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  • EPA chief Andrew Wheeler gives his first TV interview to right-wing conglomerate Sinclair

    Wheeler and Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn push debunked claims about auto efficiency and safety

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    This post was updated on 8/16/18.

    Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, gave an exclusive interview to Sinclair Broadcast Group chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn -- and used the opportunity to push deceptive talking points about auto-efficiency rules. The interview was released in three parts, each of which is a "must-run" segment for more than 100 local TV news stations that Sinclair owns and operates around the U.S. Sinclair has a strong right-wing bent, and Epshteyn, a former Trump aide, is a consistent apologist for the president and his administration.

    This appears to be the first TV interview Wheeler has granted since assuming the top spot at EPA on July 9. Wheeler has given a number of interviews to newspapers and wire services in the last six weeks, mostly to mainstream outlets, including The Washington Post, USA Today, and Bloomberg. But with this interview, Wheeler is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, who frequently turned to right-wing media to push Trump administration talking points. Pruitt gave an interview to Sinclair's Epshteyn in May, at a time when Pruitt was dogged by scandals and therefore avoiding mainstream media outlets.

    Media Matters has chronicled Sinclair’s aggressive approach to promoting its conservative agenda, which includes forcing local stations to air “must-runsegments. Like other conservative media outlets, Sinclair has given cover to Trump and provided his allies and administration officials with a platform to spread White House propaganda. Trump, in turn, has defended Sinclair. The president recently bashed the Federal Communications Commission for slowing Sinclair's now-scuttled acquisition of Tribune Media Company, tweeting that a merger "would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People."

    As usual, Epshteyn asked no tough questions in his interview with Wheeler. Instead, in the first part of the interview, he allowed the EPA chief to push the debunked notion that more fuel-efficient cars are dangerous. Wheeler claimed that the Trump administration's proposal to weaken auto fuel-efficiency standards would "save over a thousand lives a year." In fact, recent research has found that strengthening auto standards can actually improve road safety and save lives. 

    In the second part of the interview, Wheeler described his background and talked up the EPA's work with states. In the third part, Wheeler argued in vague terms that there's a need to revisit some decades-old regulations, and Epshteyn praised the agency's efforts to "get rid of the unnecessary, stifling regulations." In neither the second nor third parts did Wheeler or Epshteyn mention any of the controversial issues now facing the agency.

    From Sinclair's “Bottom Line with Boris,” here is part one of the interview, released on August 13:

    BORIS EPSHTEYN (HOST): The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that they're proposing freezing certain emissions standards at 2020 levels until 2026. I spoke to the acting administrator of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, about the rationale behind that proposal. Here's what he told me.

    (BEGIN INTERVIEW)

    ANDREW WHEELER (ACTING EPA ADMINISTRATOR): Well, we looked at a lot of data when we worked with our partners over at Department of Transportation, and we believe by freezing those for five years we'll save over a thousand lives a year and save the American consumer $500 billion over the course of the regulation. So this is really an important regulation, important standard, for the American consumer, and we really anticipate more new cars will be sold because the prices will be slightly lower, and when new cars are sold they're safer and they're cleaner for the environment.

    EPSHTEYN: And there's now a comment period in place. What is the process for actually freezing the standards?

    WHEELER: Well, you're right, we are taking comments, we're taking comments from our proposal which is freezing the standard for five years. It’s also important to remember that the standards will continue to get tighter between now and 2021, and then they'll freeze. We're taking comments on that all the way up to the Obama proposal, and seven or eight steps in between. So we want the American public to comment on this. We want to hear from industry, the states, the environmental organizations. We want to make sure that the rule that we go final with at the end of the process is the best rule for all Americans.

    (END INTERVIEW)

    EPSHTEYN: Here's the bottom line: The EPA's proposed freeze on emissions standards is a common-sense solution to a complex problem. It will both save billions of dollars, and more importantly, save lives.

