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Pam Vogel

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  • Sinclair's latest Trump interview may as well have been produced by the White House

    Former Fox host Eric Bolling interviewed the president, and it went about how you'd expect

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    This week, President Donald Trump continued his practice of rewarding conservative media outlets he believes are not biased against him, sitting down for an exclusive interview in the Rose Garden with Eric Bolling, a political anchor at the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Bolling interviewed Trump for the third episode of his new show for Sinclair, America This Week, which streams on Sinclair station websites weekly and is promoted and occasionally aired on the stations themselves.

    In one promotional clip, Trump and Bolling discussed the president’s belief that the press is biased against him because of “Trump derangement syndrome.” Trump also said that the term “fake news” is no longer strong enough to convey mainstream media’s supposed bias against him. This clip aired on at least 49 stations in 28 states and the District of Columbia on April 16 and 17, according to the iQ media database.  

    In another clip, the president misleadingly told Bolling (and viewers), “We’re building a lot of wall right now. We’re taking old stuff down that didn’t work, and we’re using -- we’re building beautiful 30-foot barriers and bollards and, in some cases, concrete, depending on what we need. And a lot of wall is being built.” This clip aired on at least 40 stations in 22 states from April 12 through April 15.

    The full 15-minute interview was posted online on April 17, and it was about what you might expect from a former Fox News host who previously said he would work for Trump for $1. Bolling introduced the interview like this:

    I found the president relaxed and confident, just off the Mueller and Barr report release. The busiest and most powerful man on the planet gave me 15 minutes on tape and another 30 minutes walking around the beautiful Rose Garden setting.

    And the interview itself began (after a minute-long monologue from Bolling about Media Matters) with the men stating that they respect each other. Many of Bolling’s questions for the president were more like supportive comments about Trump’s agenda or softball setups for Trump to bash Democrats or the media. Here are a few:

    • “The left wing, the mainstream media seems to love anything that can take a shot at Mr. Trump. But here’s what I want to ask: We’re now going to be aired in 200 stations across the country. Middle America is watching. What type of news diet are they being fed by the mainstream media, all these people?”
    • “The number came out. And the lowest number of jobless claims in 49 and a half years. Almost 50 years. You know, I had to debate with a guy the other day about whose economy is it. I said it’s a Trump economy. He said, ‘No, no, no, this is just Trump finishing up Obama’s economy.’ I beg to differ. I think your GDP is pushing 3% and Obama had point one and a half. Half the GDP.”
    • “Can I tell you, one of the things -- and I’ve done business; I started in the business networks -- one of the things that people ignore and one of the ways I always catch liberals who were attacking me about ‘it was Obama’s economy, not Trump’s’ is: For the first time in maybe 12 years, wages are growing substantially. And that’s a function of a more favorable business environment. Companies feel better about the future, so they’ll pay people more to stay. Whereas in the past, they were, ‘Eh, I’m not sure about the economy.’ So it’s a confidence in the economy that probably is immeasurable, but that’s part of the reason why the number has been so good.”
    • “I remember you came in on a Saturday and started rolling back regulation. I’ll never forget that.”
    • “This new -- on the left -- this new embrace of socialism. You know, AOC comes -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- comes out with a Green New Deal. We’re going to be extinct in 12 years unless we adopt this program?”
    • “Anti-Semitism a growing concern with a couple of new freshman congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. Your thoughts on is there a growing tide of anti-Semitism in the country?”

    This sit-down with Bolling is Trump’s ninth on-camera interview of the year. In February, he was interviewed by CBS’ Margaret Brennan, and earlier this month he spoke with KSTP in St. Paul, MN; the other six interviews were with Fox News or Fox Business personalities. He has also sat down for multiple interviews with Sinclair personalities in the past, including for a series of “must-run” segments with Sinclair chief political commentator and former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn last year.

    Bolling previously worked at the president’s favorite network, Fox News, where he pushed the network’s signature misogyny, race-baiting, and anti-Muslim rhetoric, as well as the racist birther conspiracy theory championed by Trump. He left Fox in 2017 amid reports that he sent multiple colleagues unsolicited images of genitalia.

    The first two episodes of Bolling’s Sinclair program were ripped right from Fox News, focusing on common conservative tropes like media bias, censorship, and a border crisis. The program has also already featured a number of right-wing media talking heads and members of the Trump orbit, including: former Trump adviser and Sinclair contributor Sebastian Gorka, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Sinclair reporter and former Fox employee James Rosen, presidential daughter-in-law and current Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Sinclair chief political commentator Boris Epshteyn and Sinclair commentator Ameshia Cross, and several liberals who are also frequent Fox News guests. It was only a matter of time before Bolling landed an interview with the president himself.

    Rob Savillo contributed research to this post.

  • Eric Bolling's new show for Sinclair Broadcast Group brings the worst of right-wing media to local news

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL



    Sinclair Broadcast Group’s newest program signals the conservative media giant’s shift toward more openly embracing right-wing propaganda and hiring Fox News castoffs.

    On April 2, Mediaite reported that Sinclair was set to debut America This Week, a new weekly program hosted by Eric Bolling. The first episode would include appearances by several members of the Trump inner circle: former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and 2020 campaign adviser and the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. Bolling is a newly official Sinclair personality who has been making appearances on its national programming for months, and he also hosts a streaming show with right-wing outlet BlazeTV. He was previously a host and co-host at Fox News -- where he regularly trafficked in conspiracy theories, misogyny, and race-baiting -- but he left in 2017 amid reports that he sent multiple colleagues unsolicited images of genitalia.

