Two Sinclair Broadcast Group national correspondents pushed long-debunked conservative media myths in their news stories covering police killings of Black Americans and police reform proposals. These segments aired on many local Sinclair stations in dozens of states, including in parts of New York, Georgia, Missouri, and other areas which have seen large protests.
Sinclair has already had problems with its coverage of the police slaying of George Floyd and the resulting protests in its nationally run segments, which come from correspondents based in Washington, D.C., and are then broadcast over Sinclair-owned and -operated television stations around the country. Seven such segments from late May through early June, for example, failed to mention any of the widespread police violence against the protesters. Sinclair has also broadcast shows from two former Fox News hosts with histories of racist, anti-Black comments on its television and online streaming platforms, where they called for a crackdown on the protests.
In a June 8 segment, Sinclair investigative reporter James Rosen portrayed lethal police violence as rare and not a big threat to Black Americans, despite reporting that Black men are 2.5 times as likely as white men to be killed by police. After reporting a statistic that police are responsible for 1.6% of all deaths of Black men aged 20-24, Rosen said: “By contrast, 9 times out of 10, FBI statistics show, when a Black person is killed, the killer is also African American.”
This “Black-on-Black” crime canard has been used extensively by right-wing media, including Rosen’s former employer, Fox News, to distract from police violence against Black people. It’s also nonsense -- experts have debunked this talking point by noting that intraracial crime is not unique to Black communities and explaining that “for the large majority of crimes, you'll find that victims and offenders share a racial identity.” And the facts show that similar percentages of white murder victims are also killed by members of their same race. Using this red herring reduces a complex history of institutionalized racism and segregation to one misleading statistic.
Rosen’s segment ran on at least 20 TV stations covering markets in at least 25 states, according to a Media Matters review using the Kinetiq video database.
A different Sinclair segment containing misinformation about police violence also aired on June 8, this one covering proposals from Democratic lawmakers to reform police forces. After describing some major themes of the legislation, which would ban chokeholds and many no-knock warrants and create a misconduct registry of police officers, Sinclair national correspondent Kristine Frazao said: “But there is another side to this -- the dangers of the job -- with some advocates saying without those built-in protections for police, fewer will agree to serve and protect, which could increase crime and make communities less safe.”
Though Frazao didn’t call it by name, what she described is the so-called “Ferguson effect,” a long-debunked myth from conservatives that increased scrutiny of police use of force is linked to increased violence against police officers and/or increased crime in general. This second myth, which was disseminated across the nation in Frazao’s report through Sinclair’s broadcasts from at least 31 TV stations reaching 34 states, has been pushed by right-wing media numerous times as well. Experts have noted that “there is no data suggesting such an effect,” but its “suggestion plays into the right-wing view that holding the police to constitutional standards endangers the public.”