Update (7/18/22): Following publication of this piece, Verizon removed the “Guide to Misinformation” from its corporate website. An archived version is available here.
One America News Network is a small, violently bigoted, anti-democracy network with a permanent victim complex and a penchant for attacking its carriers with both on-air commentary and lawsuits. There is still no reason whatsoever for any cable company to force all their subscribers to pay for their garbage.
In recent days, OAN has begun attacking the telecom company Verizon for “targeting OAN and other right-wing news organizations … right before the midterms.” The issue, drawn from a Breitbart article that inspired this wave of programming, appears to be largely a “Guide to Misinformation” on Verizon’s corporate website, which does not mention OAN.
OAN’s attacks on Verizon -- one of the only cable companies to still carry OAN -- mirror the toxic relationship OAN had with former AT&T subsidiary DirecTV. The right-wing network sued AT&T twice and targeted the AT&T board chair with requests for “dirt” on him.
There are many substantive reasons why a cable company should not carry OAN: its endless denials of the 2020 election, its celebration of police brutality, its violent queerphobia, its open fantasies of mass murder against political enemies. But in a less-lethal sense, it would be simply foolish and embarrassing for Verizon to continue to pay for a channel that is targeting it with a wave of demented hatred.
On July 6, reporter Pearson Sharp aired a screed against supposed conservative censorship, inspired by the Breitbart article. Like the article, Sharp’s segment cited a February 2021 letter from Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, which asked multiple telecom companies to comment on misinformation from right-wing networks. (There was also a hearing that same month.)
“That’s one of the most frightening parts of our country today,” Sharp warned of the year-old news which he had commented on at the time, “is that not only are private companies now determining what information you are allowed to see, but there are members of our own government who are using their power to shut down anyone they disagree with. … What else needs to happen before the American people wake up and fight back against this totalitarian censorship?”
On July 8, OAN White House correspondent Chanel Rion interviewed Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari about the article concerning, in Rion’s words, “the impact that telecommunications companies like Verizon have in political censorship, in silencing conservative voices,” and “why there should be a lot of alarm about big telecom now engaging in censorship.”
Rion explained, “In the case of Verizon threatening to drop OAN in particular, the timing of that, at least from our end, seems to be right before the midterms, right when the American public tend to have recovered from the political fatigue of the presidential election, and then they start tuning in to become informed about who they will vote for in the midterms.”
On July 9, Rion brought Verizon’s alleged censorship of OAN to the attention of former President Donald Trump, complaining that “Verizon has now become one of the big telecom giants that is now attacking conservative voices like OAN, other news networks.” “How do you fight that much internal and external forces,” Rion asked Trump, since “Verizon now has decided to become — go into the business of deciding who can say what.”
After bragging about his ratings, Trump added that “OAN has been treated very terribly, I think, and they do a phenomenal job. And I will say that I am getting OAN more easily now than I got it six months ago. So somebody is doing a very good job at OAN and their coverage is great. … But it is terrible what's happened, the unfairness. And we don't have freedom of speech, really.”
Trump told OAN that Verizon’s alleged censorship of OAN is “a coordinated attack," adding, “I think it's probably the DNC or it's somebody, but it's out there and you have to fight like hell.”
OAN appears to be cynically riding a wave of attention off of a popular article in right-wing media. Verizon has done nothing to OAN but pay to carry its programming. However, a viral right-wing article labeled Verizon “one of the biggest and the wokest telecom companies,” so the network now accuses a hand that feeds it of actually attacking it, even threatening to drop it – and Verizon should.