Author Page | Media Matters for America

Pam Vogel

Author ››› Pam Vogel
  • Christine Blasey Ford was right to fear the right-wing smear machine

    Since she shared her account publicly, Ford has been met with death threats, doxxing, and sloppy media smears of her character. She has now had to leave her home and children behind.

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On September 16, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford shared her account publicly for the first time in The Washington Post, saying that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh held her down, covered her mouth with his hand, and attempted to take off her clothing when they were both in high school. She had begun the process of coming forward in July and struggled with the decision, weighing a likely public “annihilation” against what she felt was her duty as a citizen. Unfortunately, she was right to be worried.

    In the three days since Ford attached her name and face to her account of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, she has been subjected to a repertoire of horrors that our patriarchal society seems to reserve for women who dare to speak up. Sharing her story in 2018 means Ford has received support and encouragement from many, but she’s also stepped into a cultural moment where media and technology have democratized the spread of information and misinformation like never before -- and the attacks against her have been all the more brutal for it.

    Since Ford came forward:

    • She has faced a series of failed, vicious, and sloppy smear attempts by right-wing media in a rush to destroy her by any means necessary. (And another woman named Christine Ford became a casualty.)
    • She has been systematically insulted, attacked, and dismissed by cable pundits and public figures.
    • She has been doxxed at least three times online, and Twitter doesn’t seem to have done much about it.
    • Her email has been hacked, and fake accounts impersonating her have materialized on social media.
    • According to a letter her attorneys sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), she has received death threats and has had to leave her home as a result.
    • She has had to separate herself from her children in order to keep them safe.

    Again, this list leads to an obvious question: Why would any person who was harmed by a powerful man want to come forward? Ford felt it was her responsibility to society, but society has yet to do her the singular justice of a full and independent investigation into what happened.

  • This is why sexual violence survivors don’t come forward

    “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?”

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Christine Blasey Ford says she was sexually assaulted in the early 1980s by Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh when they were both high school students. More than 30 years later, the public knows her story -- whether she wanted us to or not. The institutional failures that have led to this moment show exactly why survivors of sexual violence choose not to share their stories of trauma with the world.

    On September 16, The Washington Post published an exclusive interview with Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University. In the article, Ford publicly shared her own account of what happened on that night in Bethesda, MD:

    Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

    While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

    “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

    Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

    The Post additionally reviewed notes from therapy sessions Ford had and spoke with her husband who corroborated that Ford had shared her account in couples therapy in 2012. On the advice of her attorney, Ford also took a polygraph test in August; the results showed she was being truthful in relaying her account of the incident.

    The Post exclusive also shed light on Ford’s choice to come forward publicly -- a tremendously difficult decision that wasn’t entirely up to her.

    Ford had first contacted the Post as well as her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), in July, when Kavanaugh was said to be on the short list for the Supreme Court nomination but was not yet the official nominee. By the end of August, after she had shared her account confidentially with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as well, she decided that she would not come forward. Though Ford says that she believes Feinstein respected her wishes and kept her story confidential -- including referring Ford’s letter about Kavanaugh to the FBI with names redacted -- some details soon became public.

    A series of reports followed -- first from The Intercept, then BuzzFeed News, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and CNN -- all of them working to corroborate details about Ford’s account and trying to get Ford to go on the record. There was also a vague statement from Feinstein about her decision to refer the letter to the FBI, and a broad denial by Kavanaugh. Together these developments fueled the early rumblings of a sinister right-wing smear campaign against a then-unnamed victim of an attempted rape.

    Ford watched “as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent,” wrote the Post’s Emma Brown. And then she decided -- if decided is the right word -- to publicly stamp this decades-old pain onto her face and name, to be pushed out into the world for mass exploitation even further beyond her control. Ford felt it was “her duty as a citizen to tell the story” and to sacrifice her autonomy to her alleged assailant another time.

    The smear campaign is already in high gear

    So far for Ford, this responsibility has shamefully translated into not just to publicly reliving her trauma, but also being categorically smeared for it. Even before Ford’s identity or the details of her account were made public, conservatives were questioning her motives. And since Ford has shared her name and account, the right-wing media sphere has shifted to making personal attacks on her character and insinuating she’s working with the Democratic Party.

