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After Buffalo, Media and Tech Can’t Look Away Any Longer

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WASHINGTON — On Monday, 16 civil-rights, human-rights and media-justice organizations called on the top executives at AT&T and DIRECTV to cut business ties with One America News Network, the propaganda channel responsible for spreading anti-democratic disinformation, promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories and fueling racism.

In a letter addressed to AT&T CEO John T. Stankey and DIRECTV CEO Bill Morrow, the groups write that the companies’ support of OANN directly undermines their public commitments to race equity. The letter also notes that both AT&T and DIRECTV bear responsibility for providing the channel with a nationwide TV platform to spread election lies and deadly health disinformation. “We call on DIRECTV to stop carrying OANN and for AT&T to do everything in its power to denounce and remove OANN from its lucrative platform,” the letter reads.

In October, Reuters reported that AT&T helped conceive and fund OANN: Inspiration to launch OANN came from AT&T executives in 2013 and AT&T subsequently provided a crucial financial lifeline for OANN to grow and prosper. Reuters also quoted OANN’s founder revealing that 90 percent of the company’s income comes from AT&T-majority-owned TV platform DIRECTV.

The letter, led by Free Press, was also signed by Color Of Change, Common Cause, Decode Democracy, 18 Million Rising, Friends of the Earth, GLAAD, Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, Greenpeace USA, Guns Down America, Kairos, MediaJustice, Media Matters for America, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Open MIC and the United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry.

“AT&T helped conceive, finance and provide a megaphone for Donald Trump’s big lie,” said Nora Benavidez, senior counsel and director of digital justice and civil rights at Free Press. “One America News would not exist without AT&T’s money and DIRECTV’s national platform. It wouldn’t have been able to mislead millions with dangerous, hateful and dishonest messages that undermine our democracy and threaten our diverse communities. These two media giants continue to spout talking points about race equity while supporting a network that’s given a national stage to white supremacists and promoted lies about public health. We’re calling AT&T CEO John Stankey and DIRECTV CEO Bill Morrow to account for their hypocrisy and are urging both of their companies to cut all ties with One America News.”

“Right-wing conspiracy-theory network OANN and all of its lies simply would not exist and could not survive without AT&T keeping it alive,” said Media Matters President and CEO Angelo Carusone. “AT&T bankrolled OANN — and incredulously — re-upped their support, knowing full well everything the network has done — from advancing deadly COVID-19 misinformation, hyping bogus claims of election fraud and organizing its viewers in support of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results to pushing anti-LGBTQ content and racial slurs. AT&T’s stake in OANN is so consequential that unless they withdraw their support, the network will continue to thrive even without any major advertisers. We are fast approaching the moment when AT&T must decide what to do with the waning contract. AT&T is already overpaying for OANN. It’s in their business interest and in the country’s best interest for AT&T to stop propping up OANN and just let the contract expire without renewal.”

“The harmful disinformation OANN spreads has had real-world impacts on democracy and public health, from the violent insurrection on our Capitol to the death and suffering of so many who were misinformed by the network’s coverage of the pandemic,” said Common Cause Media & Democracy Program Director Yosef Getachew. “AT&T must be held accountable for its role in building and bankrolling OANN, and DIRECTV must no longer carry this dangerous disinformation network.”

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