NAACP, AT&T to meet to discuss OANN
Officials from the NAACP will be meeting with AT&T on Thursday to press the telecommunications company to sever ties with the right-wing One America News Network (OAN).
“NAACP President Derrick Johnson will be meeting with AT&T leadership tomorrow, October 21st. The meeting will focus on the need for AT&T to drop OAN immediately,” the NAACP said in a Wednesday release.
The meeting will take place at AT&T’s office in Washington, D.C.
“AT&T is directly supporting efforts that undermine our democracy and suppress our right to vote. It’s reprehensible,” Johnson said in a statement.
Earlier this month Reuters published an in-depth report revealing that AT&T had played a key role in funding and creating OAN. The far-right cable channel has been heavily criticized for spreading conspiracy theories, including some surrounding the 2020 election.
According to Reuters, OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr. has testified that the idea for launching the channel in 2013 originated from AT&T executives.
“They told us they wanted a conservative network,” Herring said in a 2019 deposition obtained by Reuters. “They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.”
After Reuters’ report was released, Johnson and the NAACP condemned AT&T.
“We are outraged to learn that AT&T has been funneling tens of millions of dollars into OAN since the network’s inception. As a result, AT&T has caused irreparable damage to our democracy. The press should inform the American public with facts, not far-right propaganda and conspiracy theories,” he said at the time.
When reached for comment Wednesday by The Hill, AT&T said, “We look forward to meeting with the NAACP to hear their concerns.”
An AT&T spokesperson also pointed to a previous statement released by the company regarding OAN.
“AT&T has never had a financial interest in OAN’s success and does not ‘fund’ OAN. CNN is the only news network we fund because it’s a part of AT&T,” the company said.
“When we acquired DIRECTV, Herring pressured us for months to carry OAN. We rejected their offer and in response, Herring Networks sued us, claiming we deliberately intended to injure Herring. Only as part of the settlement of that lawsuit did DIRECTV consent to a commercial carriage agreement with OAN four years ago,” added AT&T
AT&T also added that DIRECTV is a “separate, independent company outside of AT&T” that does not control the type of programming that is aired on its channels.
John Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight,” on HBO, which is owned by AT&T through WarnerMedia, lambasted AT&T on his show earlier this year.
“You’re a terrible company. You do bad things, and you make the world worse. Please don’t bother keeping in touch once the merger is complete. Although that really shouldn’t be a problem for you: You’re AT&T. It isn’t like your messages go through anyway,” Oliver said, referring to a deal announced earlier this year in which WarnerMedia would be sold by AT&T and merged with Discovery.
Updated at 6:30 p.m.