    The first two episodes of Eric Bolling’s America This Week program are straight out of Fox News

    In a sign of Sinclair’s increasing willingness to adopt the Fox News model of poisoning viewers against any other news sources, much of the first hour-long program was devoted to decrying so-called media bias against President Donald Trump:

    • The program began with a brief introductory monologue from Bolling in which he told viewers, “This show is all about holding the mainstream media and the powerful accountable.” Bolling then decried “today’s media, where truth and facts give way to biased opinions and a dangerous disregard for fact.”
    • Bolling then led a discussion with former Trump adviser and Sinclair contributor Sebastian Gorka and Democratic strategist and frequent Fox News guest Jonathan Harris, and another with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Both Gorka and Lewandowski addressed supposed mainstream media bias against the president.
    • Later in the episode, Bolling featured a report about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from James Rosen, another former Fox News employee.
    • He also played a pre-taped interview with presidential daughter-in-law and current Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, which touched on the idea of media bias against the president.
    • The show also aired an interview at the “Breitbart Embassy” with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon discussing, again, media bias against Trump, the concept of a “deep state,” and Bannon’s thoughts about various public figures including former FBI Director James Comey, progressive philanthropist George Soros, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the pope, Trump, and himself.

    The second episode had similarly Fox-y elements:

    • Bolling’s monologue was focused on a “crisis at the border.”
    • It was followed by a discussion with Gorka, again, along with Democratic strategist Joel Payne, about immigration and special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
    • Bolling then introduced his interview with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) about “the Russian collusion illusion.” Nunes spent the last portion of the interview discussing the false talking point that conservatives are being “shadow banned” or otherwise discriminated against by social media platforms and his lawsuit against Twitter.
    • Bolling conducted a long interview with former President Barack Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee (also a frequent Fox News guest), in part to discuss whether a good economy ought to be credited to Obama or Trump.
    • There was another report from Rosen, this time focused on Attorney General Bill Barr’s misleading statements before Congress about “spying” on the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.
    • And there was a discussion about Hitler apologist and far-right personality Candace Owens and “nationalism” between Sinclair chief political commentator Boris Epshteyn and Sinclair commentator Ameshia Cross.

    The episodes attempt to show some balance by including short segments from Sinclair local reporters in different states, and bringing in reporters at national outlets for a segment called “Balls and Strikes” in which Bolling goes over stories of the week (so far, Politico’s Gabby Orr, Time’s Brian Bennett, and The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay have appeared).

    Next week, Bolling said, will feature an interview with the president.

    America This Week premiered mostly online

    The first two full episodes of America This Week were posted on local Sinclair station websites on April 3 and April 10. While initial reporting suggested the show would air on Sinclair news stations across the country weekly, thus far it appears to have been distributed primarily online, with short excerpts aired on TV.

    According to the iQ media database, on April 3 and 4, local stations typically aired one (or both) of two short clips from Bolling’s interview with Bannon and then told audiences to head to the station website to see the entire program. The teasers and interview snippets aired on at least 61 Sinclair stations in 29 states and the District of Columbia. A handful of stations told viewers the full program would be broadcast on Sunday nights at a certain time, but iQ media video showed those stations airing different national programming such as Entertainment Tonight or wrestling matches at those times instead.

    The America This Week snippets that some local news viewers saw on air last week were these two clips:

    Steve Bannon railing against media bias at The New York Times and CNN (as seen here on KEYE in Austin, TX):

    Or Steve Bannon discussing a “deep state” and doing word association about himself (as seen here on KTVL in Medford, OR):

    The following week, the second episode of the program again was featured on Sinclair station websites and promoted on the air with clips from Bolling’s interview with Nunes. As seen on KBAK in Bakersfield, CA:

    The first episode of Bolling's show does not appear to have aired in full on any local news stations -- at least not on any the larger news affiliates that are included in the iQ media database. It is possible the show aired on smaller stations, like CW or MyNetwork affiliates, or on digital-only subchannels, both of which cater to smaller audiences. On April 10, Bolling promoted the show on Twitter, telling users to “check your local listings.” The replies are largely from accounts saying that they couldn’t find the program. The local Washington, D.C., Sinclair station, WJLA, aired Wheel of Fortune during the 7 p.m. hour that night.

    Eric Bolling represents the essence of Fox News

    For months before the premiere of America This Week, Bolling had been hosting ongoing town hall programming for Sinclair focused on opioids, including one in which he interviewed first lady Melania Trump. He was also beginning to make appearances on other Sinclair national programming as a “political anchor,” and he interviewed both President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on behalf of Sinclair in recent months.

    At Fox, Bolling regularly trafficked in the casual misogyny, race-baiting, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and right-wing conspiracy theories that continue to define the network. In his time at Fox:

    • Bolling was a major voice pushing the racist birther conspiracy theory about Obama. He even examined Obama’s birth certificate on the air, speculating that the certificate’s border showed it may have been photoshopped.
    • He also speculated about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, saying, “There wasn’t a robbery. … This was a hit.”
    • Bolling had to apologize for asking if the first female pilot for the United Arab Emirates, who participated in bombing against Islamic State terrorists, “would … be considered boobs on the ground.”
    • He whined that allowing young girls to play football was part of “the wussification of American men” and criticized a story of a 9-year-old girl playing football, saying, “Let the boys be boys, let the girls be girls.”
    • Bolling told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) that she should “step away from the crack pipe.”
    • He lectured “rappers,” saying that they should be happy because white people are “financing their lifestyles” by buying their music.
    • Bolling criticized Obama's leadership by claiming the first Black president was "chugging a few 40s" instead of doing his job.
    • When Gabonese President Ali Bongo visited the White House during the Obama administration, Bolling characterized it as "a hoodlum in the hizzouse."
    • He has also argued that “there’s no racial aspect of [police] profiling” and said that racism doesn’t exist anymore.
    • Bolling argued that “every terrorist on American soil has been a Muslim.”
    • Bolling also opposed the proposal to build a Muslim community center near ground zero in New York City, suggesting it could be “a meeting place for some of the scariest minds,” even “some of the biggest terrorist minds.”

    Bolling joins other former Fox News personalities who’ve moved to Sinclair

    Bolling is one of three former Fox News employees to have landed at Sinclair after leaving the network, all of whom appeared in both episodes so far of America This Week.

