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  • The right-wing media figures defending Sean Hannity’s relationship with Michael Cohen

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing media figures are jumping to defend Fox News host Sean Hannity after it was revealed that Hannity has been a client of longtime lawyer to President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. Hannity’s defenders are suggesting that he has “been victimized” by the revelation of his name, claiming that he “wasn’t engaging” Cohen “as a lawyer,” and even arguing that Hannity possibly “did not know he was a client of Michael Cohen."

  • Sinclair and the midterms: Tennessee edition

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If you live in a midsize city or battleground state, you are now more likely than ever to see propaganda bolstering President Donald Trump and conservative spin on your local news -- just in time for the 2018 election season -- thanks to conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Media Matters has identified communities that will see competitive congressional midterm races and that have Sinclair-owned or -operated news stations. Many Sinclair stations are already airing national news programming with a conservative slant, and they will be ramping up coverage of their local races.

    We’ve already tackled Nevada. Now, we’re taking a look at Tennessee.

    Key 2018 race

    • Senate: Tennessee has an open Senate seat this year, and the race is considered a toss-up by Cook Political Report as of publication. The current front-runners are U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.

    Sinclair stations in state

    WTVC (NewsChannel 9) and WFLI (The CW) in Chattanooga

    WZTV (Fox 17), WUXP (My30), and WNAB (CW58) in Nashville

    • Sinclair-owned WZTV (Fox 17) also regularly airs at least some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content, including nationally produced news packages, fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” updates, and the weekly show Full Measure.
    • Sinclair-owned WUXP (My30) shares a main studio address with Fox 17 and re-airs at least some of Fox 17’s local news programming.
    • Nashville Broadcasting-owned WNAB (The CW58) “receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group” and also shares a main studio address with Fox 17 and My30. It does not appear to regularly air news programming.

    Coming soon: WREG (News Channel 3) in Memphis

    • WREG (News Channel 3) in Memphis is currently owned by Tribune Media but will soon be owned by Sinclair if the company’s pending acquisition of up to 42 Tribune stations is approved.

    What else you need to know

    Sinclair’s political action committee gave a total of $4,500 to Blackburn’s Senate campaign committee in 2017. Blackburn currently serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and she chairs its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology -- an important subcommittee for Sinclair.

    Are there Sinclair stations near you?

    Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • Sinclair and the midterms: Nevada edition

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If you live in a midsize city or battleground state, you are now more likely than ever to see propaganda bolstering President Donald Trump and conservative spin on your local news -- just in time for the 2018 election season -- thanks to conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Media Matters has identified communities that will see competitive congressional midterm races and that have Sinclair-owned or -operated news stations. Many Sinclair stations are already airing national news programming with a conservative slant, and they will be ramping up coverage of their local races.

    First, we’re looking at Nevada.

    Key 2018 races

    • Senate: The contest between incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democrat challenger Rep. Jacky Rosen is rated a toss-up by Cook Political Report as of publication.
    • House: Nevada’s third congressional district (NV-3) south of Las Vegas is an open race rated as “lean Democratic” by Cook Political Report as of publication.  
    • Governor: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is not eligible to run in 2018. The election is thus an open race, and it was rated a toss-up by Cook Political Report as of publication.  

    Sinclair stations in state

    KSNV (NBC 3) and KVCW (The CW) in Las Vegas

    KRXI (Fox 11), KRNV (NBC News 4) and KAME (My21) in Reno

    • Sinclair owns and operates KRXI (Fox 11). A Media Matters search of the iQ media database found that Fox 11 aired the scripted promotional segment narrated by Bill Frankmore and Melissa Carlson at least six times between March 23 and March 30.
    • Sinclair also provides operations support for two other stations in Reno, KRNV (NBC News 4) and KAME (a MyNetwork affiliate branded as My21), through shared service agreements. All three Reno stations also share a studio space, and My21 does not appear to have its own website, instead posting its schedule on the Fox 11 site.

