John Oliver has attacked the parent company of his own show, lashing out at the executives for launching One America News Network – a news channel which he described as ‘a rag-tag bunch of fascists’.
Oliver spoke out after a Reuters investigation published last week showed the role AT&T played in creating and funding OAN, a network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic.
OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr has testified that the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives.
‘They told us they wanted a conservative network,’ Herring said during a 2019 deposition seen by Reuters.
‘They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.’
John Oliver on Sunday night used his show – broadcast on HBO – to attack AT&T, which owns HBO
The British comedian said OAN was ‘a rag-tag bunch of fascists’ who were ‘happy to give a platform to bats*** election-fraud theories’
Since then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, Reuters reported.
Ninety percent of OAN’s revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV, according to 2020 sworn testimony by an OAN accountant.
AT&T owns WarnerMedia, which in turn owns HBO – the network that broadcasts Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
The British-born host was unrelenting in his criticism of AT&T’s role in OAN.
‘Turns out AT&T has been up to some s***,’ he told his viewers on Sunday night.
‘And it is worth noting: AT&T is still technically our business daddy, making OAN our business step-sibling – and not in a hot way.’
Oliver continued that AT&T had helped to turn OAN ‘into the toxic network that it is today – one that’s happy to give a platform to bats*** election-fraud theories from America’s most out-of-breath pillow fetishist [Mike Lindell].’
Oliver showed a clip from OAN, with an anchor stating: ‘Despite their best efforts, the radical Democrats left fingerprints all over the country providing a trail of evidence that the 2020 election was not only tampered with, but was also overthrown… any American who was involved in these efforts, from those who ran the voting machines to the very highest government officials, is guilty of treason under U.S. Code § 2381, which carries with it the penalty of death.’
Oliver called out OAN for giving a platform to figures such as Mike Lindell, founder of My Pillow and a passionate believer in evidence-free election conspiracy theories
Oliver mocked a host on OAN for calling for the execution of those who worked on the November 2020 election
Oliver responded: ‘Are you really saying those who ran the voting machines could be traitors? You mean Dolores? Dolores who lives down the street? Who volunteered to spend 12 hours or her, let’s face it, dwindling NCIS-watching time, doling out participation stickers to voters?
‘All right, death to Dolores, I guess.’
He said that OAN ‘would be literally nothing without AT&T.’
The network’s television ratings are hard to measure, partly because it is available in only about a quarter of the estimated 121 million TV households in the United States.
Ratings services Nielsen and Comscore, which both show that Fox News continues to be the leading cable network, do not release OAN figures.
OAN says it is the fourth-rated news network, behind Fox, CNN and MSNBC – and ahead of CNBC, the BBC and Newsmax. It has not provided figures to back this up.
OIiver said that his team approached AT&T for their comment about their role in OAN’s success.
Oliver’s segment was inspired by a Reuters report delving into the history of OAN
Donald Trump, who frequently promoted OAN while president, is seen being interviewed by Chanel Rion, their White House correspondent
He said AT&T told them that the company ‘respects the editorial the channels it carries’ and was not involved in dictating content.
He continued: ‘Just as AT&T is committed to providing editorial independence for every WarnerMedia show – including this one…’
‘And that is such a relief – especially the last part – because if I may, I’d like to use that generous editorial independence to offer some constructive feedback to AT&T.’
He concluded by referencing attempts by AT&T to spin off its ownership of Time Warner.
In May, AT&T merged with Discovery, which has sparked further debate about the direction of the company.
‘Look, AT&T, I know our relationship is a little awkward, especially since you’re trying to spin this business baby off in your deal with Discovery,’ said Oliver.
‘But while we are still technically related, let me just say this: You’re a terrible company.
‘You do bad things and you make the world worse.
‘Please don’t bother keeping in touch once the merger’s complete – although that really should not be a problem for you.
‘You’re AT&T, it’s not like your messages will go through anyway.’