    Former Fox contributor Sebastian Gorka, an anti-Muslim extremist and Washington, D.C., swamp creature, recently officially became a Sinclair contributor as well. Like Bolling, Gorka had appeared multiple times in Sinclair national news programming beforehand, and he also hosted at least two special programs that aired on Sinclair local news stations. One of these specials, called The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures, featured footage labeled as "ISIS propaganda" and shots of terror attacks followed by Gorka asking viewers, "Can the teachings of Islam and western values ever be reconciled? Is it possible for the waves of refugees arriving in the west to assimilate and coexist peacefully?"

    Sinclair investigative reporter James Rosen also joined Sinclair this year; he previously worked as Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent before leaving the network in early 2018 amid reports that he sexually harassed colleagues.

    Sinclair’s future

    Sinclair’s recent decisions to formally hire multiple ex-Fox News figures and to give one of them a weekly online program signal the media giant’s shift to more openly embracing its reputation as a right-wing outlet. For years, Sinclair flew under the radar and was quietly injecting conservative spin into local news programming -- but now that it’s become more of a household name, it seems to be pivoting even further right.

    Before the broadcasting giant began airing Trumpian “must-run” segments warning of media bias last spring, Sinclair stations were already running multiple commentary segments featuring what were clearly right-wing perspectives, producing fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments, and broadcasting weekly shows from conservative conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson and right-wing grifter Armstrong Williams. In recent months, Sinclair finally brought a liberal commentator on board to produce “must-runs” from a different point of view, but the company simultaneously invested in Rosen, Gorka, and Bolling.

  • Media outlets somehow make Trump the savior of Special Olympics funding that his budget aimed to cut in the first place

    Sloppy headlines and tweets that simply quote the president without context are just good PR for Trump

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump administration last week made a particularly cruel show of defunding the Special Olympics program in its annual proposed budget -- a largely symbolic gesture that was nonetheless indicative of the administration’s wholesale disregard for people with disabilities. After Secretary of Education Betsy Devos made a series of inept attempts to defend or address the proposed cut amid mounting public pressure, President Donald Trump finally walked back his administration’s line, saying he would change the proposal. In reporting Trump’s remarks, sloppy headlines, tweets, and cable news chyrons that simply quoted the president inherently gave him credit where absolutely none was due. It's part of a larger pattern in which context-free framing can undermine the substance of otherwise good reporting, reducing complex stories to overly simplistic headlines or lead sentences that ultimately mislead the public. 

    What happened? 

    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared twice before Congress last week to discuss her department’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year, and she faced tough questions about a proposed $17.6 million cut that would eliminate federal funding for the Special Olympics.

    Presidential administrations typically release a proposed annual budget every year as a recommendation and a way to indicate policy priorities -- the federal budget is ultimately under the purview of Congress alone, which can take the presidential proposal under advisement. Indeed, Politico noted that the administration had proposed defunding the Special Olympics in its last two budgets as well. As s.e. smith wrote for Vox, the proposed cut illustrated the underlying threat to people with disabilities that the administration poses -- and distracts from other proposed budget cuts and previous administration activities that could harm students with disabilities and limit their access to quality public education.

    DeVos faced strong pressure to reconsider the budget line, both in the hearings and from media, and was asked clarifying questions about the reasons for the defunding proposal. She struggled to defend the decision, completely and awkwardly ignoring questions from at least one CNN reporter and engaging in the Trump administration’s signature deflection tactic of attacking the media instead. Meanwhile, a Trump campaign spokesperson pivoted to bizarrely attacking Democrats’ support for abortion.

    Eventually, after multiple days of negative public attention, Trump reversed his administration’s long-held position on cutting the funding. The president told reporters last Thursday that he had “overridden” his own administration and had “authorized a funding of the Special Olympics,” saying that he had “heard about it this morning.” At best, this means Trump had no idea what his own administration was up to until reporters and members of Congress pointed it out. At worst, Trump was well aware of the cut and didn’t care about it until he looked bad publicly -- and was willing to throw DeVos under the bus to fix things.

    This episode showcased, once again, not just the Trump inner circle’s signature moral repugnancy but also its overwhelming ineptitude.

    How was it framed by some in media? 

    After Trump abruptly announced the proposed budget change, some blue-checkmarked reporters and media figures immediately started tweeting his breaking news quotes for impact and virality -- a common industry-wide practice. The unintentional effect was a series of tweets that together reframed the news story positively for Trump.

    Rather than making clear that Trump was reversing his own proposed budget, which does not determine actual funding levels regardless, the tweets portrayed Trump as the savior of the program -- a hero willing to fight his own bureaucracy to protect what he cared about. It amounted to passively spreading misinformation.

    And news organizations also piled on.

    Some headlines and cable news chyrons followed the same pattern: they either quoted the president with no context on the shameless pivot or actively framed him as heroically bucking bureaucracy.

    [The Hill, 3/28/19]

    [USA Today, 3/28/19]

    [CNN, 3/28/19]

    [Time, 3/28/19]

    [CNN, The Lead, 3/28/19]

    [MSNBC, Deadline: White House, 3/28/19]

    Surely not all context about the issue can fit in a headline or a tweet. But a few extra words can go a long way in better serving news audiences; some news organizations were able to do it just fine.

    Every tweet, headline, push notification, and chyron counts. Even if context is provided in subsequent reporting, or in different chyrons or an accompanying discussion, that is not enough. The essential framing has to be right.

    Media have a responsibility to serve an audience that we know is trying to catch up on the news by glancing at the TV screens (maybe in public, with the sound off, even) and scrolling quickly through tweets, push notifications, or headlines. Reporters covering this should distill what’s most relevant and accurate to a busy, distracted public that’s relying on them. Otherwise, they’re doing the work of the president’s communications shop.

  • Sebastian Gorka is officially bringing his anti-Muslim commentary to Sinclair stations across the country

    The former Trump aide isn’t renewing his Fox News contract, instead increasing his presence at Sinclair

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Sebastian Gorka, a D.C. swamp creature with barely a degree of separation from a Nazi-linked group, will no longer be a Fox News contributor -- but the public can still find his bigoted, anti-Muslim commentary on local Sinclair Broadcast Group stations around the country.

