Sinclair Broadcasting Group Has been called “the most dangerous U.S. company you’ve never heard of.” That’s because they own a large number of local television stations across the country and use local news programs to push a radical right-wing ideology masquerading as legitimate news. Their latest effort is a shameless attempt to force news anchors to push the right-wing opinions of their corporate owners and it’s terrifying.
Yesterday, CNN reported that a right-wing corporation that owns several local television stations is forcing their local news anchors to read a propaganda statement attacking mainstream news outlets as “fake news.”
The script is legitimately chilling and the fact that they’re forcing local anchors to put their credibility on the line to support a radical agenda, political party, and president all antagonistic towards any kind of objective reality is telling.
According to CNN, Sinclair’s local news anchors are being forced to act as if the insane opinions from their corporate owners are their own:
“The promos begin with one or two anchors introducing themselves and saying “I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”
Then the media bashing begins.
“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” the script says. “More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.””
The documents obtained by CNN indicate that the language in the script has been tested for maximum impact and comes straight from Sinclair brass. According to CNN the scripts are to be read “exactly as they are written” because “This copy has been thoroughly tested and speaks to our Journalistic Responsibility as advocates to seek the truth on behalf of the audience.”
Needless to say, the news staff at Sinclair-owned stations are uncomfortable. “This is so manipulative,” said one. A local news anchor is quoted as saying, “At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it.” “I felt like a POW recording a message,” one of the anchors said.
Sinclair has a long history of pushing right-wing propaganda and enforcing their decisions by firing employees who voice dissent. During the 2004 presidential election, Sinclair forced local affiliates to air a “documentary” produced by a GOP group smearing Democratic nominee John Kerry, claiming he lied about his service in Vietnam. When one station manager refused to air the unfounded claims, he was fired.
Other local news anchors are voicing their disgust at the transparent propaganda campaign:
If you’ve been following the news from non-Sinclair owned outlets, you’ll know that this isn’t the first time Sinclair has pulled a stunt like this, as John Oliver explains in this Last Week Tonight segment:
Sinclair forces local news stations to regularly air “must-run” right-wing opinion segments from former Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn. In one of these segments, Epshteyn said this about a now-retracted CNN story, “The bottom line is this: CNN, along with other cable news networks, is struggling to stick to the facts and to be impartial in covering politics in general and this president, specifically.” Recently, a new report in The New York Times confirmed that CNN story, indicating that Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci did indeed meet with a Russian official who was trying to establish a back-channel for Russia and the Trump administration.
And speaking of back channels, according to reports, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly struck a deal with Sinclair to receive more favorable coverage in key states during the election.
And if that’s not troubling enough, Sinclair is now looking to expand their propaganda empire. Sinclair currently owns 173 television stations, but they’re trying to buy dozens more in a bid to become a right-wing local news giant to rival Fox News’ right-wing cable empire. If the deal goes through, their propaganda pieces would be broadcast to 2.2 million households, providing them a bigger platform than most cable news programs.
The FCC is currently reviewing the deal but FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who’s under investigation for his ties to Sinclair, seems amenable to it. Pai is the same official responsible for ending net neutrality so I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for him to do the right thing.
Sinclair’s move to attack legitimate journalism is just the latest in a concerted decades-long right-wing effort to undermine anyone who reports facts they don’t like. It’s an attempt to distort reality through misinformation and outright lies. Yes, this is really happening.