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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says the Department of Justice hasn’t asked him to sell CNN

That contradicts reports from yesterday.

AT&T Senior Executive Randall Stephenson
AT&T Senior Executive Randall Stephenson
Getty Images News
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says no one from the Department of Justice has asked him to sell CNN as a condition of getting his proposed Time Warner deal done.

“I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done is selling CNN. Period,” Stephenson said at the New York Times DealBook conference in Manhattan.

And Stephenson reiterated that he has no intention of selling Time Warner’s new network.

But asked if anyone from the government had suggested that he should sell off DirecTV, Stephenson said he wouldn’t comment on the details of his negotiations with the Department of Justice, which he described as “advanced.”

Asked over and over again to explain the discrepancy between his statement and the reports that surfaced from multiple outlets yesterday, which said DOJ officials have told AT&T it will have to dispose of CNN, or Turner, the Time Warner unit that houses CNN, Stephenson answered with a metaphorical shrug.

“These conversations [between his company and DOJ officials] are professional. What happened yesterday was unfortunate,” he said.

Stephenson also said he has no intention of selling any of Time Warner’s significant assets, like HBO.

“You shouldn’t expect that we would sell something larger [than CNN] to get the deal done. It’s illogical. It’s why we did the deal.”

And asked — by CNN correspondent Brian Stelter — whether he believed the DOJ’s objections to the proposed deal stemmed from President Donald Trump’s professed hatred for CNN (thanks for the edit, Brian), Stephenson said he didn’t think that was the case.

“I have no reason to believe that,” he said, adding that he had not discussed the merger with Trump or anyone in the federal government outside of the DOJ. “I’m doubtful.”

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