Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes Defends Public Theater’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ CNN at Shareholders Meeting

Jeff Bewkes
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes defended his company’s financial support for New York’s embattled Public Theater on Thursday at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Burbank, Calif.

“We’re certainly not going to drop our support for an institution like the Public Theater,” Bewkes said. The CEO was responding to the first shareholder question at the meeting, which targeted the company’s continued sponsorship of the Public — the New York arts organization that has come under fire for its current production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” which portrays Caesar as a Donald Trump-like character. Bewkes noted that Time Warner’s financial support for the Public is limited to an emerging-artist development program run by the organization, and that the company offers no financial support for any of its productions, including “Julius Caesar.”

But he defended the Public and the production.

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“The point of the play is one that has been debated for probably 400 years,” Bewkes said. “It’s not one that advocates, if you think about the play itself, about Julius Caesar — the killing of Caesar itself raises very important points about how that did not work out well, nor did it accomplish the ends of those senators who did kill Caesar. So I think the weight of opinion has been over the past several hundred years, and why all of us have been assigned it in school, to learn about tyranny, learn about how elected leaders can end up changing what they got elected to. And if the senators who are responding to it engage in, in the case of Caesar, murder, is that a good thing? I think the play on balance says no.”

He added that the Public’s production “is not doing what the critics who haven’t seen the play or read the play are assuming the play is leading the audiences to think.”

Bank of America and Delta Airlines have pulled sponsorship from the Public in response to negative outcry from Trump supporters over the production. Bewkes pointed out that the play has been previously produced with Caesar fashioned after Barack Obama, and that it is common for modern Shakespeare productions to cast classic characters to resemble contemporary public figures.

Bewkes also fended off charges of anti-Trump bias at CNN. He noted that the news network had, during the recent presidential election, been criticized for “uncritically putting a platform out for the current administration. We’ve been charged with having created a platform that enabled it to win the election. Now we’re being criticized for covering the controversies that are emerging from the actions that the administration has taken.” That criticism, Bewkes added, “is not going to stop.” He said that the network is committed to “try to be independent.”

The shareholders meeting was likely the last for Time Warner, which is in the process of being acquired by AT&T in a deal valued at $85.4 billion. Time Warner shareholders voted overwhelmingly in February to approve the merger with AT&T. “We remain on course, pending regulatory review and consent” for the deal to be finalized by the end of the year, Bewkes said in his opening remarks.

Bewkes went on to defend the merger and AT&T’s commitment to continuing the Time Warner’s investment in content — which Bewkes pegged at $15 billion combined for units including HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner Broadcasting. That spending, Bewkes said, “is vital to the ongoing health of the company, which I know that AT&T management really appreciates. It’s why they want to merge with Time Warner, so they can continue and possibly accelerate and possibly increase that investment.”

He added, “Our business, when it combines, will be the largest, fastest-growing part of this new company.”

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  1. Catherine S Weber says:

    I think staging this play at this time is horrifying. I’m heartsick and incensed. “Free Speech” comes with responsibility. “Artistic Licence” in my opinion in this situation is a cope-out to be hidden behind in order to avoid feeling or being responsible for possible repercussions. How many vulnerable/deranged individuals are going to think about the fine points of Shakespeare’s ‘stories with a message?’ We are in a crisis in our country. This country was created in support of the rule of law. Frustrating as it is to work out this horrendous situation in our government and lives at this time, do we really want to hold up the time-immemorial murder of leaders–whoever they may be–that people came here to escape, among other reasons? Do we really want to be the cheering crowd at a hanging or murder by any other means, no matter how silently, secretly or smugly we witness such a murder? Do we really want to encourage the martyrdom of yet another leader in our country, however much we might abhor the tactics and values of him and his? Do we really want to cede the “morale high ground?”

  2. Cathi Hopper says:

    Screw you and your company! Not one Trump supporter watches your biased, hate vomiting station. They’re disgusting and so are you. I’ll be checking on different cable service. Spectrum is sucking anyway.

  3. Jack Rauber says:

    Bewkes fended off charges of being anti-Trump. What is this guy smoking? They are overtly, adamantly anti-Trump. Who does he think he is fooling?

  4. noodle says:

    “Bewkes also [made a ridiculous attempt to] fended off charges of anti-Trump bias at CNN.”

    ROTFLMAO!!!!!!
    Bwahahahahahahahahah!!!!!
    ROTFLMAO!!!!!!
    Bwahahahahahahahahah!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Christopher J Hutt says:

    Simply put l….utter Bullshit!!