    Here is part two of the interview, released on August 14:

    EPSHTEYN: Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has taken the reins at the EPA. He is also a top contender to become the permanent administrator. I spoke to him about his qualifications and experience. Here's what he said.

    (BEGIN INTERVIEW)

    WHEELER: I started my career here at the EPA as a career employee, and so I worked with -- a lot of the employees that I worked with, they're still here, and that has really helped me because I understand the mission of the agency. I understand what we're trying to do here, and I think the experience that I had working on Capitol Hill and at the United States Senate, as well in private practice, has really given me a very well-rounded background to help me as the acting administrator.

    EPSHTEYN: You began your career at the EPA. You're now leading the agency over 20 years later. How has the agency changed in that time?

    WHEELER: Well, probably the biggest change is that we're working more with the states and local governments. In the last 25-plus years, we've gone from operating the entire permit program for all the water and air permits, to delegating most of those to the states. Right now, 96 percent of our water permits are done by the states. So we're working more collaboratively and cooperatively with our state partners, and those are the people on the ground that are, you know, they live among the areas where they're issuing the permits. I think that's really a good thing for the environment and for the country.

    (END INTERVIEW)

    EPSHTEYN: Here's the bottom line: The EPA is in good hands with Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler at the helm. He is going to do all he can to continue achieving the administration's goals.

    Here is part three of the interview, released on August 16:

    EPSHTEYN: In the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has two missions. One, to get rid of unnecessary regulations; two, to make sure that our environment is clean and safe. I spoke to acting administrator of the EPA Andrew Wheeler about how they balance those two priorities. Here’s what he told me:

    (BEGIN INTERVIEW)

    WHEELER: Some of our regulations have been on the books 30, 40-plus years. And what we need to make sure is that some of those regulations aren’t actually causing a negative impact on the environment because some of them, sometimes, inhibits people from installing cleaner technologies. So what we want to do is make sure we have a common-sense approach to make sure the people can install the cleanest technologies possible. To make sure that the air and the water continue to get better. It’s -- I would say it's more, making sure that we’re doing the right thing and the smart thing. When we look at a standard, when we look at cleaning up a Superfund site for example, we’re trying to get rid of the attorneys that have been slowing down the process and getting the sites cleaned up faster, so we can get sites more productive use for the American public.

    (END INTERVIEW)

    EPSHTEYN: Here's the bottom line: The Trump administration and the EPA specifically are working hard to thread the needle, and make sure that they get rid of the unnecessary, stifling regulations while also ensuring that we live in a safe and clean environment.

  • Sinclair’s plan to buy Tribune Media stations is officially dead, but this pro-Trump TV giant isn’t going anywhere 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After several weeks of uncertainty, Tribune Media has officially pulled the plug on its planned acquisition by conservative local TV broadcasting behemoth Sinclair Broadcast Group. Though Sinclair’s massive expansion plan is foiled, the company remains the largest owner and operator of local TV stations in the country and an increasingly popular friendly media platform for conservatives. And there are other local media battles on the horizon.

    On August 9, Tribune Media announced it has pulled out of the embattled Sinclair-Tribune acquisition proposal and has filed a lawsuit against Sinclair for “breach of contract,” citing the company’s questionable conduct that led to the deal’s slow-tracking. The announcement comes several weeks after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated the proposed acquisition for further legal scrutiny, citing possible “misrepresentation or lack of candor” by Sinclair. In the time since, Sinclair’s extensive record of shady business tactics has returned to the spotlight. And as of late July, both Sinclair and Tribune, along with several other major broadcasters, are being investigated by the Department of Justice for possible advertisement price fixing.

    The end of this proposed expansion is a huge victory for those who want local news to stay truly local, and especially those communities who were set to see Sinclair take over their airwaves. But Sinclair is still a major threat to the future of local news.

    Sinclair is already a huge conservative force in local media

    Sinclair currently owns or operates 192 TV stations in 89 different local media markets across the country. Even without the new stations it would have acquired through the Tribune purchase, Sinclair is still the largest owner and operator of local TV stations in the country. It’s already actively inflicting plenty of damage to local communities using two tactics: consolidation and content.