    In a tellingly vicious and sloppy instance, right-wing sites including The Gateway Pundit and Drudge Report cited “Rate My Professors” reviews of a different Christine Ford in order to smear her as an “unhinged liberal professor who former students describe as dark, mad, scary and troubled.” And in a slightly different display of misogyny, other commentators have said they do in fact believe Ford -- but that they don’t think the reported harm done to her warrants an end to Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

    There is more to come

    Demonstrating a complete lack of understanding that an individual is capable of harming one person while also not harming every other person he encounters, Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released a letter hours after the New Yorker report came out signed by 65 women who say they knew Kavanaugh in high school and that he never acted inappropriately to their knowledge. (For what it’s worth, more than 200 of Ford’s classmates have since signed onto a different letter saying, in part, “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending [Holton-Arms School]. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”)

    The White House, helmed by a known serial sexual harasser, has said so far it will not be withdrawing the nomination. A vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Kavanaugh’s nomination is still planned for Thursday, though more and more senators from both parties, including some who sit on the committee, have now said they’d like to hear from Ford before moving forward with a vote. And Ford’s attorney has now said she is willing to testify before Congress about her account of Kavanaugh’s misconduct.  

    The comparisons to attorney Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony recounting sexual harassment by now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas are stronger than ever. From personal smears and accusations of political motives, to miscategorizing an abuse of power as a “personal” matter, both cases illustrate the myriad personal harms survivors of mistreatment at the hands of the powerful often face when their stories become public.

    Look at the political and right-wing media circus surrounding this very serious allegation so far, or consider the eerily similar and immensely degrading reaction that followed Hill’s disclosure so many years ago, and ask yourself: Why would anyone speak up?

    “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” Ford had told the Post.

    Here is the difference: We can still get it right this time. Listen to Ford. The attempted annihilation is already well underway. It is now up to media to make sure it matters.

  • Sinclair’s shameful legacy now includes exploiting a woman’s murder to attack immigrants

    Chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn: “Americans such as Mollie Tibbetts … dying at the hands of illegal immigrants is a very real threat”

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    You’d think Sinclair Broadcast Group would lay low for a while and reassess its options after an extremely damaging month. Instead, the conservative media giant will force news stations across the country to air a 90-second segment exploiting the murder of Iowa woman Mollie Tibbetts to echo President Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants.

    Tibbetts was reported missing last month after she went out for a jog on a country road in Brooklyn, IA. Last week, local law enforcement found Tibbetts’ body and charged Mexican national Cristhian Bahena Rivera, an undocumented immigrant, for her murder.   

    Mollie Tibbetts would have returned to the University of Iowa last week. At a campus vigil, her older brother Jake encouraged everyone in attendance to “make a new friend” in honor of his “goofy” and passionate sister. Tibbetts’ friends have shared memories of the psychology student smiling as she walked through campus. “She was an advocate for mental health and genuinely cared about how people thought,” one friend told the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

    That’s not what the Sinclair segment is about, though.

    The segment, which will now air on an estimated 100 or more local news stations nationwide, ignores Tibbetts’ family members’ specific wishes for people to not weaponize Mollie's death for anti-immigrant ends. Instead, the Sinclair clip leans on the common racist trope of white women’s sanctity as it adds another disgusting entry to the right-wing media canon of unabashed xenophobic exploitation.

    In the clip, chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn mirrors Trump's rhetoric by referencing “families who have been permanently separated from their children,” a grotesque talking point drawing a comparison to the administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border. Epshteyn also references the deaths of Kate Steinle and Drew Rosenberg, which right-wing media have exploited to smear immigrants.

    BORIS EPSHTEYN (HOST): Last week, our country collectively mourned the loss of 20-year-old University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts. According to investigators, Tibbetts was followed and murdered by an illegal immigrant while on a run near her Brooklyn, IA, home. Her killer illegally entered our country. He then worked at an Iowa farm for several years after giving them fake identification and breaking through the very system in place to prevent these tragedies from occurring.