  6. Dennis Byron says:

    I’m glad to hear that AT&T is buying Time Warner. I couldn’t boycott Time Warner because I already do. But now I can boycott AT&T

  7. Thos Nevin says:

    Seriously? How can Time Warner support ANY production simulating the killing of a US President in the current mileau?
    You are seriously out of touch with any concept of the society’s ‘common good’.

    • Ron Smith says:

      Bewkes is just like the very far left and off the map CNN which is so biased it should crash in flames and take Bewkes with it. I certainly hope AT &T changes the entire Time Warner direction.

  8. Rick says:

    Jeff you’re a clown a joke – do you listen to yourself talk. Go away far away I’m done with your crap

  9. Time Warner made sure loyal Dodger Fans couldn’t see their team on TV anymore, now they want my President dead.

  10. Gringo says:

    And this moron wants to know why we longer use his service. Just like ESPN, we left and are not looking back…Take a hint Disney!

    • Joe Cloud says:

      Of course you would not stop just because they are assassinating Trump, but if they were hanging Obama or throwing gays off of buildings and laughing about it, you would throw yourself on the alter of self righteous indignation…..right, cupcake?

  11. BC says:

    Time Warner-HBO, CNN, Time Mag, Warner Bros-of course this twit supports the play. This mega company has poisoned 2 generations of minds. Look at the content they’ve produced-worshipping gangsters, promoting Marxism, idolizing drug dealers; murder a Trump look a like-what’s the big deal?

  12. Joe3 says:

    The day Verizon comes on my block I am dropping Time Warner (no other alternative).

    And I urge all others to stop patronizing anything coming out of TW. Stop feeding promoters of violence.

  13. Matt Faust says:

    Another dim-witted weenie executive who only wants the world his way, no matter what hysteria and malintent it may generate. These executives would never allow former President Obama to be insulted like they do President Trump. It really shows what fools there are that can rise to high places(?).

  14. SmilinJack says:

    They have a right to fund it. I have a right not to do business with any Time Warner associated business.

  15. Tom Ronson says:

    If you want to turn the tables on the leftists and liberals, who put on this worthless trash, then just burn down the theater some night, when no play is being presented.
    ISIS would do that to send a message, so adopt some of their tactics with these leftwing idiots.

  16. hardiharhar says:

    Henry Luce is rolling over in his grave in pain, anger and embarrassment. He would have dumped these
    leftist fascists after the first performance of the play – and CNN wouldn’t have continued to exist for two days after their usual fake news propaganda. This may become costly to Time-Life. Shorting their stock is perhaps a good idea.

  17. brianc says:

    Time Warner should have Baghdad Bob as its CEO. He’s more believable than Jeff Bewkes.

  18. sukietawdry says:

    Give me a break. The audiences for the sold out performances of this production aren’t there to learn the lessons Shakespeare imparted about ill-considered actions. They’re there to see Trump/Caesar repeatedly stabbed by people charged with his protection and lying dead in a pool of his blood. And that’s exactly what the producer intended.

    Furthermore, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar isn’t a tyrant–he’s rather the hero of the piece (that’s why it’s a tragedy). He was assassinated not for anything he had done but for what his assassins feared he might do. Much of Trump’s time in office has been spent undoing his predecessor’s dictates. Each time one of Obama’s edicts is reversed, freedom of action is expanded whereas Obama sought to constrict it. So who’s the dictator here?

  19. Dwstick says:

    I’ll believe Bewkes once he, or anyone else for that matter, can cite for me one play, movie, song, book, etc that depicted the killing of a Barack Obama-lookalike that was partially, or fully, sponsored by Time-Warner.

  20. Blue Android says:

    Jeff Bewkes is a sick, sick narcissistic man!!!! Boycott Time-Warner and AT&T if they end up puchasing the slime content of Time-Warner.

  21. Tim Burr says:

    just imagine the response if they supported a play where the previous ‘guy’ was assaassinated…….

  22. R Burry says:

    What a moron!

  23. pauldia says:

    To me its a no brainer. Time Warner says while it strongly supports Public Theater,this particular production is offensive to many of our customers and in the current environment Time Warner has no interest in what may understand is condoning violence. Therefore Time Warner will cease any funding of Public Theater until further notice.

    Time Warner has blown it with is,and they should fell the consequences Call your cable company if its Time Warner and tell them you will be switching to DISH or another available provider..

    • snip says:

      You’d b a raciist…

      • I was actually about to switch to Roadrunner (A Time Warner Product) as my current provider is less than stellar but now I’ll put up with it as I find this jerk offensive and he certainly does not have the skills necessary to be in a leadership position. Anyone running a company that has no problem alienating 1/2 of his customer base isn’t qualified to run a lemonade stand.

