Numerous TV affiliates across the country are promoting a campaign gimmick for Trump’s reelection campaign

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign recently launched a digital birthday card for the president’s June 14 birthday, a common gimmick that’s actually aimed at harvesting the contact information of potential voters. Numerous local television stations across the country helped Trump’s reelection effort by uncritically promoting the effort on their newscasts.

The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay reported on June 14 that “ABC’s digital news operation posted a number of stories that effectively assisted the Trump re-election campaign in building its email list. Some of the network’s largest affiliates posted an identical piece of content on their websites promoting a ‘birthday card’ for President Donald Trump. The card is actually a petition website created by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee to harvest email addresses that can be used during the 2020 campaign.” ABC has since taken down the stories. 

Markay wrote that those stories “amounted to explicit promotions of a political candidate’s list-building efforts, just as the 2020 campaign kicks into high gear.” He added that “at least one non-ABC local news network also promoted the Trump campaign’s birthday card list-building page. The Gray Television owned Cleveland 19 News, a CBS affiliate, put the link to the Trump campaign page directly in a tweet.”

Following the publication of The Daily Beast’s story, Media Matters searched and found that numerous television stations across the country uncritically promoted the Trump campaign’s list-building birthday card efforts with similar copy. Those stations included ABC affiliates and also affiliates for CBS, NBC, and Fox. Here are seven examples:

Late night host Conan O’Brien has done comedy segments about local news anchors reading identical copy during newscasts. As The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi wrote, the reason for the news practice is that many stations get “one-size-fits-all copy” from syndication services. He added: “The canned TV packages are somewhat like the news service stories that many newspapers and Web sites publish, but with a key difference: Unlike news service material, which usually is labeled as such, TV stations typically run affiliate material without identifying its source.” 

Update (6/17/19): According to a search of, the following stations also promoted the Trump birthday card:

KXII, a CBS, Fox, and MyNetworkTV affiliate in Sherman, TX. Gray Television owns the station.

WJXT, an independent station in Jacksonville, FL. Graham Media Group owns the station.

WTVT, a Fox-owned and operated station in Tampa, FL.

WOGX, a Fox-owned and operated station in Ocala, FL.