    After briefly serving as an adviser to President Donald Trump in 2017, Gorka parlayed his White House role into a new job as a Fox News contributor. On March 3, The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr broke the news that Gorka was not renewing his contributor contract with Fox. Gorka told Barr, “I decided not to renew my contract since I have a new nationally syndicated radio show and a position with Sinclair TV which obviated a new arrangement with FNC.”

    The Sinclair role that Gorka is referencing has been publicly confirmed for only about a month: In February, Gorka appeared as part of Sinclair’s special programming for the State of the Union address and was identified as a Sinclair contributor.

    But the virulently anti-Muslimnational security expert” was making appearances on Sinclair news programming long before then. In 2017, about a month before he signed his Fox contract, Gorka participated in a gun violence town hall for Sinclair’s Washington, D.C., station WJLA and made headlines for saying he believed “Black Africans” were killing each other “by the bushel.”

    Last March, he appeared in a nationally aired news package produced by Sinclair reporter Kristine Frazao about the so-called “deep state.” Around the same time, he participated in a discussion about “the deep state” that also featured Frank Gaffney, leader of an anti-Muslim extremist group, on the Sinclair-affiliated The Armstrong Williams Show.

    Gorka has also hosted at least two special programs that ran on Sinclair-controlled local news stations. In March 2018, Gorka hosted a special called The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures, which aired on numerous Sinclair stations. In that program, footage labeled as "ISIS propaganda" and shots of terror attacks are followed by Gorka asking viewers, "Can the teachings of Islam and western values ever be reconciled? Is it possible for the waves of refugees arriving in the west to assimilate and coexist peacefully?" At one point, b-roll footage is shown of a protest sign that says "Rapefugees."

    In November, he hosted another 30-minute special -- this time fearmongering about socialism. The program began with stylized footage of a hammer and sickle being forged in flames and then clips of speeches by Democratic socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Virginia state Del. Lee Carter, much of it set to ominous music. Gorka spent the majority of the program discussing the history of various regimes across the globe, framed to show what happens when socialism goes wrong.

    Despite these numerous appearances, Gorka’s relationship with Sinclair wasn’t publicly addressed until very recently -- including on his own Twitter account, where he frequently promotes his media appearances. He didn’t appear to list the role in his account bio until some time after the town hall appearance last month. And two previous Media Matters requests sent to Sinclair representatives about Gorka’s role at the media company were not answered. (It is uncommon for Fox News contributors to simultaneously hold positions at other media outlets.)

    Now that Gorka has finally made his move to Sinclair official, viewers around the country can unfortunately expect even more anti-Muslim extremism creeping into their local newscasts. Sinclair is already known for its near-daily “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments, which actively reinforce far-right, xenophobic narratives about terrorism and focus heavily on stories involving Islam in any way.

    Gorka has already appeared in at least six Sinclair national news packages in 2019, mostly discussing stories related to ISIS or immigration:

    • A February 21 segment about an American woman who regrets marrying an ISIS fighter
    • A February 18 segment about captured ISIS fighters
    • A February 1 segment about the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients in immigration negotiations
    • A January 25 segment about the arrest of Trump confidant Roger Stone
    • A January 17 segment about global terror attacks
    • A January 4 segment about Democrats in Congress and Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) comments about impeaching Trump

    Gorka’s move to Sinclair also helps solidify the local news conglomerate as a media safe space for Fox News castoffs. Former Fox co-host Eric Bolling -- who also appeared in the February State of the Union special -- is now a “Sinclair political anchor” as well as a host on conservative BlazeTV. Bolling recently interviewed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at CPAC on behalf of Sinclair, and he hosts an ongoing town hall series about the opioid crisis. He left Fox News in 2017 amid reports he sent images of genitalia to multiple coworkers. James Rosen, a Sinclair investigative reporter, also previously worked at Fox News before leaving in January 2018 amid multiple sexual harassment reports.

  • Boris Epshteyn calls Michael Cohen a "rat" in a Sinclair must-run segment airing across the country 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Sinclair Broadcast Group’s local TV stations around the country are currently airing a commentary segment in which former Trump administration official Boris Epshteyn declares Michael Cohen a “rat.”

    Cohen, a former longtime personal lawyer and “fixer” for President Donald Trump, testified publicly in a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 27. In his sworn testimony, Cohen offered new details about the president’s awareness of WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 election and Trump’s role in arranging hush money payments to women he had sexual relationships with, among other damning information. Cohen also testified that the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. had played more significant roles in a Trump Tower Moscow project and in arranging the hush money payments than previously disclosed.

    In a new “must-run” segment about the testimony airing on dozens of Sinclair-controlled local news stations, Epshteyn -- a former Trump aide and Sinclair’s chief political analyst since 2017 -- fell in line with other pro-Trump media attempting to downplay the testimony. Epshteyn also emphatically denounced Cohen as a “rat.”

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: President Trump's former personal attorney and rat, Michael Cohen, was questioned in a heated, all-day hearing in front of the House oversight committee this week. Despite Cohen’s scathing opening remarks, there were three key takeaways from his hearing.

    One: Cohen said under oath that he did not take a trip to Prague to collude with Russia on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump. Cohen stated that he did not have any evidence whatsoever of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    Two: Cohen said that he did not seek a position in the Trump administration. Many in the president’s inner circle as well as acquaintances of Cohen's have taken to Twitter to deny that ridiculous claim. That may mean that Cohen perjured himself again in his congressional testimony. If so, Cohen could face additional jail time on top of the three years that he’s due to start serving in May.

    Three: Cohen repeatedly called himself a liar, exposing his bias against the president and making a total fool out of himself.

    Here’s the bottom line: The good news for Democrats? They got an opportunity to continue to talk about President Trump and the Russia investigation for just a little longer. The bad news? Cohen’s testimony exposed their narrative for what it really is: totally fabricated nonsense.

    Epshteyn previously worked in the Trump White House on the communications team after a stint on the Trump inaugural committee. He also served as a Trump media surrogate throughout the campaign and during the first days of his presidency. Epshteyn is personal friends with the president’s sons Eric and Donald Jr., and he has been spotted at Trump International Hotel multiple times, including with Don Jr.