    Sinclair’s M.O. for years has been to infiltrate media markets and consolidate news resources, making local news measurably less local and more conservative. The company currently dominates numerous specific local media markets across the nation, using several types of legal maneuvers to own, operate, or otherwise control multiple top broadcast stations in a given place. There are at least 48 stations in 23 states that aren’t owned by Sinclair but are operated by the company in some capacity.

    Through outright ownership and roundabout legal agreements, Sinclair manages to currently broadcast “must-run” segments on around 100 local news stations nationwide. These stations are forced to air, often during morning or nightly newscasts, pro-Trump commentary segments hosted by former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn and regular “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments seemingly designed to spur anti-Muslim xenophobia.

    Sinclair has direct connections to the Trump inner circle

    Sinclair’s most well-known connection to the Trump administration is its “Bottom Line With Boris” series, particularly segments in which Epshteyn does friendly interviews with members of the Trump administration. At least seven administration officials -- and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani -- have used Sinclair as a friendly media platform. In the last few weeks, Sinclair has mandated that its news stations air four different excerpts from Epshteyn’s recent interview with Vice President Mike Pence.

    Epshteyn’s blatant Trump propaganda is only a small piece of the much larger web of connections between Sinclair and elected officials and members of the Trump camp. Trump has given exclusive interviews to Sinclair reporters at least 16 times, and Trump and others in his orbit have promoted Sinclair and its content.

    And though the Sinclair-Tribune deal has been shuttered, an internal investigation into Trump-appointed FCC chair Ajit Pai’s relationship with Sinclair may still be ongoing. In February, The New York Times reported that the FCC inspector general has opened an internal investigation into potential improper conduct by Pai and his aides in pushing deregulatory measures that have specifically benefited Sinclair. The investigation began after lawmakers called on the inspector general to investigate a “disturbing pattern of a three way quid-pro-quo” that could include a laundry list of activities, beginning shortly after Sinclair’s top executive told then-candidate Trump the outlet was there to “deliver [his] message” to America before the 2016 election.

    Sinclair is gearing up for other ways to expand its presence in the conservative news game

    Sinclair began meeting with current and former Fox News personalities while waiting for the Tribune deal to be approved, reportedly planning to develop a direct cable news competitor for Fox. It was developing ideas for a “three-hour block of news-opinion programming” that could air on a cable network Sinclair already owns or another it would have acquired in the Tribune deal.

    Even without the deal, Sinclair still has options for pursuing its cable news idea. In July, Buzzfeed News reported that Sinclair was developing a free streaming app called STIRR that it could use to launch its Fox News competitor. And Sinclair bought Circa, an online news company, in 2015. Sinclair stations already typically link to Circa on their websites and sometimes run packaged segments from Circa on their local newscasts. And after a 2017 stint as the prime resource for stoking Fox host Sean Hannity’s pro-Trump conspiracy theories, the outlet is now focused on bringing Sinclair’s nationally produced news segments to a wider audience.

    The Trump FCC could be making things even easier for Sinclair in the future

    Though it did sideline the Sinclair-Tribune deal, the Trump FCC is still very much in favor of media deregulation, and it’s poised to consider another move that could help Sinclair and other large broadcasters homogenize local news. In conversations with Media Matters, representatives from media and consumer advocacy groups said a possible FCC reconsideration of what’s known as the national ownership cap, or national television audience reach cap, could be the next big local media fight on the horizon.

    Currently, the law specifies that no broadcaster could own local stations reaching more than a collective 39 percent of U.S. television households. Changing this rule would give major companies like Sinclair the freedom to pursue other mergers and acquisitions currently restricted by the cap -- and it’s only a matter of time before the FCC makes a move.

