AT&T fired back at Tucker Carlson Wednesday night, immediately following a segment in which the Fox News host accused the company and it’s CEO John Stankey of supporting a Chinese company accused of aiding the Chinese government in carrying out human rights abuses. In the waning days of the Trump presidency, the administration threatened sanctions against certain Chinese telecommunications companies, including China Telecom, with whom AT&T has a relationship. AT&T lobbied against the sanctions that the administration ended up not pursuing.
“If AT&T and its CEO John Stankey decided to prioritize foreign interests over American interests, that would be grave news to every American. We’re learning tonight that at least one instance, that’s exactly what AT&T and John Stankey did,” Carlson said, kicking off the segment. He later added, “Specifically, know that AT&T worked to keep China Telecom off of something called the entities list. That list blocks companies from selling American products and technology to certain foreign firms without first getting a license. We’re told that China Telecom was set to be sanctioned because of its alleged support of human rights abuses by China’s government, and there are very many of those. U.S. officials have said that China Telecom is backed by the Chinese military and under control of the nation’s communist party, of course that makes sense. AT&T is a proud partner of China Telecom, has a joint venture with China Telecom.”
Later, while interviewing former Commerce Undersecretary Corey Stewart, Carlson took his critique of AT&T’s actions much further.
“AT&T has a lot of different businesses. It’s a very successful company. It’s a critical company in the United States,” Carlson said. “Why would he (Stankey) jeopardize the image of AT&T by siding with a company that had a hand in genocide in China? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
It didn’t take long for AT&T to respond, releasing a statement that reads in part, “Unfortunately, the story that aired was misleading and failed to represent all the facts about the role AT&T plays in serving the telecommunications needs of American companies that operate around the world.”
Along with the statement, AT&T also made public the information it provided to Tucker Carlson Tonight before the show aired, in which the company didn’t deny opposing the sanctions against China Telecom, but explained why it opposed them, which was not included in Carlson’s segment. In short, if the sanctions had gone through, American companies operating in China would have had to pay Chinese-owned companies to do the work AT&T, an American company, is currently doing.
“Without a relationship with a licensed Chinese communications company, no non-Chinese provider can serve U.S. companies operating in China,” AT&T wrote. “In the absence of that, such support would be provided by a Chinese state-owned enterprise instead of AT&T or any other American company.”
And given that AT&T is the parent company of Fox News nemesis CNN, Carlson couldn’t help but take a parting shot.
“I look forward to CNN covering this story in some detail,” Carlson said, “given their often-expressed concern for human rights.”
Tucker Carlson Tonight airs weeknights at 8 p.m. on Fox News Channel.
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