On CNN, David Zurawik explains how local stations owned by Sinclair integrate pro-Trump “propaganda” with local news

Zurawik: “The pieces that [former Trump aide and current Sinclair chief political analyst Boris] Epshteyn has done … come as close to classic propaganda as I think I have seen in thirty years of covering local television or national television”

From the July 16 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources

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BRIAN STELTER (HOST): Now to an undercovered story in the media world, a story about local news coverage. Here is a map of Sinclair [Broadcast Group] owned and operated stations all across the United States. Dozens and dozens of stations owned by this company. If you’re in one of these areas, chances are you'll be seeing a lot more of this former Trump White House official, Boris Epshteyn, offering his commentary as chief political analyst now nine times a week on the local stations. He was a Trump campaign aide, and then briefly a White House official, so it’s no surprise that his “Bottom Line” segments parrot the administration’s talking points or spin stories in the president's favor.


You wrote about this this week, David, you said that Sinclair is taking a perilous path by increasing what they call “must-run segments” with Boris across all of its affiliates. Why is this perilous?

DAVID ZURAWIK: Well, first of all Brian, it's -- the pieces that Epshteyn has done -- and I've looked at them -- come as close to classic propaganda as I think I have seen in thirty years of covering local television or national television. They are outrageous. Whatever the White House says, you know, President Trump believes there was voter fraud, and he sets up this commission to get data from the states and the states right rightfully push back because it's very intrusive data. Yeltsin -- Boris Epsteyn's piece on it ends with “The state should cooperate with President Trump.”

And it's not just that, it's the imagery of some of the pieces. As he speaks, in one of them, it says how he is delivering on his promises during the campaign. And what you see is Trump walking triumphantly on a stage with American flags flanking him on both sides. And it's shot from behind with a sea of people cheering with their arms raised and applauding him. That's propaganda. And here is what's more dangerous about it with Sinclair, is people are getting this within the context of their 30 or 60 minute local news. So they're getting -- where they get their high school sports scores from, where they get their local weather from, where they get it in the context of these people they’ve come to trust because one of the narratives of the right is you can't trust anything nationally. It's only local you can trust. This is incredibly powerful movement that you have 173 Sinclair stations now, and they are poised to take over 42 more from Tribune Company if the FCC approves the deal. 

That is unbelievable. And when you think about the movement by the right -- Jane Mayer wrote about this in Dark Money, this brilliant book about what happened after President Obama was elected in 2008, and rich people on the right said, “Look, let's go local, let's win state houses, let's win state legislatures.” That was in 2009. By 2010, you had [Gov.] Scott Walker in Wisconsin busting unions. This is the perfect infrastructure to deliver that centralized message at a local level, which will make it more powerful. And that's a very powerful political tool. That's what matters Brian, I think. 


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