    The commission gave public notice back in December that it plans to reconsider the cap, and a long list of broadcasters has already signaled public support for raising the limit. Sinclair, for its part, urged the FCC to eliminate the cap altogether.

  • This potential FCC rule change could be disastrous for local media diversity 

    Free Press policy analyst Dana Floberg: “If the FCC loosens the national ownership cap, it'll be even easier for Sinclair and other big broadcasters to merge their way to national broadcasting monopolies” 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    With conservative local TV behemoth Sinclair Broadcast Group’s unprecedented expansion plan now in sudden peril, advocates are warning that the fight for local news is far from over. The Trump Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is still very much in favor of media deregulation, and it’s poised to consider another move that could homogenize your local news.

    July brought a bombshell announcement from the FCC: Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media, which would give the local TV giant unprecedented control over local stations across the country, was designated for greater legal scrutiny. The decision was shocking to opponents of the deal, who had fought back as the FCC spent the last year bestowing upon Sinclair a series of regulatory giveaways that made the proposed deal possible in the first place.

    In announcing the need for additional consideration -- a move that has doomed similar large transactions in the past -- the FCC cited several specific divestitures proposed as part of the deal, which would have involved Sinclair’s signature use of legal loopholes to skirt ownership caps. It even asserted that Sinclair may have misrepresented its intentions in these cases. As of publication, however, neither Sinclair nor Tribune has indicated it will pull back from the deal rather than follow through with a hearing.

    In the weeks since the announcement, consumer and media advocates who had previously faced a sharp uphill battle in challenging the merger are now discussing other imminent threats to ensuring a diversity of voices in local media, including Sinclair’s larger repertoire of sketchy business practices and other consolidation efforts on the horizon.

    In conversations with Media Matters, representatives from media and consumer advocacy groups said a possible FCC reconsideration of what’s known as the national ownership cap, or national television audience reach cap, could be the next big local media fight on the horizon.

    As Francella Ochillo, the director of government and legal affairs at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, explained to Media Matters, loosening ownership limits “would pave the way for additional media consolidation and cross-ownership, allowing one entity to own more stations in already concentrated markets. That will also have a direct impact on the diversity of voices in those communities.”

    In 2004, Congress created a statute stating that no broadcaster could own local stations reaching more than a collective 39 percent of U.S. television households. The new cap was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, which also specified that only Congress -- and not the FCC -- could change that 39 percent figure moving forward.

    Though it does not have the power to change the cap unilaterally, the FCC, in the years since, has made changes to how that ownership reach is calculated. Most notably, the commission has waffled back and forth in recent years about using a now-outdated rule known as the UHF discount, which allows station owners to calculate their ownership reach in a misleading way that effectively skirts the 39 percent cap. The FCC’s bizarre move to reinstate the UHF discount in 2017 is what allowed Sinclair to pursue such a huge acquisition to begin with.

    Some advocacy groups challenged the UHF discount reinstatement in court, but the case was recently dismissed for lack of standing, with no ruling on the merits of the case. (Earlier questioning from the panel of judges suggested skepticism of the FCC’s reasoning for reinstating the outdated rule, though. One judge said the commission seemed to be keeping the discount “on life support.”)

    Now it appears that the FCC will reconsider both the UHF discount and the entire national ownership cap, though. It’s only a matter of when and how drastically things could change.

    For his part, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai remains heavily in favor of media deregulation and consolidation, often under the guise of innovation; he expressed a desire to raise the national ownership cap as far back as 2013.

    The commission in December gave public notice of its intent to review the current limit, introducing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and mentioning the possibility that the cap could be eliminated altogether.

    Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a dissenting statement at the time that by pursuing new rulemaking on the national cap, “we are destroying our most basic values and tearing apart the rules that have helped keep our media markets local, diverse, and competitive.” Then-Commissioner Mignon Clyburn lamented, “The current Administration, in its quest to green light even greater media consolidation, has found a way to rewrite history” by initiating a reconsideration of the cap without the authority to do so.