    Epshteyn privately testified before the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 on matters related to Russian collusion in the 2016 election.

    The segment began running on Sinclair stations on February 28, and so far it has aired on at least 35 stations in at least 25 states. It is accompanied, typically in the same newscast, by an opposing “must-run” segment from Sinclair’s new liberal commentator Ameshia Cross.

  • On Presidents Day, Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn said the "presidents on Mount Rushmore may have to make room" for Trump

    For the first time, Epshteyn’s segment was paired with a progressive segment from commentator Ameshia Cross -- further highlighting the absurdity of his hot takes 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Boris Epshteyn celebrated Presidents Day by releasing a new “must-run” segment suggesting President Donald Trump’s face ought to be added on Mount Rushmore.  

    In the segment, Epshteyn argued that “we are lucky” to have Trump as president and that the Trump administration “so far has been … one of the most successful in our nation’s history.” Epshteyn, a former Trump aide who has signed a nondisparagement agreement that may prevent him from criticizing the president, concluded, “In just over two years of the Trump administration, we have seen great progress benefiting Americans. If this keeps up, much to the chagrin of many Democrats, the presidents on Mount Rushmore may have to make room for a new addition.”

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: Presidents Day is an important holiday for us to reflect upon those who we have elected to the highest office in our land. We are lucky to currently have a leader in President Trump, whose term so far has been, I would argue, one of the most successful in our nation’s history.

    The president has achieved tangible, concrete, quality-of-life improvements for the American people no matter the political cost. His disruption of the status quo has stirred many of his detractors. Despite what some liberals and many in the media may say, the Trump administration has taken strides to ensure that our country is thriving for all Americans.

    Since President Trump took office, the female unemployment rate has reached its lowest in approximately 65 years. American worker satisfaction is the highest since 2005. Unemployment among disabled Americans is at an all-time low, and the median income for Hispanic Americans has increased by nearly 4 percent. The president has circumvented partisanship and has tackled, head-on, human issues such as the opioid crisis in our country and criminal justice reform.

    Unfortunately, the spirit of bipartisanship has been largely missing, as many on the left and those in the media have put their love of our great country second to their personal hatred of our president. Despite all of that, President Trump is still getting results.

    Here’s the bottom line: In just over two years of the Trump administration, we have seen great progress benefiting Americans. If this keeps up, much to the chagrin of many Democrats, the presidents on Mount Rushmore may have to make room for a new addition.

    According to a Media Matters search of the iQ media database, the segment has aired on at least 50 stations in at least 28 states since the evening of February 18 -- and for what appears to be the first time, it was paired with a contrasting commentary segment from Sinclair’s new liberal commentator, Ameshia Cross.

    Cross’ segment, called “Cross Point,” aired alongside Epshteyn’s segment on Sinclair stations and covered the same topic. It appears the segments will play off each other and will now run with an on-screen disclaimer from Sinclair telling viewers that the opinions in the commentary segments don’t necessarily represent the views of the broadcasting giant.

    For example, here is how Cross’s segment was framed on a Sinclair-controlled station in Beaumont, TX:

    Epshteyn’s full segment aired later in the same newscast.

    The addition of Cross’ segment to the “must-run” lineup unintentionally underscores the company's blatant journalistic malpractice. For the past two years, the only regular "must-run" commentary Sinclair's local news viewers saw came from Epshteyn -- and it was presented without context or counterpoint. 

  • Bill O'Reilly is writing a "history book" about Donald Trump -- and Trump gave him exclusive access to help

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Former Fox News host and serial sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly is writing a “history book” about President Donald Trump, and he spent part of his weekend in the West Wing and on Air Force One with exclusive access to the president.

    O’Reilly left Fox News in 2017 after a cascade of reports and legal settlements alleging he had been serially sexually harassing co-workers and guests for more than a decade.

    On February 4, O’Reilly tweeted a photo posing next to Air Force One, cryptically captioned with just an American flag emoji. Later that night, he tweeted that he had “an upcoming book on President Trump.”

    On his subscription-based online platform, O’Reilly told viewers he is writing a new book about Trump (not part of his Killing historical book series) and that he had off-the-record conversations with administration officials in the West Wing before boarding Air Force One over the weekend. On Air Force One, O’Reilly claims he had exclusive access to Trump and asked “some pretty intense questions” that the president compared to torture:

    BILL O’REILLY: OK, let me tell you about the book. So Friday, I go to Washington and it's always a privilege to go to the White House. I'm in the West Wing talking to a bunch people. I'll never tell you what I say because that's off the record, but I know a lot of people in the Trump administration for a long time, and I learned a lot, which is why I can report accurately to you every day.

    So then I go to Andrews Air Force Base, this humongous Air Force One. I had never been on it. It’s the biggest machine I've ever seen. There I am. It's a little chilly but, you know, I can take that. And so I go on a plane and I interview Donald Trump, the president of the United States, on the plane. There I am.

    So the interview is for a book that I am writing on Mr. Trump. It is a history book. I want everybody to know that, not part of the Killing series. It's a history book on Donald Trump. Why he believes what he believes -- fascinating to me. I've known the guy 30, 35 years. Tough to get him to talk about his childhood, his parents, his brothers and sisters. That's what the book's about, and it's about what I've seen, personally, over those 30 years with him.

    Now I'm not his buddy. In fact, he got mad at me during the interview. He goes, “You're torturing me.” I was -- I wasn't torturing. But I was asking some pretty intense questions. I didn’t think it was torture -- I go right up to the torture line. He thought I was doing a CIA number on him. But I got what I had to get to write the book.

    Now I'm not sure when the book's going to be out. I’ve already written the first chapter of the book, but I'm not sure. But we'll keep you posted on that. But I've got to tell you, it was it was such an honor for me to fly on Air Force One, to see all this up close -- how our country is run. And it was really, it's really interesting. And I'll make one pledge: I will tell you the absolute truth in this book. This is a history book. It's not pro-Trump, it's not anti-Trump. It's history.