    Tibbetts’ murder has brought the debate over immigration reform to the forefront of the American consciousness once again. Republicans like Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley are advocating for stronger immigration laws. Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have focused mostly on scoring political points against our president. In a CNN interview last week, Warren pivoted from sharing her condolences to the Tibbetts family to attacking the administration’s zero-tolerance policy of border enforcement. According to Warren, we should be focusing on the people who, quote, “pose a real threat.”

    Sen. Warren, Americans such as Mollie Tibbetts, Kate Steinle, and Drew Rosenberg dying at the hands of illegal immigrants is a very real threat. Here’s the bottom line: Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Mollie Tibbetts and to all of the families who have been permanently separated from their children due to horrific tragedy such as this. Abolishing ICE and opening our borders are unacceptable solutions to our flawed immigration system.

    Among other offenses, Epshteyn left out a few crucial pieces of context here. Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than their peers born in the U.S. And as writer Jessica Valenti pointed out, “The deadliest demographic for American women isn't immigrants - it's husbands & boyfriends. But the truth about who kills women in this country isn't politically useful.” Women are harassed, abused, and killed every day, simply for daring to exist.

    I have watched every one of the 287 “Bottom Line With Boris” clips available online. He displays untold levels of ignorance and political obtuseness, along with a lack of charisma I cannot accurately convey with words. He has defended Trump’s “both sides” rhetoric about literal murderous Nazis. He has minimized the Trump administration’s abhorrent family separation policy, suggesting media had overblown the issue. He has fearmongered about “chain migration” and devoted multiple segments to attacking protesting NFL players. He has attacked Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) repeatedly, in segments about topics that barely relate to her, for unexplained reasons.

    Now there’s this.

    The fact that this segment will air in homes across the country, unchallenged, decontextualized -- over dinner or breakfast, between the traffic and weather -- is Sinclair’s horrific legacy.

  • Sinclair’s plan to buy Tribune Media stations is officially dead, but this pro-Trump TV giant isn’t going anywhere 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After several weeks of uncertainty, Tribune Media has officially pulled the plug on its planned acquisition by conservative local TV broadcasting behemoth Sinclair Broadcast Group. Though Sinclair’s massive expansion plan is foiled, the company remains the largest owner and operator of local TV stations in the country and an increasingly popular friendly media platform for conservatives. And there are other local media battles on the horizon.

    On August 9, Tribune Media announced it has pulled out of the embattled Sinclair-Tribune acquisition proposal and has filed a lawsuit against Sinclair for “breach of contract,” citing the company’s questionable conduct that led to the deal’s slow-tracking. The announcement comes several weeks after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated the proposed acquisition for further legal scrutiny, citing possible “misrepresentation or lack of candor” by Sinclair. In the time since, Sinclair’s extensive record of shady business tactics has returned to the spotlight. And as of late July, both Sinclair and Tribune, along with several other major broadcasters, are being investigated by the Department of Justice for possible advertisement price fixing.

    The end of this proposed expansion is a huge victory for those who want local news to stay truly local, and especially those communities who were set to see Sinclair take over their airwaves. But Sinclair is still a major threat to the future of local news.

    Sinclair is already a huge conservative force in local media

    Sinclair currently owns or operates 192 TV stations in 89 different local media markets across the country. Even without the new stations it would have acquired through the Tribune purchase, Sinclair is still the largest owner and operator of local TV stations in the country. It’s already actively inflicting plenty of damage to local communities using two tactics: consolidation and content.

    Sinclair’s M.O. for years has been to infiltrate media markets and consolidate news resources, making local news measurably less local and more conservative. The company currently dominates numerous specific local media markets across the nation, using several types of legal maneuvers to own, operate, or otherwise control multiple top broadcast stations in a given place. There are at least 48 stations in 23 states that aren’t owned by Sinclair but are operated by the company in some capacity.

    Through outright ownership and roundabout legal agreements, Sinclair manages to currently broadcast “must-run” segments on around 100 local news stations nationwide. These stations are forced to air, often during morning or nightly newscasts, pro-Trump commentary segments hosted by former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn and regular “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments seemingly designed to spur anti-Muslim xenophobia.

