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“Investors Must Conclude That AT&T Is a Company That Understands neither Truth nor Appropriate Business Conduct,” Says Shareholder Activist

Washington, D.C. – When pressed about dishonesty and serious departures from journalistic standards at AT&T-owned CNN, AT&T CEO John Stankey claimed his company’s leaders “ensure” that CNN “stand[s] up to rigorous journalistic standards for accurate and truthful reporting.” The Free Enterprise Project (FEP), which had questioned him on the issue, argued that the opposite is true: “Stankey’s own admission makes it clear: AT&T is not a reliable, well-managed investment.”

Scott Shepard

Scott Shepard

At AT&T’s annual shareholder meeting, FEP Deputy Director Scott Shepard submitted this question:

In just the last few weeks, the nation has learned that AT&T’s CNN pushed false narratives about Russians offering bounties for the deaths of American soldiers, and about the cause of death of U.S. Capitol policeman Brian Sicknick, yet CNN doubles down. A CNN director has revealed that the former news organization hyped and falsified news to keep viewers scared about COVID, to defeat Donald Trump, and to stir up racial division. What specific, concrete measures is AT&T going to take either to end the disgraceful malpractice and mendacity at CNN or, alternatively, to change its designation from news network to hard-left opinion megaphone?

The company combined FEP’s question with others to create a question that did not confront Stankey with specific details about CNN’s performance:

We’ve received a few questions regarding our ownership of CNN. Some stockholders feel that owning a cable news channel can be divisive because not everyone agrees with the viewpoints expressed on air.

To that question, Stankey responded:

Yeah, we’re in a time in society right now where any viewpoint that’s being expressed is probably open for debate and consideration from individuals. I’m certainly aware that there’s points of view expressed on CNN, in what our journalists express, that not all individuals necessarily agree with.

But I think it’s important to understand that when you think about the news media and the role that is plays, not only CNN but literally any news outlet or media outlet that’s out there, it’s very important to our society. We believe at this company in the protections under the First Amendment. We believe in free speech, free press, your freedom of beliefs, and we actually think those things are incredibly important to a healthy democracy.

And when we acquired Time Warner, we made a commitment, and we made a commitment that CNN would have editorial independence from any other aspect of AT&T’s business. And in turn, they were expected to stand up to rigorous journalistic standards for accurate, truthful reporting. And we continue to ensure that that’s the case.

CNN is actually, at a time when all media is stressed, the most respected brand in news today, and we’re proud of that. And over the past 5 years, CNN has won more Emmys than in the previous 35 years combined. They play an important role, as does the rest of the news media, in ensuring our democracy continues to function, and we’ll continue to support it in the essential fashion that we have moving forward.

FEP’s full annotated question is available here. The audio of the question created by AT&T, and Stankey’s response to it, is available here.

“Stankey asserted that AT&T ensures that CNN will stick to the highest standards of honest and truthful journalism,” said Shepard after the meeting. “As our question demonstrated, CNN has failed to meet that standard again and again, even in the last few weeks. It then fails to admit its failures or to try to improve, instead continuing to lie and spin. Its management has been caught admitting exactly this.

“If this is what AT&T – a company carrying an astonishing amount of debt, and in need of the most careful management if it is to survive – considers rigorous oversight to ensure truth and the highest standards of business conduct, then investors must conclude that AT&T is a company that understands neither truth nor appropriate business conduct,” continued Shepard. “Stankey’s own admission makes it clear: AT&T is not a reliable, well-managed investment.”

The way AT&T handled questions during today’s meeting raised additional concerns.

“AT&T combined and softened questions from investors to try to hide the truth of its management failures, but it failed at this as well,” continued Shepard. “These dodges demonstrated that it actively shields itself from hard realities, such as the fact that many objections to CNN do not arise from mere dislike of opinions expressed there, but from the network’s lack of honest reporting and appropriate journalistic conduct. The watering down of questions also failed to hide another vital dynamic: Moderate and conservative investors who have been shocked and disgusted by the hard-left turn of woke companies like CNN are starting to push back against corporate attempts to destroy basic and vital American institutions. This is the critical time to keep up – and amp up – activism by regular, sensible Americans.”

Davis Soderberg

Davis Soderberg

“Stankey boasted about how many Emmys CNN has won in the last 5 years as proof that the media outlet is ‘the most respected brand in news today,”’ added FEP Associate Davis Soderberg, who also attended the meeting. “He’s not fooling anyone. This is a well-orchestrated fraud. Woke elites use Hollywood award shows – run by and for woke elites, to celebrate woke elitism – to glorify themselves, and the Emmy Awards are just another one of those left-wing back-patting machines. Stankey relying on the Emmys to establish CNN’s respectability is like us asserting we’re the world’s cleverest people because our moms say so.

“CNN is nowhere remotely close to practicing ‘journalistic standards for accurate, truthful reporting.’” concluded Soderberg. “It is nothing more than a media home for left-wing activists who sometimes pretend to be reporters. Sadly, John Stankey is so far gone into his own echo chamber that he can’t see this, and as CNN continues to move more and more left, AT&T shareholders will be the ones who suffer the results of cratering ratings, losses from legal settlements of libel suits and the other fruits of mendacity.”

Conservative investors can learn how to oppose leftism in corporate America by downloading FEP’s new 2021 Investor Value Voter Guide. The new website Stop Corporate Tyranny also provides tools for engagement with corporate leaders.

Today’s meeting marks the 11th time FEP has participated in a shareholder meeting in 2021. To schedule an interview with a member of the Free Enterprise Project on this or other issues, contact Judy Kent at (703) 477-7476.

Launched in 2007, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project focuses on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Over the past four years alone, FEP representatives have participated in over 100 shareholder meetings – advancing free-market ideals about health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and other important public policy issues. As the leading voice for conservative-minded investors, it annually files more than 90 percent of all right-of-center shareholder resolutions. Dozens of liberal organizations, however, annually file more than 95 percent of all policy-oriented shareholder resolutions and continue to exert undue influence over corporate America.

FEP activity has been covered by media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Drudge Report, Business Insider, National Public Radio and SiriusXM. FEP’s work is prominently featured in Stephen Soukup’s new book The Dictatorship of Woke Capital: How Political Correctness Captured Big Business (Encounter Books) and Kimberley Strassel’s 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 60,000 active recent contributors.

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Author: The National Center