After 38 years at Time Warner (long before it was even known as Time Warner) CEO Jeff Bewkes is looking toward his next act, after AT&T completes its $85 billion acquisition of the operator of CNN, TBS, HBO, Warner Brothers and other brands.
But, as the New York Times’ Emily Steel writes, “there is one big storm cloud hovering over the deal: the Trump White House.”
Mr. Trump’s criticism has focused attention not just on the network but on its embattled president, Jeffrey A. Zucker, whom Mr. Trump believes has been disloyal to him. And CNN has put itself on the defensive with damaging missteps, including the retracted story last month.
That issue arose at the dinner last month in Dallas with AT&T board members. When the discussion turned to CNN, Mr. Bewkes said, he supported Mr. Zucker’s handling of the retracted story. He argued that CNN was a successful and growing business, citing its global news operations and its push toward mobile platforms. CNN brings in more than $1 billion a year in profit.
Asked for his reaction to comments by the president — especially those attacking CNN — Mr. Bewkes said that he did not think they were relevant to how the network covered news or the review of the proposed deal between AT&T and Time Warner.
“I think statements out of high political office ought to be considered statements,” he said.
“We have always been a public-trust journalism company,” Bewkes told Steel. “We have all kinds of critics that say we failed. We either elected the president by giving him airtime — when in fact nobody else would come, or we have been trying to not elect him by doing something with an agenda, which I hope isn’t the case,” Bewkes said.