- Sinclair Broadcast Group on Monday responded to reports that it has been doing President Donald Trump’s bidding by forcing anchors at news stations it owns to read a script on the air criticizing bias in the media.
- In an internal memo obtained by CNN Money, Scott Livingston, a Sinclair senior vice president, defended the company’s actions and outlined critics’ hypocrisy.
- Trump also weighed in on Twitter, defending Sinclair and tearing into CNN and NBC News.
Sinclair Broadcast Group responded Monday to the controversy that erupted over the weekend about its requiring anchors at the roughly 200 local TV stations in the US it owns to read a message about bias and fake stories in news outlets.
“I know many of you and your stations are now in the media spotlight after the launch of our corporate news journalistic responsibility promotional campaign,” Scott Livingston, a Sinclair senior vice president, said in an employee memo obtained by CNN Money.
He added: “There is a lot of noise out there about our company right now, and what is lacking in that analysis is something we constantly preach: context and perspective.”
Livingston said the company’s message was targeting unsubstantiated stories like the pope endorsing Trump or the “Pizzagate” controversy – two that circulated on social media before the 2016 US presidential election.
“Honestly, most of the Sinclair critics don’t seem to do their own original reporting,” Livingston said. “Do you ever notice that a story written about Sinclair from a west coast publication will include a lot of the same talking points -often the same wording – as a story written a week earlier on the East Coast?
“These reporters aren’t producing original journalism; they are aggregating often-flawed-reporting-content published by other media outlets, without fact-checking it – or calling us to confirm any of it,” he added.
Last month, anchors at Sinclair-owned news stations across the country were required to recite a variation of this on the air: “The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
Over the weekend, a writer at Deadspin compiled clips from Sinclair affiliates across the country and mashed them together to show the consistency in the messaging.
Sinclair’s critics said Deadspin’s report showed that the company was forcing its anchors to parrot a refrain of President Donald Trump’s, contributing to the perceived delegitimization of mainstream media by labeling critical reports as “fake news.” Some even called the script propaganda.
Though Livingston argued that the script was referring to only some elements of mainstream journalism, it did not identify them or the kinds of biases it asked viewers to be aware of.
In a tweet on Monday, Trump defended Sinclair, mocking criticisms of the broadcasting group.
“So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased,” Trump said. “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”
Citing six sources, Politico reported in December 2016 that the White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told business executives shortly after the election that the Trump campaign had a deal with Sinclair to exchange access to Trump and his aides for better coverage.
Politico reported that Sinclair suggested there was “nothing nefarious” about the agreement.
“Our commitment to our viewers is to go beyond podium, beyond the rhetoric,” Politico quoted Livingston as saying at the time. “We’re all about tracking the truth and telling the truth, and that’s typically missing in most political coverage.”