There are a few things in the report that seem especially notable. "The records include a reported offer by AT&T to acquire a 5% equity stake in OAN and AWE, though the two sides ultimately signed a different deal. The court filings also cite a promise by OAN to “cast a positive light” on AT&T during newscasts," reports Reuters. The idea that AT&T would be so enamored with a brand-new conservative network already gaining a reputation for shoddy reporting and wholesale hoaxes that it would want part ownership is remarkable—or would be if the Dallas-based AT&T and its preceding incarnations had not had decades of experience in being one of the most malignant companies in the nation. That deal did not happen.
What happened instead is that AT&T has funded the company in the more standard manner. As the network has continually promoted conspiracy theories about a deadly pandemic and pushed hoaxes that have successfully undermined American democracy and led to an attempted toppling of the United States government, AT&T and DirectTV have funneled "tens of millions of dollars" to Herring's company through carriage fees. Do you get DirectTV? Congratulations. One of America's leading sources of pro-fascist conspiracy hoaxes gets a cut of your monthly bill whether you watch it or not. That satellite box sitting beneath your television set helped create an insurrection.
The other notable charge in the Reuters piece is the claim—also alleged in sworn testimony by the Herring family—that AT&T agreed in 2014 to a proposed bargain in which the Herrings would use their OAN network and their own lobbying to heavily promote the planned AT&T acquisition of DirectTV, crafting positive content about the merger to help sway federal regulators in exchange for AT&T placing OAN and another Herring network on DirectTV when the deal went through. The Herrings indeed mounted a full press to promote the merger; the lawsuit in question is because the Herrings say AT&T didn't follow through with their end of the bargain.
That lawsuit was settled secretly in 2017, and is presumably the reason that DirectTV began airing both Herring networks only weeks afterwards.
Now, there's a gaping problem that's complicating our understanding of what really happened in that case. The Herrings are the driving force behind a "news" network that is infamous for publishing fraudulent content. They are not just liars, they have turned lying into the core premise of a new pro-fascism, anti-democracy, viewer-killing television studio. You can take the Herring claim that AT&T did this or did that only with 12 pounds of salt because all of these people can be presumed to be exactly the sort of people who would lie in court in order to line their own pockets.
On the other hand, AT&T is also a company that has long had a corporate culture of being sleazy, icky slimeballs. An unnamed AT&T executive's claim to Reuters that it would never trade political support to network deals comes off as laughable; if there's any company in America that would do such a thing, AT&T would be it. All sides here are terrible, dishonest, and almost unfathomably gross.
AT&T, you will note, is currently embroiled in yet another scandal for its backing of Texas Republican lawmakers whose new "private bounty for turning in those that assist abortions" has effectively ended Roe in the state. That's resulting in new battles as other media outlets refuse to even run ads attacking the powerful company over that support. The AT&T defense is that it supports both lawmakers who want to end abortion rights in America and those who do not.
Similarly, the AT&T defense of its status as near-exclusive funder of a fascist "news" network actively promoting hoaxes and conspiracy theories both about the current deadly pandemic and about the supposed fraudulence of our very democracy is that it also carries networks that don't do such things, so whatcha gonna do. Both defenses are unpersuasive.
Oddly, the word fascism appears nowhere in the Reuters story. This is a bit curious as the network's continued insistence that Dear Leader Donald Trump was the actual winner of an election he lost, its promotion of a stream of hoaxes aimed squarely at undermining confidence in elections that did not go Dear Leader's way, and its goading of actual political violence in support of those aims objectively tick off sufficient boxes to describe the network as such.
We've known for a while that DirectTV is the primary funder of OAN, and the primary means by which the network is able to peddle brazenly false information to Americans in an effort to sway them into doing actively harmful things. The news that AT&T executives were themselves the impetus for founding the network in the first place is new.
None of it changes the fact that AT&T's boardroom, and DirectTV's boardroom, aren't choosing to fund a "conservative news network." They are using their companies to back a hoax outlet that has repeatedly and provably undermined the nation's safety and welfare. A hoax outlet, not a news one.
This is indefensible by any standard. There was once a difference between "conservative commentary" and the invention of outrageous hoaxes meant to bend the "news" towards whatever paranoias the movement's leaders find most useful; that line has been erased. Each of the companies involved is now responsible for killing Americans outright.
There's not a chance in hell any of the three companies will reconsider—again, all three are dens of gleeful crookedness, as has become commonplace at the pinnacle of American "success"—so your best bet is to take your money out of the picture. You do not need DirectTV. Dump it. Supporting for-profit companies looking to make that profit by goading Americans into believing false information about a deadly disease or about our very democracy itself is not defensible. Your pennies cannot be the ones that make the venture a profitable concern.
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