    In April 2017, The New York Times first broke the news of O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements, spurring public pressure until he was fired from Fox News weeks later. Later reporting revealed that Fox and O’Reilly actually paid out a total of about $45 million in six publicly known settlements with women reporting he sexually harassed or verbally abused them -- including one previously unknown $32 million sexual harassment settlement reached shortly before Fox renewed his contract in early 2017.

    Shortly after O’Reilly’s firing, Fox News Co-president Bill Shine also left the network after being repeatedly implicated in Fox News’ toxic culture of sexual harassment and misconduct. Shine was known as former Fox chief Roger Ailes’ right-hand man, and he reportedly retaliated against and attempted to silence those who came forward to report harassment by Ailes. Shine also led Fox as it paid out millions of dollars in settlements to O’Reilly’s numerous accusers.

    Shine now works in the Trump White House overseeing communications strategy, which might include, for example, arranging a meeting between one sexual predator occupying arguably the most powerful office in the world and another who is perhaps hoping to reestablish his own career with an exclusive interview on Air Force One.

  • Sinclair brings Betsy DeVos and the education privatization echo chamber to local news

    DeVos’ softball interview with Sinclair’s Boris Epshteyn promotes an extreme agenda, and it’s airing on local news stations across the country

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is the latest member of President Donald Trump’s inner circle to use the ready-made platform at conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group as an infomercial for the president’s agenda -- this time, to promote education privatization.

    DeVos filmed a softball interview with Sinclair chief political analyst (and former Trump aide) Boris Epshteyn that began airing on January 24 on local news stations across the country. In the portion of the interview aired so far, the education secretary promotes National School Choice Week:

    But National School Choice Week is not as innocuous as its name might suggest. In fact, it’s a public relations campaign (and a group) funded overwhelmingly by the Gleason Family Foundation, the secretive private family foundation of a machine tool manufacturing company. The foundation supports many other pro-privatization and anti-union groups, including a number of Koch-affiliated libertarian think tanks that push union-busting “right-to-work” legislation.

    National School Choice Week is designed to promote a handful of policies that would privatize various aspects of the public education system, including vouchers and privately operated, for-profit, and online charter schools. It’s no coincidence that these specific policies are the best options for wealthy individuals or massive corporations that want to cash in on students -- or that these same policies are supported by more openly right-wing groups underwritten by corporate billionaires, such as the Koch-affiliated American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and State Policy Network think tanks. DeVos’ own family foundation has frequently donated to other dark-money groups associated with National School Choice Week in the past, and National School Choice Week’s current president used to work with DeVos at her pro-voucher lobbying group American Federation for Children.

    The whole operation illustrates the corporate dark-money echo chamber that wealthy conservatives have created to support education policies they can use for profit at the expense of the vulnerable. Research shows that the programs these types of policies support -- for-profit models that aren’t beholden to some traditional public school regulations and don’t have unionized workforces -- are most harmful to students belonging to already oppressed communities.

    DeVos’ Sinclair appearance contributes further to the conservative goal of cloaking these efforts in the language of “choice” and “innovation.” It’s not just an embarrassingly soft interview with a pro-Trump outlet; it’s dangerous for local viewers.

    As of this morning, it’s already aired on at least 35 local news stations in 22 states.

  • Sinclair had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year and it has only itself to blame

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Sinclair Broadcast Group began 2018 hoping to finalize a massive deal that would cement its place as the country’s largest owner and operator of local TV stations, after having more or less weathered a few bad news cycles about its obvious conservative bent. But the local TV news giant is ending the year with arguably higher negative name recognition than ever before and with its proposed acquisition of 42 more stations rejected. In fact, one of its most formidable competitors is now aiming to knock Sinclair out of that top spot. And Sinclair has only itself to blame.

    Sinclair saw a huge spike in public criticism following the launch of a controversial anchor-read, Trumpian “must-run.”

    In March, Sinclair news stations across the country began airing “must-run” promotional segments in which local anchors read from a script that seemed to mirror President Donald Trump’s rhetoric by criticizing other media outlets for so-called bias.

    Some Sinclair employees were so unnerved by the script that they anonymously leaked it to CNN’s Brian Stelter weeks before the segments ran. Timothy Burke, then a video editor at Deadspin, quickly compiled clips of reporters at various stations reading from the shared script, and the resulting video supercut went viral.

    As of publication, the Deadspin video has more than 9 million views. Media Matters additionally documented 66 Sinclair stations nationwide airing the scripted segments. Widespread media coverage of the segments culminated with Trump himself tweeting multiple times in Sinclair’s defense. Sinclair employees continued to speak out about the “must-run” promos, saying they felt their employer was using their local credibility to advance an agenda, and professional groups condemned Sinclair’s tactics. A few employees and stations even refused to participate in the promo campaign.

    In an attempt at damage control, Sinclair executives emailed with reporters and circulated internal documents suggesting that coverage of the promotional segments was itself biased, attacking CNN specifically. The company also trotted out its chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump aide, to deflect criticism of the promos in an odd second “must-run” segment.

    Sinclair’s chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn isn’t bringing in a loyal audience, but he has sparked several news cycles of outrage over his segments.

    Epshteyn caused numerous problems for his employer this year, producing “must-run” commentary segments that ranged from lackluster to embarrassing to -- on several occasions -- deeply offensive. This year, he drew public ire for using his Sinclair platform to:

    • defend Trump’s racist diatribe calling Haiti, El Salvador, and unspecified African nations “shithole countries”;
    • attempt to minimize the cruelty of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” family separation and child detention policies at the southern border;
    • exploit the murder of a young woman in Iowa to attack immigrants;
    • defend tear-gassing families seeking asylum; and
    • back conspiracy theorist and anti-Muslim extremist Laura Loomer.

    After the tear-gas defense in November, Sinclair had to issue multiple statements, at first distancing itself from Epshteyn’s views but then pivoting to saying that the segment had been “drastically and intentionally mischaracterized.” (It was not; Media Matters broke the story and included a full video and transcript.) A couple of media advocacy groups also expressed concern about the segment, with nonpartisan group Free Press even calling on Sinclair to fire Epshteyn.

