Amid a flurry of criticism directed at AT&T after Reuters revealed its key role in the creation and funding of the far-right conspiracy-peddling One America News Network, a leading women's group on Thursday called on the telecommunications giant's chief executive officer to correct course or resign.
"If John Stankey is unwilling to correct this course by severing ties with OAN, firing anti-abortion extremist Ed Gillespie, and pledging to stop funding right-wing, racist, and anti-woman politicians, he should step down."
UltraViolet's ultimatum for John Stankey, CEO of world's largest communications company, came after Reuters reported that "90% 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."
In a statement, Sonja Spoo, director of reproductive rights campaigns at UltraViolet, noted revelations about not only the news network but also AT&T's support for Texas lawmakers who sponsored a recently enacted abortion ban that's provoked national alarm.
"The leadership and tenure of now CEO and former COO John Stankey at AT&T is marked by his enabling of the radical, right-wing conspiracy platform One America News and the funding for anti-choice politicians behind Texas' dangerous abortion ban," she said.
Referencing the lies and conspiracy theories circulated by the news network, Spoo said that "this shameful legacy ties AT&T to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, the spread of fatal Covid-19 misinformation, and new laws in Texas that undermine the right to vote and obstruct access to abortion care."
"If John Stankey is unwilling to correct this course by severing ties with OAN, firing anti-abortion extremist Ed Gillespie, and pledging to stop funding right-wing, racist, and anti-woman politicians," Spoo declared, "he should step down."
Gillespie joined AT&T last year as senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs after a longtime consulting relationship with the company. Previously, he chaired the Republican National Committee and served as counselor to former President George W. Bush during his second term.
While AT&T has pushed back against the reporting, with spokesperson Jim Greer telling The Hill that "AT&T has never had a financial interest in OAN's success and does not 'fund' OAN," criticism of the company has piled up since the reporting broke Wednesday.
"We are outraged to learn that AT&T has been funneling tens of millions of dollars into OAN since the network's inception," said NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson in a statement. "AT&T has as a result caused irreparable damage to our democracy. The press should inform the American public with facts, not far-right propaganda and conspiracy theories."
Johnson highlighted that Stankey has written that "our corporate value to Stand for Equality has never been more relevant, not only inside AT&T but outside, as well. It is a business imperative to champion equality, diversity, and inclusion in every aspect of our business."
The NAACP leader asserted that "for a corporation that fuels OAN, a network that continues to spread lies about the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection, AT&T's values could not be any more performative and flat-out fake. We are sickened by these revelations."