    KENV in Elko

    • KENV is licensed to serve Elko -- considered part of the Salt Lake City, UT, media market -- but serves as a semi-satellite to KRNV in Reno, meaning that it airs some of the same news programs but may have different branding. It also shares a studio space with KRXI, KRNV, and KAME in Reno. 

    What else you need to know

    Sinclair’s political action committee gave $1,500 to Heller’s re-election campaign committee in September 2015. Heller serves on the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, including on its subcommittee related to communications and technology -- an important subcommittee for Sinclair.

    In January and February press releases, Heller touted Sinclair, among other businesses, for giving “their employees special bonuses and raises” after the passage of the Trump/GOP tax law.

    Here’s footage of NBC 3 airing a March “Bottom Line with Boris” segment in which former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn downplayed a potential Democrat wave in 2018 midterms:

    Are there Sinclair stations near you?

    Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko. 

    UPDATE: This post has been updated to include the Nevada gubernatorial race. 

  • Complaints about Facebook selectively silencing conservatives are not based in reality

    Users across the political spectrum are feeling the effects of Facebook’s haphazard approach to battling fake news and hate speech

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Republican lawmakers repeatedly asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about alleged anti-conservative political bias on Facebook during two days of hearings on Capitol Hill this week. But this perceived bias has largely been fabricated or exaggerated by conservative media figures who complain that Facebook’s effort to address misinformation and online abuse is a front for suppressing conservative opinion. If anything, Facebook’s problem is its lack of transparency and inconsistent policy enforcement.

    Leading up to the hearings, which were initially billed as focused on Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s use of user data, conservative media figures had focused on supposed suppression of conservative views.

    Fox host Sean Hannity, Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson, The Gateway Pundit, and others had complained about supposed censorship by Facebook. In recent days, far-right commentators Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, who go by Diamond and Silk, had also pushed the issue, appearing multiple times on Fox News and claiming that Facebook was trying to silence them by labeling their content “unsafe.”

    Facebook has said this was an enforcement error. Subsequent reporting showed that it was also a hoax: Think Progress has debunked their claim that they are being censored, citing data from CrowdTangle to report that their comments are “totally without merit.” Conservative commentator Erick Erickson published an email from Facebook contradicting what the two said on Fox News. In addition, their website -- diamondandsilkinc.americanewscentral.com -- is part of the same Young Conservatives LLC network that Media Matters highlighted in March. As BuzzFeed's Craig Silverman has previously explained, websites affiliated with Young Conservative "are using an increasingly popular tactic of quickly hopping from one domain name to another in order to blunt the impact of Facebook’s recent News Feed algorithm changes." 

    Despite these facts, during Zuckerberg’s testimony, multiple Republicans used a rare opportunity to question one of the world’s most powerful people to ask about Diamond and Silk. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in particular drew online applause from conservatives for pursuing this angle.

    Recent data from the social media analytics company NewsWhip found the overall claim of conservative bias to be unfounded as well: Conservative websites continued to get more engagements than left-wing websites even after Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize news shared by friends over news shared by publishers. And there have been a number of instances in which Facebook has banned posts made by liberal and other non-conservative users -- or even suspended them:

    • Journalist and activist ljeoma Oluo was suspended from Facebook after she posted screenshots of racist comments and threats against her. Facebook  later apologized.
    • Facebook removed a quote from black blogger Layla Saad’s page and then censored a follow-up post. Facebook later apologized for the error.
    • Facebook wrongfully deleted a post from a black woman describing verbal abuse she and her sons encountered for her race at a grocery store (later restoring it) as well as posts from a Muslim activist detailing Islamophobic threats against a mosque (she later received an automated apology and one post was restored).
    • Facebook banned posts from a group of Rohingya Muslims fighting persecution in Myanmar. (The company has also drawn criticism from the United Nations for its role in the spread of hate speech in the country.)
    • Black and transgender activists organized a petition against Facebook’s often-unjustified censorship of minority voices.