    When he wasn’t forcing his employer to do damage control over his anti-immigrant commentary, Epshteyn was continuing to cultivate an embarrassingly miniscule audience and land pointless interviews with Trump officials, including the president himself. To give an idea of just how doting these interviews were, I documented the totality of the questions or comments Epshteyn made over the course of six “must-run” segments featuring portions of an interview with Trump. About half were some version of “sure” or “right.”

    This makes sense, of course, because another big problem for Sinclair this year was the news that Epshteyn may in fact be legally barred from criticizing the president. Epshteyn admitted in September that he had signed a nondisparagement agreement while working on the Trump campaign in 2016. As The Washington Post noted, “Epshteyn regularly discloses to viewers his former roles with Trump but hasn’t mentioned that he signed a nondisparagement agreement while he was with the campaign. Asked for comment, Epshteyn declined to address the issue directly.”

    A Sinclair host in St. Louis resigned after aiming abusive language at a Parkland school shooting survivor. 

    While Sinclair regularly inserts its clearly conservative national commentary and reporting segments into local newscasts, the vast majority of employees at Sinclair-controlled stations are just legitimate journalists trying to do their jobs. At the Sinclair station in St. Louis, MO, however, that was not the case. The station, KDNL ABC 30, didn’t offer any typical local newscasts; instead, three times a day it aired a commentary program hosted by local conservative radio host Jamie Allman. At least, until April it did.

    On March 26, Allman sent a threatening tweet about David Hogg, a teenage gun safety activist who survived the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. In the tweet, Allman wrote that he wanted to “ram a hot poker up David Hogg’s ass.” After the St. Louis alt-weekly the Riverfront Times reported on the Hogg tweet, some advertisers pulled their spots from his radio show and a state lawmaker called for a boycott. Within days, Allman had resigned and his KDNL show was cancelled.

    This entire story was an unforced error on Sinclair’s part. It was not the first time Allman had tweeted abusive or unhinged things before or after he was hired to host the Sinclair show -- including a string of abusive tweets he sent to me after Media Matters published a report about him last year. More than eight months later, KDNL still does not appear to air any daily local news programming.

    Sinclair attempted to put a thumb on the scales for midterms, but it didn’t really pay off.

    Though Sinclair has quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) engaged in openly partisan activities in the past, the company’s conservative point of view was on particular display during this year’s midterm elections. Early on in the year, Sinclair began soliciting contributions from upper-level employees for its political action committee (PAC). In keeping with its past efforts, the PAC donated overwhelmingly to Republicans. Sinclair executives personally gave to candidates including racist ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), who is known primarily for body-slamming a reporter. And Epshteyn helped New York Republican congressional candidate Naomi Levin raise money over the summer, promoting her campaign donation link on Twitter.

    Epshteyn’s segments increasingly forewent commentary altogether in the lead-up to the elections, instead excerpting softball interviews that essentially served as infomercials for White House and Republican Party officials and their policies. Over the course of the year, Epshteyn segments included excerpts of interviews with at least five Republicans on November’s ballots, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. In many cases, the interviews ran in the states and cities these lawmakers were hoping to represent after November or worked to lay the groundwork for Trump in communities that could be pivotal in the 2020 presidential election.

    While many of the Republican candidates specifically supported by Sinclair on or off air coasted to victories in safely red areas, others saw surprisingly stiff competition and extremely close races. And as the true extent of the November “blue wave” was revealed, it seems the company’s larger strategy of promoting conservative views in swing districts didn’t quite pay off.

    Sinclair mishandled its proposal to acquire 42 new stations, and the FCC slow-tracked the potential deal until Tribune pulled out.

    Sinclair headed into 2018 expecting to close on its proposed deal to acquire Tribune Media’s 42 local news stations. That plan required approval from the Trump Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but the agency had already made several regulatory moves to help the broadcasting company. The acquisition would have cemented Sinclair as the nation’s largest owner and operator of local TV stations and allowed the company to effectively control large portions of some local media markets, enter into the country’s largest markets for the first time, and reach more than 70 percent of U.S. television households.

    Instead, in July, the FCC surprised experts by deciding to slow-track the deal, citing a handful of potential station divestments about which commissioners believed Sinclair has purposely misled them. Instead of approving the acquisition outright, the commission elected to send the proposal to an administrative judge, which has been a death blow to similar deals in the past. More details emerged when the hearing designation order was made public, including allegations that Sinclair had shown a “lack of candor” in its communications about the deal with the FCC. A few weeks later, on August 9, Tribune called off the merger.

    The trouble for Sinclair didn’t end there, either. Tribune also filed a lawsuit against Sinclair for “breach of contract,” arguing that company representatives had recklessly endangered the deal by intentionally misrepresenting some of the proposed station divestments. The order also alleged further specifics about Sinclair’s “belligerent” conduct throughout the federal approval process for the deal, saying Sinclair “fought, threatened, insulted, and misled regulators” at the Department of Justice.

    What’s next for Sinclair?

    For one: Many of Sinclair’s regulatory issues stemming from the shuttered Tribune deal have yet to be resolved and will follow the broadcasting company into the new year. Since the FCC singled out the deal proposal for review due to potential “misrepresentation or lack of candor” by Sinclair, the unresolved allegation of misbehavior has been a dark cloud over the company. It’s something regulators at the FCC will have to consider as they contemplate renewing Sinclair’s public broadcasting licenses for its large number of stations -- and that could be happening sooner than expected. Last month, the American Cable Association filed a petition asking the FCC to conduct an early license renewal process for four of Sinclair’s stations so it can “resolve the serious charges it leveled against Sinclair.”

    Even with this potential hurdle looming, Sinclair doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. It still controls about 190 local news stations, and the company is reportedly already pursuing other ways to expand. Earlier this month, Fox Business reported that Sinclair is planning to make a bid for Fox’s regional sports networks. The company could also take advantage of any good graces it still has with the FCC to advocate for further industry deregulation during the commission’s periodic review of its broadcast ownership rules next year.