  24. Ferrous mike says:

    If the Democrat Party wasn’t lucky enough to see you at birth, don’t worry, they will catch up with you at a ball game.

  25. Boycott every product of Time Warner. Send a message even this aspiring coup leader can understand.

  26. thejeffroe says:

    YACLD – Yet Another CLUELESS Liberal Drone.

    You know D@MN well if they were assassinating Obama they’d drop it in a heartbeat.

    Good luck with all of that.

  27. Buzz says:

    American Express also refused to pull their support for this garbage. If you have an AMEX card cut it up and email them to let them know.

  28. Thomas Pappas says:

    I don’t remember Bewkes or his acolytes so keen to portray Obama as Julius Caesar.
    Bewkes is your typical fake, fraud, phony liberal…..

  29. If the main character was him, representing corporate America would he be so smug?

  30. Green Libertarian says:

    Time-Warner an accessory to sedition, and terrorism, violent acts to politically intimidate. CEO must be arrested and charged.

  31. Raymond Clancy says:

    Substitute a democrat – Obama, a Clinton, Deblasio and pose the question to Bewkes about his support.

  32. There is absolutely no excuse for them supporting such a rotten, worthless show of hatred and bias! Free speech is fine for the Communist Democrats, but no one else can have it. I say BOYCOTT ALL SUPPORTERS of this leftist hate filled speech and behavior. Hit them hard where they will feel it the most…their pocketbook!! When they have no money, they can no longer support such vile and hate filled things!

  33. Mary Ganz says:

    Sorry, but NO!!! There is no excuse for such displays, particularly in this tinderbox environment. I am APPALLED.

  34. murlimews says:

    Yup, I no longer get cable, avoid going to the movies, even severed all links to the New York Times and the Washington Post. I will not even buy old Times Warner books at book sales. If Trump gets around to cutting off funding to national arts groups, he’ll get my complete support.

  35. Falcon195 says:

    Another ‘genius’ squanders 50-percent of their companies clientele.

  36. He probably would defend John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald.

  37. Joe D Tillman says:

    Shame on Time Warner and its excuses. Donate $ and defend your donation knowing the play is offensive and volitile makes TW complicit in things like yesterday’s shooting. SHAME!

  38. Hanginout says:

    Dancing on the head of a pin…always an awkward thing…

  39. Langston Hughes says:

    Does anyone know if Time Warner owns Spectrum Cable Company?

    • Glen Dorn says:

      Spectrum (aka “Rectum”) Cable own Time Warner, Bright House Networks, and Charter Communications – maybe more.

      Time Warner is a nest of Left Wingnuts… real anti-American scumbags.

      I’ve learned that they have quietly planned some very interesting stuff for around July 4th in coordination with AntiFa protesters and the Democrat-driven “Resist” movement.

      Stay tuned….

  40. Bill Slate says:

    Filth sells – Jeff Bewkes sells filth – that’s why he was hired.

    • John D'oh says:

      Of course filth sells, that is how Time Warner cable made a ton of cash in the first place, vending pornographic movies to 4 star hotels across the country

  41. Philster7656 says:

    Time Warner is never going to pull funding from that production. After all, they are in the anti-Republican propaganda business. (Look at any of the original content on TBS if you don’t believe me.) Removing a Republican President from office is job #1 for them, whenever the GOP holds the office. To a progressive, assassination is just as good a way to get rid of a political opponent as any. It’s just Trump’s bad luck to hold the office currently.

  42. ross a williams says:

    In other words, Time Warner has just announced that they will continue to support the destruction of our society because it it politically correct.

  43. snailmailtrucker says:

    Just a Note to Time Warner….
    With Anti-American A Holes like this fool running your company…..
    YOU’LL NEVER GET ME ….NOR ANY MEMBER OF MY FAMILY AS CUSTOMERS !

  44. francois marie says:

    As an artist i did a painting montage of Obama in 2009 , never was able to make any poster , no one would do it , why corporation and the media protect this men it is stunning after selling weapons to the cartel with Holder, fast and furious , 189.000 people have been kill in Mexico the last five years of Obama presidency, PBS did an incredible documentary in july 2015 and PBS is the bible of the left

  45. dlinn says:

    Shameless

  46. There is no defense. Will their next play be “Take me out at the ball game” ? The good part is that when this man dies we can all celebrate the general improvement in the state of mankind.

  47. francois marie says:

    BOYCOTT TIME WARNER is the only this bunch of bastard will learn , cut their money source .

  48. Douglas Gortner '61 says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Not so sure the Quid would be proud of this statement, perhaps not even Gar.

  49. Ken Valley says:

    Well, he can count me out on buying any Time Warner-related product.

  50. rashirey1 says:

    Boycott Time Warner !

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