    Sinclair has direct connections to the Trump inner circle

    Sinclair’s most well-known connection to the Trump administration is its “Bottom Line With Boris” series, particularly segments in which Epshteyn does friendly interviews with members of the Trump administration. At least seven administration officials -- and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani -- have used Sinclair as a friendly media platform. In the last few weeks, Sinclair has mandated that its news stations air four different excerpts from Epshteyn’s recent interview with Vice President Mike Pence.

    Epshteyn’s blatant Trump propaganda is only a small piece of the much larger web of connections between Sinclair and elected officials and members of the Trump camp. Trump has given exclusive interviews to Sinclair reporters at least 16 times, and Trump and others in his orbit have promoted Sinclair and its content.

    And though the Sinclair-Tribune deal has been shuttered, an internal investigation into Trump-appointed FCC chair Ajit Pai’s relationship with Sinclair may still be ongoing. In February, The New York Times reported that the FCC inspector general has opened an internal investigation into potential improper conduct by Pai and his aides in pushing deregulatory measures that have specifically benefited Sinclair. The investigation began after lawmakers called on the inspector general to investigate a “disturbing pattern of a three way quid-pro-quo” that could include a laundry list of activities, beginning shortly after Sinclair’s top executive told then-candidate Trump the outlet was there to “deliver [his] message” to America before the 2016 election.

    Sinclair is gearing up for other ways to expand its presence in the conservative news game

    Sinclair began meeting with current and former Fox News personalities while waiting for the Tribune deal to be approved, reportedly planning to develop a direct cable news competitor for Fox. It was developing ideas for a “three-hour block of news-opinion programming” that could air on a cable network Sinclair already owns or another it would have acquired in the Tribune deal.

    Even without the deal, Sinclair still has options for pursuing its cable news idea. In July, Buzzfeed News reported that Sinclair was developing a free streaming app called STIRR that it could use to launch its Fox News competitor. And Sinclair bought Circa, an online news company, in 2015. Sinclair stations already typically link to Circa on their websites and sometimes run packaged segments from Circa on their local newscasts. And after a 2017 stint as the prime resource for stoking Fox host Sean Hannity’s pro-Trump conspiracy theories, the outlet is now focused on bringing Sinclair’s nationally produced news segments to a wider audience.

    The Trump FCC could be making things even easier for Sinclair in the future

    Though it did sideline the Sinclair-Tribune deal, the Trump FCC is still very much in favor of media deregulation, and it’s poised to consider another move that could help Sinclair and other large broadcasters homogenize local news. In conversations with Media Matters, representatives from media and consumer advocacy groups said a possible FCC reconsideration of what’s known as the national ownership cap, or national television audience reach cap, could be the next big local media fight on the horizon.

    Currently, the law specifies that no broadcaster could own local stations reaching more than a collective 39 percent of U.S. television households. Changing this rule would give major companies like Sinclair the freedom to pursue other mergers and acquisitions currently restricted by the cap -- and it’s only a matter of time before the FCC makes a move.

    The commission gave public notice back in December that it plans to reconsider the cap, and a long list of broadcasters has already signaled public support for raising the limit. Sinclair, for its part, urged the FCC to eliminate the cap altogether.

  • “Not in our city”: Activists are protesting at the ICE field office for Washington, DC

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE & PAM VOGEL

    On August 2, activists led by the Washington, D.C., metro area chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (Metro DC DSA) began a multiday protest outside of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office for the D.C. area, located in Fairfax, VA. Four protesters were arrested that day, and six more were arrested on August 3. The action was sparked by recent ICE activity in D.C. neighborhoods, including arrests in the communities of Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, as part of a larger ICE operation in which 132 people were detained in D.C. and Virginia. The activists plan to continue the protest in the coming days, and are hoping their direct action will spur media to question D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has declared the city a "sanctuary city." 

