A couple of Time Warner shareholders went after CNN CEO Jeff Bewkes Thursday in LA at a Time Warner shareholders meeting for what they believe is the network’s continuous bashing of President Trump.
You can almost feel a slow smile spreading across Trump’s face.
David Almasi, the Veep of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative communications and research foundation, is in LA to question Bewkes. Both Almasi and President David Ridenour are Time Warner shareholders.
“In the past month, CNN parted ways with Kathy Griffin over her photo with a mock severed Trump head and Reza Aslan after he called our President a piece of excrement for pushing the anti-terror travel ban,” Almasi said in a statement released to The Mirror that he read aloud at the meeting.
Almasi is also irked at CNN for sponsoring Julius Caesar in the park.
Some sponsors have dropped out — but not Time Warner.
“Mr. Bewkes, we have urged you many times to make CNN more objective,” Almasi said in his statement. “You have admitted to us in 2014 the need for more balance. We praised you last year after CNN President Jeffrey Zucker also acknowledged this and acted on the need for more diverse views. But bias is apparently worse than ever. As shareholders, we are concerned about the repetitional risk to our investment in Time Warner as CNN appears to be a key player in the war against the Trump presidency.”
Almasi cited a Media Research Center study of CNN programing for 14 hours and 27 minutes of news coverage back on May 12. The report concluded that all but 68 minutes were devoted to Trump with 96 guests out of 123 being negative.
The Veep flatly told Bewkes that he isn’t achieving the goal he made to shareholders in 2014 to “try to be independent and objective.”
“Is it any wonder that President Trump mocks CNN as ‘fake news,’ that the network was snubbed by Vice President Pence and that it receives poor access at White House press events?” he asked.
Pence snubbed CNN in February after Jake Tapper‘s Sunday program because Tapper had questioned him in an interview in December in which he was asked — uncomfortably — about the transition team requesting security clearance for Mike Flynn Jr. Pence, who was in charge of the transition team, avoided answering direct questions about putting in security clearance for Flynn Jr.
Pence pointedly appeared on four other Sunday shows that day in February.
At that time, Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway was increasingly gaining a rep as someone who puffs up her boss and spreads what many perceived was her conscious effort to lie or spread fake news.
(From a Daily Callerstory I wrote at the time: The gist is that unbeknownst to her, the White House offered up Conway to CNN but CNN declined because all the other shows were getting Pence. “A source familiar with what happened told The Mirror that the White House offered up Conway to CNN, but the network declined because all the other shows were getting VP Mike Pence and CNN decided to let the Pence boycott stand as the White House message.” )
Bewkes was initially overwhelmed by everything raised in Almasi’s remarks.
But he jumped right into a response.
“So a couple of facts of what our involvement is…we don’t support the plays or the productions of the public theater and we are not providing individual support of the production,” Bewkes said on the topic of Julius Caesar. “What we do support is a program for young people and emerging artists. …We don’t have a role in influencing which productions they select or how they stage those. …The point of the play is one that has been debated for probably 400 years. It’s not one that advocates…the killing of Caesar…. But again, we don’t fund this. We are certainly not going to drop our support of public theater.”
Bewkes received hearty applause for this.
Almasi said he doesn’t really buy Bewkes’s explanation for supporting the organization that is producing Julius Caesar.
“How much does this promote that kind of attitude?” he told The Mirror by phone after the meeting, mentioning Tuesday’s shooting at the GOP congressional baseball practice. “Where are we going to draw the line? I think it goes too far. He obviously thinks it doesn’t.”
Bewkes went on to defend CNN.
“On the subject of CNN…there’s a reason we have multiple political parties and points of view,” he said. “…It’s because we all know there are very different opinions on what is the best course for the country.”
Bewkes said the network strives to be “a platform for all the points of view and for an attempt at independent or objective news coverage.” He said the news follows controversies, and therefore the MRC study Almasi mentioned doesn’t work.
He said he wanted to earn Almasi’s trust on his goals for CNN.
“We will recommit on an attempt to try to be independent,” Bewkes said. “I don’t want you to be skeptical of our effort — and it’s very sincere — to try to achieve it. …So far, the viewing is up. Quite dramatically. …We are trying to keep it balanced and fair,” he said, employing Fox News’ longtime ad line that the network abandoned this week. “I understand you’re thinking we haven’t succeeded, but we are trying.”
Almasi thanked Bewkes for “recommitting.” With that, he laughed and said, “We’ll see you next year.”
Almasi told The Mirror he’ll be a skeptic of Bewke’s promises until they materialize.
“The numbers didn’t lie,” Almasi said by phone. “He seemed happy to say that their ratings were good. And that can only go so far. …If this network and other networks are going to have a line against the president and almost be part of the resistance then they’re going to pay the price when it comes to consumers. I’m willing to let him go ahead, I’m not going to reserve my criticism necessarily because I want the company to succeed. I’m going to skeptical until I start seeing it.”
Asked if he felt that Bewkes was receptive to what he was saying, Almasi reluctantly said yes.
“He seemed to be,” he replied. “It seemed CNN was a small part of the machine today. …We put the screws to him. He realizes he has to do better.”
After the meeting was over, Almasi said a number of shareholders came up and thanked him for what he said.
“I’m inquiring about CNN’s bias and our return on investment,” Almasi continued in his statement. “Half of the American public – which includes potential and current CNN viewers – voted for Trump last November and supports his agenda. CNN acts as if it is part of the anti-Trump resistance. Are you willing to lose viewers, possibly forever, because of the bias?”
Almasi even threatened Bewkes, saying that Media Research Center plans to alert advertisers about news programs that “peddle smear, hate and political extremism.”
He asked Bewkes, “Are you concerned about advertisers leaving CNN? Will you continue to ignore our appeals for objectivity at the risk to our investment in Time Warner?”
Referring to the blustery Fox News host who recently parted ways with the network after $13 million in payouts to women who accused him of sexual harassment, he added, “Boycotts work. Just ask Bill O’Reilly.”
Update: Pence’s snub of CNN was not directly related to CNN turning away Kellyanne Conway for an appearance on a Sunday CNN show in February. The story has been altered to reflect that.