An influential television broadcast company has come under fire in recent days after a video showed news anchors at dozens of local networks reciting identical scripts warning of the rise of “fake news.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns nearly 200 local stations in markets across the U.S., is defined by its critics as an ideologically driven company eager to defend President Donald Trump.
When anchors were instructed to deliver prepared and unaltered remarks denouncing “fake news,” echoing a frequent refrain from within the Oval Office, numerous public figures expressed concern about the precedent such news practices could set.
A chorus of local news reporters reading, word-for-word, from the same Sinclair script to attack the media and defend the President. This is not what an independent media looks like. pic.twitter.com/7QEEE9ltUK
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) March 31, 2018
The host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” shared a link to the Deadspin article that included the entire script. In his tweet, Kimmel called Sinclair’s behavior “extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
this is extremely dangerous to our democracy https://t.co/D1T8Z7J2Wn
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) April 1, 2018
Although the company has been excoriated by critics who believe local journalists should not be required to read copy provided by corporate owners, Sinclair’s defenders say there is no evidence the latest monologue was a direct defense of Trump.
The Daily Wire‘s Ben Shapiro made that argument in an article published this week.
“There’s nothing about Trump there,” he wrote. “And complaints about one-sided news and ‘sharing of false and biased’ news on social media have been absolutely common on the Left.”
According to Shapiro, if CNN anchor Brian Stelter read the same script “word for word, nobody would have any problem with it.”
His point that the general message has been trumpeted by both sides of the aisle is exemplified in a public service announcement by former CBS anchor Dan Rather.
Describing his monologue as a “short primer” in identifying fake news, Rather offered several tips, such as checking multiple sources to confirm key facts in a story.
Nevertheless, it is Sinclair’s perceived political bias and deference to Trump that has outraged a flurry of social media users this week.
At least one prominent tweeter, however, has defended the company multiple times against attacks in recent days.
In a tweet on Monday, Trump denounced the “Fake News Networks” while holding Sinclair up as “far superior” to networks like CNN and “even more Fake NBC,” which he described as “a total joke.”
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. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018
The following day, he again called out “Fake News Networks,” accusing them of having a “sick and biased AGENDA.”
The president specifically targeted “‘Fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS” for criticizing Sinclair, suggesting the networks “should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!”
The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The “Fakers” at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
Prior the current controversy, John Oliver dedicated a segment of his HBO series “This Week Tonight” to informing his audience about Sinclair, a company that was then still unfamiliar to most Americans.
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