    Here’s what activists, including the six people arrested on August 3, had to say about why they were willing to risk arrest and how media ought to report on ICE activities:

  • This potential FCC rule change could be disastrous for local media diversity 

    Free Press policy analyst Dana Floberg: “If the FCC loosens the national ownership cap, it'll be even easier for Sinclair and other big broadcasters to merge their way to national broadcasting monopolies” 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    With conservative local TV behemoth Sinclair Broadcast Group’s unprecedented expansion plan now in sudden peril, advocates are warning that the fight for local news is far from over. The Trump Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is still very much in favor of media deregulation, and it’s poised to consider another move that could homogenize your local news.

    July brought a bombshell announcement from the FCC: Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media, which would give the local TV giant unprecedented control over local stations across the country, was designated for greater legal scrutiny. The decision was shocking to opponents of the deal, who had fought back as the FCC spent the last year bestowing upon Sinclair a series of regulatory giveaways that made the proposed deal possible in the first place.

    In announcing the need for additional consideration -- a move that has doomed similar large transactions in the past -- the FCC cited several specific divestitures proposed as part of the deal, which would have involved Sinclair’s signature use of legal loopholes to skirt ownership caps. It even asserted that Sinclair may have misrepresented its intentions in these cases. As of publication, however, neither Sinclair nor Tribune has indicated it will pull back from the deal rather than follow through with a hearing.

    In the weeks since the announcement, consumer and media advocates who had previously faced a sharp uphill battle in challenging the merger are now discussing other imminent threats to ensuring a diversity of voices in local media, including Sinclair’s larger repertoire of sketchy business practices and other consolidation efforts on the horizon.

    In conversations with Media Matters, representatives from media and consumer advocacy groups said a possible FCC reconsideration of what’s known as the national ownership cap, or national television audience reach cap, could be the next big local media fight on the horizon.

    As Francella Ochillo, the director of government and legal affairs at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, explained to Media Matters, loosening ownership limits “would pave the way for additional media consolidation and cross-ownership, allowing one entity to own more stations in already concentrated markets. That will also have a direct impact on the diversity of voices in those communities.”

    In 2004, Congress created a statute stating that no broadcaster could own local stations reaching more than a collective 39 percent of U.S. television households. The new cap was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, which also specified that only Congress -- and not the FCC -- could change that 39 percent figure moving forward.

    Though it does not have the power to change the cap unilaterally, the FCC, in the years since, has made changes to how that ownership reach is calculated. Most notably, the commission has waffled back and forth in recent years about using a now-outdated rule known as the UHF discount, which allows station owners to calculate their ownership reach in a misleading way that effectively skirts the 39 percent cap. The FCC’s bizarre move to reinstate the UHF discount in 2017 is what allowed Sinclair to pursue such a huge acquisition to begin with.

    Some advocacy groups challenged the UHF discount reinstatement in court, but the case was recently dismissed for lack of standing, with no ruling on the merits of the case. (Earlier questioning from the panel of judges suggested skepticism of the FCC’s reasoning for reinstating the outdated rule, though. One judge said the commission seemed to be keeping the discount “on life support.”)

    Now it appears that the FCC will reconsider both the UHF discount and the entire national ownership cap, though. It’s only a matter of when and how drastically things could change.

    For his part, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai remains heavily in favor of media deregulation and consolidation, often under the guise of innovation; he expressed a desire to raise the national ownership cap as far back as 2013.

    The commission in December gave public notice of its intent to review the current limit, introducing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and mentioning the possibility that the cap could be eliminated altogether.

    Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a dissenting statement at the time that by pursuing new rulemaking on the national cap, “we are destroying our most basic values and tearing apart the rules that have helped keep our media markets local, diverse, and competitive.” Then-Commissioner Mignon Clyburn lamented, “The current Administration, in its quest to green light even greater media consolidation, has found a way to rewrite history” by initiating a reconsideration of the cap without the authority to do so.

    A long list of major broadcasting companies stated their support for raising the cap to 50 percent after the rulemaking announcement. And Sinclair urged the FCC in an April filing to eliminate the cap altogether.

    The FCC has not acted further on the reconsideration yet, though there were rumors it would to do so in July. But when it does, a change could boost not just Sinclair (which would be free to pursue other deals currently restricted by the cap) but also the many other major broadcast owners that are looking to further expand but currently cannot.