    After a high-profile year, Sinclair seems likely to really embrace its public image as an openly conservative media company. It’s already taking steps in that direction by continuing to offer Trump administration and Republican officials an easy interview platform, hosting a town hall with right-wing darlings Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, and enlisting former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka to host a special program decrying socialism. It’s also been courting former Fox News figures -- including BlazeTV personality Eric Bolling, who left Fox News last year after colleagues reported that he sent them sexually graphic pictures and who now appears to be partnering with Sinclair in some capacity. It’s unclear what projects Sinclair may have in the works for these former Fox personalities, but they could make appearances on a rival network (though that’s not as likely without the Tribune assets) or on Sinclair’s new streaming app, STIRR, which is set to launch in the new year and could compete with Fox’s new Fox Nation platform.

    One thing about Sinclair’s immediate future seems particularly certain, though: It’s going to keep up its harmful tactics. There will be more offensive “must-run” segments, and probably more brain-washy promotions in the spring, and definitely more blatant agenda-pushing with the Trump administration. The company has shown little desire to change behavior or admit when it’s done something morally objectionable so far. Why would it start now?

  • If Sinclair really didn't endorse Boris Epshteyn's commentary, the company wouldn't force its local news stations to air it

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Earlier this week, local news stations controlled by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group aired a segment defending the use of tear gas on children and families traveling with a migrant caravan near the U.S.-Mexico border. Last night, the broadcast company finally issued a tepid statement, but there’s plenty more that Sinclair still needs to address.

    On November 26, Sinclair-owned and -operated local news stations across the country began airing a two-minute segment in which former aide to President Donald Trump and Sinclair chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn defended the use of tear gas and pepper balls on members of a Honduran migrant caravan attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, CA. The crowd hit with tear gas included children. Epshteyn also characterized the group of migrants as “attempting to storm” the border in an “attempted invasion of our country.”

    This segment has since aired, often spliced into local news coverage, on Sinclair-controlled local news stations in at least 26 states, according to the iQ media database. Media Matters estimates that the segment aired on roughly 100 Sinclair news stations as part of the company’s infamous “must-run” lineup.

    News outlets ranging from the local to the national, in print and online, covered the rightful public outrage generated by Epshteyn's comments. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists released a statement saying that it’s reconsidering its professional relationship with Sinclair.

    This is what the broadcasting giant said in a series of tweets: 

    We'd like to take a moment and address some concerns regarding a commentary segment by @borisep that was aired on Sinclair stations this week. The opinions expressed in this segment do not reflect the views of Sinclair Broadcast Group. When Boris’s segments are aired on our stations, they are labeled clearly as commentary. We also offer our stations reporting from the Beltway and beyond that are not partisan or bias (sic) in any way. If you have any concerns about any of our content, we genuinely want to hear from you: https://wjla.com/content-concerns …. Above all, we are committed to fair, unbiased journalism across our stations nationwide and are truly honored to serve our communities. Local news always comes first. 

    There is no press release version on Sinclair’s website as of publication. Given the massive amount of attention the tear gas segment provoked, this statement is almost certainly a response to it -- but it's impossible to say, because it doesn't mention anything about the content of the segment in question. The words “tear gas” and “children” are nowhere to be found. Neither are words like “sorry,” “apology,” or “consequences.”

    Instead, the broadcasting giant is attempting to distance itself from its own employee. To be clear, Sinclair’s actions have proved that that distance simply does not exist.

    Sinclair hired Epshteyn fresh off his stint in the Trump White House last year and quickly invested in his regular “must-run” segments -- upping the frequency with which the segments are aired on local stations, rolling out a daily newsletter, hiring a producer (also an ex-Trump staffer) to work with Epshteyn, and sticking by him as he’s defended some of Trump’s worst, most racist moments.

    Epshteyn is currently creating new “must-run” segments for Sinclair about five days a week. This segment defending deploying tear gas on migrant families isn’t the first or last time Epshteyn has used his Sinclair platform to defend the indefensible with no clear consequences.

    In fact, the day after Epshteyn’s tear gas defense began airing, he was out with a new segment defending conspiracy theorist and anti-Muslim extremist Laura Loomer.

    Earlier this year, Sinclair stations ran a segment from Epshteyn minimizing the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating families and detaining children at the border.

    In January, an Epshteyn segment attempted to dismiss Trump’s reported reference to Haiti, El Salvador, and unspecified African nations as “shithole countries,” arguing that media had simply overblown some “salty language” from the president.

    And in August 2017, Epshteyn produced a “must-run” segment backing Trump in his “both sides” statements about a neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville, VA, in which a white supremacist killed peaceful counterprotester Heather Heyer.

    Media Matters has documented plenty more examples, too.

    What’s more, there should be no reason for Sinclair to stick with Epshteyn in spite of all the unforced errors and grief he’s brought his employer. His “commentary” has no natural audience, which is probably why Sinclair has to force its stations to air these segments in the first place.

    And Sinclair is currently facing the possibility it will have to prove to the Federal Communications Commission that it still has the “basic character qualifications” to hold public broadcasting licenses. Running regular segments that defend cruelty and violence against specific groups of people probably doesn’t help its case.

    I can think of only three possibilities for why Sinclair continues to employ Epshteyn as its chief political analyst.

    The first is the access-above-all-else argument. Epshteyn often uses his commentary segments to interview Trump administration and GOP officials, including the president himself. If Epshteyn used those interviews to ask thoughtful, tough questions and to break news, that would absolutely be a reason to keep him on staff. But he does not. Instead, those softball interviews essentially serve as infomercials for Trump and the Republican Party. Epshteyn typically just nods along in agreement with whatever his interview subjects say. In fact, he may be legally barred from criticizing the president because of his work on the Trump campaign.

    The second potential reason is that hiring Epshteyn was a major investment that Sinclair hasn’t or can’t give up on, perhaps a contract that can’t be easily broken.

    And the third is that those in charge at Sinclair Broadcast Group -- -- which has a long history of meddling in elections in favor of Republicans, has plenty of other ties to the Trump administration, and is owned by an openly and vocally conservative family -- do, in fact, hold the same indefensible views as Epshteyn. It's probably why they hired him in the first place.