    Conservatives have long alleged that there is an anti-conservative bias in the media, and their complaints about social media may well be an outgrowth of that perception. But another factor in their disproportionately loud outcry likely stems from Facebook’s efforts to crack down on fake news, conspiracy theories, and online harassment, which are more prevalent in conservative circles than in others. While Facebook and other media companies are still struggling to deal with these problems in a transparent and consistent way, there is evidence that some right-wing users may be using these platforms irresponsibly and thus feeling the impact more strongly than others.

    And there’s a real opportunity cost in focusing on this outcry. During the hearings, Zuckerberg was asked just one question about Facebook’s role in the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, according to The Daily Beast. Lawmakers also showed a reluctance to confront Zuckerberg over many other serious questions about the social media giant. Facebook and other tech platforms have serious problems to deal with; forcing them to focus on dubious issues distracts from efforts to solve them.

  • Sinclair is flooding local news with pro-Trump propaganda. Find out if it owns a station near you.

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, MILES LE & SARAH WASKO

    President Donald Trump has a secret weapon that might just ensure his re-election. Sinclair Broadcast Group is a Trump-friendly media company that is notorious for pushing right-wing propaganda. The company already owns or operates more than 190 local stations across the country and is close to acquiring Tribune Media. With this merger, Sinclair would be able to reach more than 70 percent of American TV households that have a TV.

    Media Matters is now launching FindSinclair.com so you can find out if Sinclair controls a local news station near you. FindSinclair.com has information on Sinclair stations across the country, resources about the company, and an interactive map that can show you if it owns or operates one of your local stations.

    Video by Dayanita Ramesh, Miles Le, and Sarah Wasko

  • Sinclair personality faces boycott after saying he wants to “ram a hot poker up David Hogg’s ass” 

    Jamie Allman’s abusive tactics may finally be catching up with him

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE: Asked about Allman’s comments about David Hogg by The Washington Post, a spokesperson for Sinclair said, “We have accepted Mr. Allman’s resignation, and his show has been cancelled.”

    ORIGINAL POST:

    Conservative TV and radio host Jamie Allman, Sinclair’s primary local news personality in St. Louis, MO, is now facing a boycott after tweeting on March 26 that he wants to “ram a hot poker up David Hogg’s ass.” The horrific attack on the Parkland, FL, high school shooting survivor is just the latest from Allman, who has a history of engaging in unhinged online abuse and hateful commentary. 

    On April 6, local alt-weekly the Riverfront Times reported on a threatening tweet that had been circulating around social media in which Allman stated that he’d “been hanging out getting ready to ram a hot poker up David Hogg’s ass tomorrow . Busy working . Preparing .”

    Allman hosts both a morning radio show and a nightly news show called The Allman Report on KDNL (ABC 30), the St. Louis TV news station owned and operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that, in response to Allman’s tweet, state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) called for an advertiser boycott of Allman’s show -- and some advertisers have now discontinued their spots on his radio show.

    Allman’s disgusting attack on the high school student echoes obsessive targeting of Hogg by far-right conspiracy theorists and should be no surprise to local viewers and others familiar with Allman’s history of online harassment and abusive rhetoric. Media Matters first documented Allman’s extremism in October, noting his promotion of fringe conspiracy theories, use of anti-immigrant slurs and race-baiting language on air, and frequent misogynist tweets. Many of these examples predated his hiring by Sinclair -- but none of this seems to matter to the local TV news giant.

    In fact, in 2015, the Sinclair station began running what it calls Allman’s “non-traditional newscast” in place of any straightforward local news broadcast, airing each edition three times per weekday during time slots typically reserved for news updates.  

    And Allman has discussed Hogg twice on his Sinclair news show since his March 26 tweet. On the March 30 edition of The Allman Report, he tried to make a case for attacking the teenagers, arguing that Hogg “can’t have it both ways” and had to choose between being a “kid” or being “a revolutionary.” Allman went on to accuse the Parkland students of “grabbing [their] blanket” whenever they were criticized.

    On April 3, Allman again mocked Parkland students for their opposition to some heightened security measures at the school, such as being required to use clear backpacks. At one point he imitated a student whining, “This place feels like a prison!” Allman also zeroed in on Hogg specifically and suggested it was “very confusing” that Hogg would advocate for the right to carry different types of backpacks but not different types of guns.