    Dana Floberg, a policy analyst at consumer advocacy group Free Press, explained to Media Matters, “If the FCC loosens the national ownership cap, it'll be even easier for Sinclair and other big broadcasters to merge their way to national broadcasting monopolies.”

    What’s more: Loosening or eliminating the cap would leave local media consumers -- especially some communities of color that rely more heavily on local broadcast news -- with fewer options.

    Ochillo described this significant potential impact of a corporate-friendly change to the cap. “As media consolidation increases, the number of voices controlling the local media broadcasts will decrease. That means that media ownership could become even more homogenous than it is today. The FCC must honor its commitment to promote diversity in media ownership.”

  • Sinclair stations have now aired six “must-run” segments pushing for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation

    Chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn: “Let’s hope he is confirmed without delay”

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This piece was updated on August 27 to include two more "must-run" segments.

    Conservative TV giant Sinclair Broadcast Group is requiring its local news stations across the country to air multiple “must-run” segments praising “perfectly qualified” Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and encouraging a quick confirmation.

    As of August 27, Sinclair has produced at least six “must-run” commentary segments about the open Supreme Court seat, including three that feature excerpts from interviews with Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The segments either laud Kavanaugh’s qualifications, dismiss real concerns about what’s at stake if he is confirmed, or push for a quick confirmation process. Some do all three.

    Sinclair designates that certain news and commentary segments, produced in its national studios, must air on its local news stations across the country -- including all four of the Kavanaugh-related segments. According to a Media Matters search of the iQ media database, one or more of these segments have aired in at least 22 states, including those with potentially key senators in a confirmation vote like Alabama, Maine, Nevada, and West Virginia.

    The first “must-run” aired on June 28 and 29, shortly after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. In his recurring “Bottom Line With Boris” commentary segment, Sinclair chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn argued that the Senate ought to confirm whomever President Donald Trump would nominate to replace Kennedy before the midterm elections in November. Epshteyn ended the segment, “Nominating and confirming a second conservative justice to the Supreme Court will be a huge achievement for the president and Senate Republicans. It will further cement their reputation as defenders of the rule of law and our Constitution.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on WPFO (Fox 23) in Portland, Maine:

    A second “must-run” segment aired on July 10 and July 11, right after Trump announced his nomination of Kavanaugh. Again, Epshteyn argued that Kavanaugh ought to be confirmed quickly and listed off reasons why the judge was “immensely qualified” for the role. Epshteyn also argues that the far-right wing of the GOP should support the nomination and that Kavanaugh is “the least controversial” and “easily the most confirmable” candidate. He also mentioned by name three Democratic senators who are up for re-election: Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana. Epshteyn predicted “most” would vote to confirm Kavanaugh “so as to keep their chances to be re-elected alive.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on WVAH (Fox 11) in Charleston, West Virginia:

    The “must-run” featuring Rep. Lamar Smith aired on July 17 and July 18. In the clip, Smith attempted to dismiss concerns that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would threaten abortion access, saying, “Clearly, he is a judge who has made comments about Roe v. Wade but he’s also written a book on the importance of precedent. I think a lot of legal scholars don't expect him to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, although I think a lot of the Democratic senators are using that as a scare tactic. I think it’s probably unlikely it would be completely overturned.”

    Epshteyn offered no additional context on the matter, then concluded, “There’s no question that Judge Brett Kavanaugh is perfectly qualified to be the next Supreme Court Justice. Let’s hope he is confirmed without delay.” Here is the full segment, as aired on WBMA (ABC 33/40) in Birmingham, Alabama:

    The fourth “must-run” segment, featuring Pence, aired on July 25 and July 26. In it, Pence again made the case for Kavanaugh, telling Epshteyn that Kavanaugh is “a man of integrity, with a lifetime of calling to public service as a family man, a man of faith,” and “the most qualified person in America to fill that seat on the Supreme Court.” Epshteyn nodded in agreement and then ended the segment by asserting, “Judge Brett Kavanaugh is fully qualified to be on the Supreme Court. Democrats in the Senate should not let partisanship cloud their judgement, and they should give Judge Brett Kavanaugh fair consideration.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on KRNV (NBC 4) in Reno, Nevada:

