WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump urged a boycott of CNN on Wednesday, ramping up his fight against the television network as his administration fights AT&T Inc’s deal to buy CNN’s owner Time Warner Inc.
Trump has criticized the proposed deal, which the Justice Department has sued to stop. Legal experts have said the president’s attacks on CNN could hobble his administration’s case.
The president, who regularly assails mainstream media, has long criticized CNN, calling the network “fake news” and saying he no longer watches it, while lauding rival Fox News. His call for a boycott appeared to be a step up in his attacks.
“Great, and we should boycott Fake News CNN. Dealing with them is a total waste of time!,” Trump wrote in a Twitter post.
Trump was responding to a post by his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, who in her own post on Tuesday night praised reports that CNN would not attend an annual holiday party held at the White House for news media.
It was not immediately clear if Trump in his post was calling for a wider boycott against CNN or one by White House staff. Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Representatives for CNN also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s tweet on Wednesday. A CNN spokesperson told Politico that it would not attend the party “in light of the President’s continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN” but would send a reporting crew to cover the event, Politico reported on Tuesday.
The network and its journalists have repeatedly defended CNN’s work against previous presidential attacks.
The Department of Justice’s challenge is unusual move given that pay TV and wireless company AT&T does not directly compete with TV show maker Time Warner. The department has said the lawsuit is a law enforcement decision, not a political one.
Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Frances Kerry