- A screenshot of the viral Deadspin mashup of Sinclair anchors reciting the same speech about “false news.”
- Sinclair Broadcast Group responded to reports that it has been doing President Donald Trump’s bidding by forcing its news anchors to read a script on-air criticizing bias in the media.
- Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior vice president, sent a memo to employees on Monday, defending the company’s actions and pointing out critics’ hypocrisy.
- Trump also weighed into the controversy, tweeting a defense of Sinclair and tearing into CNN and NBC News.
Sinclair Broadcast Group responded Monday to the controversy that erupted this weekend over its decision to require news anchors from its roughly 200 local TV stations in the US to read a message about bias and fake stories in the news media.
“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,” Sinclair senior vice president Scott Livingston said in an internal memo sent to employees on Monday, obtained by CNN Money. “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 explained that the company’s message was supposed to target unsubstantiated news stories like “Pope Endorses Trump” or the “Pizzagate” controversy – two stories that circulated on social media in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.
“Honestly, most of the Sinclair critics don’t seem to do their own original reporting,” Livingston wrote. “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,” Livingston added.
Last month, Sinclair news anchors across the country were required to recite a variation of the following on-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, showing the consistency in messaging.
Sinclair’s critics said Deadspin’s report proved the company was forcing its anchors to parrot a common refrain pushed by President Donald Trump: the perceived de-legitimization of mainstream media by labeling critical reports as “fake news.” Some even called the script “propaganda.”
Although Livingston argued that the forced reading was referring to only certain elements of mainstream journalism, the script did not identify those specific elements or even 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 wrote. “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner reportedly 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, sources told Politico.
When the news broke in December 2016, Livingston said there was “nothing nefarious” about the agreement.
“Our commitment to our viewers is to go beyond podium, beyond the rhetoric,” he said. “We’re all about tracking the truth and telling the truth and that’s typically missing in most political coverage.”