    The fifth “must-run” segment, featuring Hatch, aired on August 7 and August 8. The segment included an interview excerpt in which Hatch praises Kavanaugh extensively, saying, “I'm very high on him. He's a very fine man. He's lived a very good, exemplary life. His whole life has been devoted to the law. He's straightforward. He's honest.” Epshteyn ended the segment by saying, “Let’s hope that Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed as quickly as possible” in spite of “senseless obstruction from many Democrats.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on WEAR (ABC 3) in Pensacola, Florida: 

    The sixth and most recent “must-run” segment aired from August 24 through August 27. In the clip, Epshteyn responded to calls from Senate Democrats to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing after the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen plead guilty to several crimes, including campaign finance violations that implicate the president. He argued that “Democrats have no tangible reason to oppose this highly qualified pick” and joked, “What’s next? Senate Democrats will try to block the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh because they don’t like the weather?” Epshteyn also absurdly lamented that Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was “the equivalent of being invited to interview for a job that you are highly qualified for but you’re being kept waiting in the lobby of the office building until some of the board members finish shouting about how much they wished that their cousin was up for the job instead.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on WHP (CBS 21) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:

  • Sinclair's latest "must-run" is basically just Mike Pence talking about how great the Trump administration has been

    Pence: “It is striking to me some days when I see the way the media is critical of this president”

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Sinclair Broadcast Group’s latest “must-run” segment is basically just a platform for Vice President Mike Pence to list what he thinks are the Trump administration’s accomplishments and passively whine about media being too “critical.”

    The latest “Bottom Line With Boris” segment, posted online today, is another excerpt from Sinclair chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn’s recent exclusive interview with Pence. The roughly 90-second segment is mostly Pence just listing what he calls the administration’s “record of success." Epshteyn does not ask a question in the clip, but does nod along in agreement.

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: The relationship between the White House and most of the media is anything but productive. I recently sat down with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss how the administration is treated by the press. Here’s what he said.

    [BEGIN INTERVIEW CLIP]

    MIKE PENCE: You know, I've always said that if you're in public life, criticism comes with the territory. But I have to tell you, it is striking to me some days when I see the way the media is critical of this president. I mean, think of what we've accomplished in just a year and a half. We’re rebuilding our military. We’ve strengthened international alliances. NATO is now contributing more than ever before to our common defense. The president stood strong against the regime in North Korea and now North Korea is no longer testing ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons and has come to the peace table. At home, the president's cut taxes across the board, rolled back federal regulation and the economy has taken off, and we've been appointing strong conservatives to our courts at every level. It is a record of success that is benefiting everyday Americans, creating jobs and opportunities. And yet it seems like there's a preoccupation by some in the media -- not all -- to always focus on the negative or always focus on criticism.

    [END INTERVIEW CLIP]

    EPSHTEYN: Here’s the bottom line: The Trump administration has to focus on continuing to achieve success for the American people. And that way, the results will speak for themselves. It is then the responsibility of the press to report the facts to people at home.

    This is the latest entry in Sinclair’s conservative programming playbook, which mirrors former CEO Roger Ailes’ propaganda strategy at Fox News for decades -- to convince the audience that one conservative outlet is the only source they can trust for news. Sinclair’s message is particularly dangerous because of the company’s numerous direct ties to the Trump administration and its ability to reach unsuspecting local news viewers across the country by co-opting the trustworthiness of actual local reporters. In one extreme example, this spring, Sinclair required local anchors at its news stations to narrate promotional segments decrying “biased and false news” in Trumpian terms.

    Epshteyn has frequently claimed the media is biased against Trump and attacked specific outlets and reporters -- in particular, CNN. He has also interviewed GOP officials about purported “media bias” in the past, including White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith. And in one of the first “must-run” segments Epshteyn hosted, in June 2017, he argued that regular White House press briefings had become “a circus and a distraction.”