    A long list of major broadcasting companies stated their support for raising the cap to 50 percent after the rulemaking announcement. And Sinclair urged the FCC in an April filing to eliminate the cap altogether.

    The FCC has not acted further on the reconsideration yet, though there were rumors it would to do so in July. But when it does, a change could boost not just Sinclair (which would be free to pursue other deals currently restricted by the cap) but also the many other major broadcast owners that are looking to further expand but currently cannot.

    Dana Floberg, a policy analyst at consumer advocacy group Free Press, explained to Media Matters, “If the FCC loosens the national ownership cap, it'll be even easier for Sinclair and other big broadcasters to merge their way to national broadcasting monopolies.”

    What’s more: Loosening or eliminating the cap would leave local media consumers -- especially some communities of color that rely more heavily on local broadcast news -- with fewer options.

    Ochillo described this significant potential impact of a corporate-friendly change to the cap. “As media consolidation increases, the number of voices controlling the local media broadcasts will decrease. That means that media ownership could become even more homogenous than it is today. The FCC must honor its commitment to promote diversity in media ownership.”

  • Sinclair stations have now aired six “must-run” segments pushing for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation

    Chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn: “Let’s hope he is confirmed without delay”

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This piece was updated on August 27 to include two more "must-run" segments.

    Conservative TV giant Sinclair Broadcast Group is requiring its local news stations across the country to air multiple “must-run” segments praising “perfectly qualified” Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and encouraging a quick confirmation.

    As of August 27, Sinclair has produced at least six “must-run” commentary segments about the open Supreme Court seat, including three that feature excerpts from interviews with Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The segments either laud Kavanaugh’s qualifications, dismiss real concerns about what’s at stake if he is confirmed, or push for a quick confirmation process. Some do all three.

    Sinclair designates that certain news and commentary segments, produced in its national studios, must air on its local news stations across the country -- including all four of the Kavanaugh-related segments. According to a Media Matters search of the iQ media database, one or more of these segments have aired in at least 22 states, including those with potentially key senators in a confirmation vote like Alabama, Maine, Nevada, and West Virginia.

    The first “must-run” aired on June 28 and 29, shortly after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. In his recurring “Bottom Line With Boris” commentary segment, Sinclair chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn argued that the Senate ought to confirm whomever President Donald Trump would nominate to replace Kennedy before the midterm elections in November. Epshteyn ended the segment, “Nominating and confirming a second conservative justice to the Supreme Court will be a huge achievement for the president and Senate Republicans. It will further cement their reputation as defenders of the rule of law and our Constitution.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on WPFO (Fox 23) in Portland, Maine:

    A second “must-run” segment aired on July 10 and July 11, right after Trump announced his nomination of Kavanaugh. Again, Epshteyn argued that Kavanaugh ought to be confirmed quickly and listed off reasons why the judge was “immensely qualified” for the role. Epshteyn also argues that the far-right wing of the GOP should support the nomination and that Kavanaugh is “the least controversial” and “easily the most confirmable” candidate. He also mentioned by name three Democratic senators who are up for re-election: Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana. Epshteyn predicted “most” would vote to confirm Kavanaugh “so as to keep their chances to be re-elected alive.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on WVAH (Fox 11) in Charleston, West Virginia:

    The “must-run” featuring Rep. Lamar Smith aired on July 17 and July 18. In the clip, Smith attempted to dismiss concerns that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would threaten abortion access, saying, “Clearly, he is a judge who has made comments about Roe v. Wade but he’s also written a book on the importance of precedent. I think a lot of legal scholars don't expect him to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, although I think a lot of the Democratic senators are using that as a scare tactic. I think it’s probably unlikely it would be completely overturned.”

