in at least the past decade.

“It's a tough environment ascertaining what, in fact, are the facts,” he says. “I would say it's far more complicated than it ever has been 10 years ago.”

“The complicated environment we're in makes it more difficult to be accurate each and every day,” he adds. “There are new ways that you have to validate that, in fact, you're bringing the right facts out to those that are consuming it.”

A television screen shot during live CNN coverage of the President Donald Trump impeachment trial on February 5, 2020. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Trump has criticized CNN throughout his presidency, including two tweets this month that referred to CNN as “Fake News.” Last November, Trump tweeted an attack on CNN President Jeff Zucker, calling the network “a virtual fraud.” In a particularly aggressive tweet, in 2017, Trump posted a video that portrays him wrestling and punching a man whose head has been replaced with the CNN logo.

But Trump has repeatedly criticized other outlets as well, including The New York Times and liberal-leaning MSNBC. In a tweet last month, he also criticized conservative leaning-Fox News and its host Chris Wallace, saying a recent telecast marked “the beginning of the end for Fox.”

According to a report from the New Yorker in March, Trump pressured the DOJ to block the merger in 2018 between Time Warner and AT&T, which the article says many suspected was motivated by Trump’s disapproval of media coverage by CNN, owned at the time by Time Warner. 

In 2017, CNN imposed strict publishing standards for digital articles involving Russia after the network retracted an article that linked the country to Trump. The story claimed Senate Intelligence Committee investigators were examining a Russian investment fund whose chief executive had met with the Trump transition team days before inauguration. Three journalists resigned from CNN in June 2017 over the article retraction.

Stankey acknowledged that CNN has made some mistakes in its coverage but said the network is “doing great.”

“Do we make mistakes? Sure. When we make mistakes, I think we acknowledge that we make mistakes,” he says. “But by and large, I think we do a better job than anybody else out there ensuring the facts are reported and reported in the right way.”

Stankey made the remarks during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

In addition to his role in the C-suite at AT&T, Stankey is the chief executive at WarnerMedia, which controls properties like HBO, Turner, and Warner Brothers. Among his responsibilities is the oversight of HBO Max, a new streaming service set to launch in May.

Stankey contrasted the editorial process at CNN and other media companies with what he considers a lack of vetting on social media platforms like Facebook.

He called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to take some responsibility for information posted on the platform, saying that the site requires “editorial integrity” whether or not Zuckerberg considers it a media company.

John Stankey, AT&T President and COO as well as WarnerMedia CEO, appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.

“If that's where people are consuming facts and information and if you're aggregating and producing that to move out, then you probably need to think about what the editorial integrity of your platform is,” he says.

Facebook has declined to take a role in judging the veracity of posts on the site, opting instead to partner with fact-checking organizations that vet posts, an arrangement that began after the 2016 presidential election.

“We don't want to be in the position of determining what is true and what is false for the world,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, told Yahoo Finance last September. “We don't think we can do it effectively.”

Stankey said a direct editorial role from Facebook would better ensure the accuracy of information found on the platform.

“Why did editorial integrity show up in media companies?” Stankey adds. “Editorial integrity and editors arrived because people needed to make sure that their source of information was, in fact, doing that ethical and fair reporting.”

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