A number of right-wing media stars have recently been peddling a prepaid cellphone carrier to their audiences, hyping it as a low-cost alternative to “woke” AT&T.
There’s just one problem: PureTalk—which these personalities have promoted as a patriotic, “veteran-run business” that doesn’t peddle “wokeness”—actually relies on AT&T’s wireless network.
A key hallmark of the right-wing infotainment complex is that when its biggest stars aren’t pushing their own branded products onto their audience, they relentlessly hawk other “conservative-friendly” goods and services. Whether it’s on radio shows, podcasts, or websites, readers and listeners are inundated with ads featuring right-wing media personalities personally vouching for a cornucopia of products that supposedly comport with their political beliefs.
In that vein, PureTalk has quickly risen as the mobile provider of choice for right-wing media consumers—especially among senior citizens. The company was founded in 2004 and is owned and operated by a military veteran, touting that the company “proudly support[s] our active-duty military and veterans by partnering with numerous military organizations.”
PureTalk also boasts about its paid endorsements from a veritable Who’s Who of conservative punditry. “How Good Is PureTalk? PureTalk is one of the best, most affordable cellphone service providers. But don’t just take our word for it,” the company states on its website. “Check out all the great reviews and testimonials from our partners. PureTalk is endorsed by TV & radio hosts Sean Hannity, Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, Dennis Prager, Mike Gallagher, Clay Travis, and Buck Sexton.”
Many of these conservative talkers have hyped up the mobile carrier beyond mere testimonial: They promote PureTalk to their listeners as an alternative to the big corporations that don’t align with or promote their conservative values.
“AT&T customers, your company owns far-left CNN. And T-Mobile, your CEO reportedly advised Democrats how to beat [former President Donald] Trump,” Levin exclaimed this week while reading an ad script during his radio show. “Don’t give your money to these corporatists, these corporatist wireless companies. Instead, choose PureTalk.” (Despite Levin’s claim, AT&T no longer owns CNN, having unloaded the network in the Warner Bros. Discovery merger in April.)
Last year, Levin took an even more pointed aim at AT&T over its “diversity efforts,” claiming people “have to punish” the firm because it doesn’t want “people part of the white dominant culture” among its customer base.
“This is another reason I’m saying drop your AT&T cellphone and go to PureTalk,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of people have said goodbye to their overpriced Verizon, AT&T, there you are, or T-Mobile plans and switched to PureTalk. That’s because you get the same great coverage on the same great 5G network as one of the big guys, but for about half the cost and without the propaganda.”
While pushing PureTalk as an anti-”woke” alternative to AT&T, Levin has never once mentioned that PureTalk relies solely on AT&T’s wireless network infrastructure.
As a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) of AT&T, PureTalk effectively purchases bulk network service access at wholesale prices and then resells that access at retail rates to their customers, setting the prices based on the data limit plans. While they will handle the customer service, billing and packaging, PureTalk does not have networking licensing of its own. Instead, they currently need to have a business agreement in place with AT&T in order to access its mobile network operating system.
Other right-wing media influencers like Ben Shapiro have failed to mention the AT&T connection while touting PureTalk as an alternative.,
As founder of right-wing media empire The Daily Wire, Shapiro has run PureTalk ads in which he’s personally likened his outlet’s efforts to provide alternatives to “woke entertainment” to the cellphone carrier “offering alternatives to woke wireless networks.”
“Why do we keep giving our money to woke corporations like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, who care more about selling ‘wokeness’ than wireless?” Shapiro asked in one ad with links to conservative outlets blasting those companies for promoting “defunding the police” and “critical race theory,” two frequent targets of the right’s culture war.
Fox News star Sean Hannity, too, has long hawked PureTalk on his daily radio show, describing it in glowing terms while hoisting it up as a substitute for left-leaning corporations.
“Listen, you don’t only vote in November. Look, every month we all have cell phones. You vote with the money you spend, and many of you are still using big carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile,” the Fox News star said in January while delivering the sponsored spot. “If you’re still one of those customers and you’re paying these overpriced wireless carriers that probably don’t even agree with you politically, I have an alternative for you, and that is PureTalk.”
Just a few months before that, Hannity used the humanitarian crisis then unfolding amid the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as a bizarre segue into peddling the prepaid cellphone service.
“There is a stampede, not only out of Afghanistan, but a stampede away from high prices, overpriced service from the big carriers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile. The average family making the switch to PureTalk,” he casually declared last year on his radio show.
Levin, Shapiro, Hannity, and PureTalk did not respond to requests for comment.