Seven Sinclair Broadcast Group news segments covering protests against the police slaying of George Floyd and other Black Americans failed to mention any of the violence police were committing against protesters, and the reports were broadcast more than 180 times in total in multiple states.
During a May 29 report on Floyd’s killing that aired on at least 31 Sinclair-owned and -operated local TV stations, according to a Kinetiq search, chief political correspondent Scott Thuman referred to the protests as “three nights of chaos,” yet failed to mention that much of the chaos was caused by police attacking protesters.
There were widely shared videos showing police brutality around the country that could have been covered by Sinclair in most of these segments. At least one police department has acknowledged that some officers have been out of control: Six Atlanta police officers have been criminally charged for their vicious assault on two college students in a car that was aired on local TV news on May 30. Two of those officers were fired days ago.
On May 30, Sinclair national correspondent Kristine Frazao reported on President Donald Trump’s eagerness to deploy military units against American citizens in response to protests. Her segment, which was broadcast on at least 39 stations, aired footage of protesters breaking things and throwing objects while she referred to “more vandalism and violence,” and later she mentioned government officials “calling for an end to the violence.” Yet she did not reference any police violence against protesters.
Frazao had two more news segments about the protests on May 31. One, which was broadcast on at least 21 stations, aired scenes of protesters damaging cars while calling the May 30 protests “another night of protests, looting, and violence” and a “vicious cycle with no end in sight.” What Frazao neglected to show was any mention or footage of police attacking demonstrators -- instead the segment showed footage of a sheriff in Michigan walking with protesters. She also reported that Trump’s “latest move” was “designating antifa a terrorist organization” without mentioning that experts say he has no legal power to do so.
Frazao’s second segment that day, which was broadcast on at least 18 stations, was particularly egregious in its failure to discuss police violence against the protesters. The segment, introduced by one news anchor as reporting on law enforcement’s “changing tactics and how law enforcement will deal with protesters,” aired video of police officials talking about the involvement of outside actors and quotes from Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr baselessly blaming antifa for any violence. Yet there was no mention of actual police tactics. As The New York Times reported on the same day, “Videos showed police officers in recent nights using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning or seemingly unprovoked.”
A May 31 report on the protests from Thuman included scenes of protesters damaging cars and images of street fires, and it covered politicians criticizing Trump’s remarks glorifying violence against protesters. This report, which aired on at least 16 stations, failed to mention any police brutality toward the demonstrators.
Another Frazao segment on June 1 aired scenes of looted stores and spray paint on structures and discussed whether antifa was responsible for the unrest. The segment featured Mark Bray, author of a book on antifa, who said Trump’s attempt to blame antifa is “really a transparent effort by the Trump administration to deflect attention from police violence and the real issues.” However it also included Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AK) outrageous suggestion on Fox News that active-duty military units be deployed against protesters. Yet, like in all her previous segments discussed here, Frazao did not mention police brutality during the protests. This segment was broadcast on at least 29 stations.
During a June 1 report, which was broadcast on at least 18 stations, Thuman focused on Trump berating the nation’s governors in a call over the continued protests. He again failed to inform viewers of the widespread police violence against protesters.
After his report began airing, Thuman expressed shock at police violence during the demonstrations -- on Twitter. But it’s deplorable that the excessive use of force against protesters and others at the events has been absent from so many Sinclair segments pushed nationwide. That’s especially true given that other news organizations agree it should be a primary frame of the coverage, and that there have been hundreds of documented cases of police attacking journalists at the protests. At least some of these segments were aired in areas where there’ve been documented cases of police brutality against the demonstrators, including New York, Texas, and California.
Conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group isn’t the only media entity to poorly cover police brutality against protesters. Two other corporate broadcasters, ABC and CBS, largely downplayed its extent during their weekend coverage (NBC covered it more but it still had some problematic segments), and some mainstream outlets’ headlines and social media posts failed to adequately describe the violence police were unleashing on protesters.
While many of the most well-known incidents of police violence against protesters occurred during or after the first weekend, police have been using violence against the protesters from the beginning. Nationally broadcast segments from the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group covering the protests should have at least mentioned this violence from police officers since the beginning of their coverage, too.
Media Matters identified these seven segments by searching the Kinetiq video database for the names of these two Sinclair national correspondents. We identified broadcasts of the segments by searching for a phrase from each between May 29 and June 2, 2020. We then used Kinetiq’s internal report feature to compile and download the raw data for review. A search of Kinetiq for these national correspondents’ names showed no reports from them on George Floyd or the protests prior to May 29.