Sinclair Broadcasting under fire for fake news script

Dozens of local TV news anchors were forced to repeat the same pro-Trump script

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published April 1, 2018 5:31PM (EDT)

Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.'s headquarters (AP/Steve Ruark)
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.'s headquarters (AP/Steve Ruark)

A viral clip highlighting a mandatory promo released by the right-wing Sinclair Broadcasting company, which owns more than 200 local news stations across the country, has drawn widespread concern.

A video compilation of dozens of local news anchors repeating the same script was released by Deadspin over the weekend, and now the nation's largest owner of local television stations is facing backlash for its pro-Trump propaganda.

Deadspin's story followed a report from CNN  last month that said the right-leaning Sinclair is mandating its local affiliates read aloud a promotional campaign that condemns other news outlets for pushing “fake stories.” Echoing President Donald Trump’s derision of the mainstream media, the anchors warn millions of unsuspecting viewers that “[T]his is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

The promos, which began airing on the station last week, are part of a Sinclair campaign that forces local anchors to read Sinclair-written scripts warning of the dangers of "one-sided news stories plaguing our country."

"The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media," the script reads. "More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first.”

The script does not identify any particular media outlets, or what kind of biases it is asking viewers to be aware of.

According to Deadspin the script has "brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair's consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts."

Scott Livingston, senior vice president of news for Hunt Valley-based Sinclair, told the Baltimore Sun that “The stories we are referencing in this promo are the unsubstantiated ones (i.e. fake/false) like ‘Pope Endorses Trump’ which move quickly across social media and result in an ill-informed public.”

He explained that"some other false stories, like the fake ‘Pizzagate’ story, can result in dangerous consequences,” he continued. “We are focused on fact-based reporting. That's our commitment to our communities. That’s the goal of these announcements: to reiterate our commitment to reporting facts in a pursuit of truth. We consider it our honor and privilege to deliver the news each night. We seek the truth and strive to be fair.”

But Jimmy Kimmel flipped the station's ominous warning on its head:

Meanwhile, the FCC is nearing its final decision on Sinclair’s $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media, which would ballon Sinclair’s 193 stations to a number as high as 233.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Donald Trump Fake News Sinclair Broadcastin Sinclair Broadcasting Group