    Sinclair was largely silent in response to the publication of Media Matters’ research on Allman last October. Allman, however, locked down his Twitter account briefly before unlocking it to tweet bonkers, sometimes threatening messages at this author for an hour straight, between 2 and 3 a.m. one morning. The tweets included photoshopped images of me, images of Carrie (from the eponymous film) covered in blood, and claims I hate my father and have a drinking problem.

    Allman has now locked down his Twitter account again and, according to the Riverfront Times, the account was silent yesterday after spending two days retweeting supporters in defiance. Because I had reported the account previously, I received a vague update from Twitter yesterday that Allman’s account has now been found in violation of the platform’s rules against abusive behavior.

  • Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn defends his commentary and compares himself to a doctor in a “must-run” segment

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Sinclair Broadcast Group is defending itself with a brand-new “must-run” segment amid public backlash over a series of eerily similar anti-media promotional segments that Sinclair instructed its local news anchors to produce, packaging it as an “anchor delivered journalistic responsibility message.”

    In March, CNN’s Brian Stelter obtained internal documents Sinclair sent to its local TV news stations requiring them to film and air short promotional segments decrying “biased and false news” and accusing unnamed mainstream media figures of bias -- an echo of President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the press. The ads began airing on March 23, and days later, Deadspin’s Timothy Burke edited many of the similar segments into an creepy viral video that made Sinclair’s propagandistic intentions all too clear.

    Widespread coverage of the segments culminated earlier this week when cable news programs started discussing the videos, likely leading to Trump himself tweeting multiple times in Sinclair’s defense.

    Sinclair employees are speaking out in frustration, saying they felt the scripted segments “advanced the company’s agenda at the expense of their own credibility.” Company executives are now defending themselves too -- largely by attempting to redirect the conversation to the credibility of other news organizations. Sinclair CEO David Smith told New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi that print media writ large is “so left wing as to be meaningless dribble” and has “no credibility.” (Smith has attacked other media outlets in the past, echoing similar tactics used by Roger Ailes at Fox News to drive a wedge between viewers and other sources of information.)

    In a lengthy internal document that Stelter obtained this week, Sinclair leadership asserted that critical coverage of Sinclair was “misleading” and “often defamatory” and called the scripted segments a “well-researched journalistic initiative.”  

    Sinclair’s chief political analyst, former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn, is also defending Sinclair with a combination of similar attacks on other news outlets (specifically and tellingly against CNN, the outlet that broke the story of Sinclair’s latest scripted segments) and gaslight-y, vague arguments against media bias. In his morning newsletter, Epshteyn wrote, “I sincerely hope those bashing the message read by Sinclair station anchors are not really, as it seems, on the side of bias and false news.”

    Now Sinclair is returning to its local news airwaves to escalate its defense. Rather than hear updates about local school board meetings or community events, audiences tuning into Sinclair-owned or -operated stations across the country will instead be treated to this diatribe from Epshteyn. He doesn't address the scripted segments, but rather focuses on defending his own commentary segments:

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: I want to talk to you about my job. I am in the analysis, opinion and commentary business. Yes, I worked for President Trump during the 2016 campaign. I worked on the inaugural and I was at the White House. I was also on the McCain campaign in 2008 and was a surrogate for the Romney campaign in 2012. Some critics would have you believe that my experience somehow disqualifies me from providing you with my analysis and commentary.

    But here’s a question: Wouldn’t you want someone talking to you about politics only if he had actually worked in politics and knew the people he was talking about? I know that I would want someone giving opinions about medicine only if they were an actual doctor. In terms of my analysis playing during your local news, as you see, my segments are very clearly marked as commentary. The same cannot be said for cable and broadcast news hosts who inject their opinions and bias into news coverage all the time without drawing any lines between them.

    Here is the bottom line: I am proud to be the chief political analyst at Sinclair. My goal with every segment is to tell you facts which you may not already know and then my take on those facts. I am thrilled to keep sharing the truth and my perspective with you, day in and day out. Thank you for tuning in.