President Donald Trump reacted happily Friday to the news that Randall Stephenson is stepping down at CEO of AT&T after 13 years at the helm of the telecom giant that also owns WarnerMedia and CNN.
“Great News! Randall Stephenson, the CEO of heavily indebted AT&T, which owns and presides over Fake News @CNN, is leaving, or was forced out. Anyone who lets a garbage ‘network’ do and say the things that CNN does, should leave ASAP. Hopefully replacement will be much better!” he tweeted.
Stephenson announced Friday he would step down as the company’s top executive after more than 38 years at the company. There is no indication that he was “forced out,” as Trump suggested. John Stankey, the company’s president and chief operating officer, will take over as AT&T CEO on July 1. One month earlier, Stankey will become a member of AT&T’s board of directors.
Interestingly, Stephenson has long been a major donor to Republican candidates and causes, giving $100,000 to GOP candidates, PACs and congressional campaign committees in 2016 and 2017, according to Federal Election Committee records.
Stankey has also contributed to Republican candidates and causes, though not as generously as his predecessor. Records show that in 2016, he gave a total of $5,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
Stephenson, who will serve as executive chairman of that board until January 2021, helped expand the reach of AT&T — particularly with the $85 billion acquisition of the Time Warner entertainment empire that included Warner Bros. as well as HBO and the Turner cable networks. The deal, announced in 2016, was completed in 2018 after a fraught regulatory approval process.
The Trump administration has long tried to turn headlines into direct media criticism. Earlier on Friday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany blamed the media Friday for the negative press President Trump received for his comments about injecting disinfectant into COVID-19 patients.
“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” McEnany said in a statement. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”