AT&T Chief: Government Has Not Pushed Me to Sell CNN, ‘Period’

“And likewise, I have never offered to sell CNN,” Randall Stephenson reiterates

AT&T boss Randall Stephenson says both he and the Department of Justice were “highly disturbed” by reports that a CNN sale is the sticking point for regulatory approval of the telecom giant’s pending Time Warner takeover.

“I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN — period,” Stephenson said on Thursday. “And likewise, I have never offered to sell CNN.”

He did not make the same promise to keep DirecTV, however. Stephenson punted on that question, citing a (sudden) need for confidentiality in these negotiations.

Stephenson, who was speaking on-stage with New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin at the paper’s DealBook conference, explained that his company wants CNN to provide an attractive overall package for advertisers.

The AT&T chief executive officer did say he’s received phone calls by parties interested in buying CNN, but Stephenson again reiterated that Anderson Cooper’s cable home is not for sale.

Later, Stephenson said it would likewise be “illogical” to sell HBO or Turner — two larger pieces of Time Warner — the latter of which is the umbrella above CNN.