    Epshteyn offered no additional context on the matter, then concluded, “There’s no question that Judge Brett Kavanaugh is perfectly qualified to be the next Supreme Court Justice. Let’s hope he is confirmed without delay.” Here is the full segment, as aired on WBMA (ABC 33/40) in Birmingham, Alabama:

    The fourth “must-run” segment, featuring Pence, aired on July 25 and July 26. In it, Pence again made the case for Kavanaugh, telling Epshteyn that Kavanaugh is “a man of integrity, with a lifetime of calling to public service as a family man, a man of faith,” and “the most qualified person in America to fill that seat on the Supreme Court.” Epshteyn nodded in agreement and then ended the segment by asserting, “Judge Brett Kavanaugh is fully qualified to be on the Supreme Court. Democrats in the Senate should not let partisanship cloud their judgement, and they should give Judge Brett Kavanaugh fair consideration.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on KRNV (NBC 4) in Reno, Nevada:

    The fifth “must-run” segment, featuring Hatch, aired on August 7 and August 8. The segment included an interview excerpt in which Hatch praises Kavanaugh extensively, saying, “I'm very high on him. He's a very fine man. He's lived a very good, exemplary life. His whole life has been devoted to the law. He's straightforward. He's honest.” Epshteyn ended the segment by saying, “Let’s hope that Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed as quickly as possible” in spite of “senseless obstruction from many Democrats.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on WEAR (ABC 3) in Pensacola, Florida: 

    The sixth and most recent “must-run” segment aired from August 24 through August 27. In the clip, Epshteyn responded to calls from Senate Democrats to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing after the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen plead guilty to several crimes, including campaign finance violations that implicate the president. He argued that “Democrats have no tangible reason to oppose this highly qualified pick” and joked, “What’s next? Senate Democrats will try to block the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh because they don’t like the weather?” Epshteyn also absurdly lamented that Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was “the equivalent of being invited to interview for a job that you are highly qualified for but you’re being kept waiting in the lobby of the office building until some of the board members finish shouting about how much they wished that their cousin was up for the job instead.”

    Here is the full segment, as aired on WHP (CBS 21) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:

  • Sinclair's latest "must-run" is basically just Mike Pence talking about how great the Trump administration has been

    Pence: “It is striking to me some days when I see the way the media is critical of this president”

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    Sinclair Broadcast Group’s latest “must-run” segment is basically just a platform for Vice President Mike Pence to list what he thinks are the Trump administration’s accomplishments and passively whine about media being too “critical.”

    The latest “Bottom Line With Boris” segment, posted online today, is another excerpt from Sinclair chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn’s recent exclusive interview with Pence. The roughly 90-second segment is mostly Pence just listing what he calls the administration’s “record of success." Epshteyn does not ask a question in the clip, but does nod along in agreement.

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: The relationship between the White House and most of the media is anything but productive. I recently sat down with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss how the administration is treated by the press. Here’s what he said.

    [BEGIN INTERVIEW CLIP]

    MIKE PENCE: You know, I've always said that if you're in public life, criticism comes with the territory. But I have to tell you, it is striking to me some days when I see the way the media is critical of this president. I mean, think of what we've accomplished in just a year and a half. We’re rebuilding our military. We’ve strengthened international alliances. NATO is now contributing more than ever before to our common defense. The president stood strong against the regime in North Korea and now North Korea is no longer testing ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons and has come to the peace table. At home, the president's cut taxes across the board, rolled back federal regulation and the economy has taken off, and we've been appointing strong conservatives to our courts at every level. It is a record of success that is benefiting everyday Americans, creating jobs and opportunities. And yet it seems like there's a preoccupation by some in the media -- not all -- to always focus on the negative or always focus on criticism.

    [END INTERVIEW CLIP]

    EPSHTEYN: Here’s the bottom line: The Trump administration has to focus on continuing to achieve success for the American people. And that way, the results will speak for themselves. It is then the responsibility of the press to report the facts to people at home.

    This is the latest entry in Sinclair’s conservative programming playbook, which mirrors former CEO Roger Ailes’ propaganda strategy at Fox News for decades -- to convince the audience that one conservative outlet is the only source they can trust for news. Sinclair’s message is particularly dangerous because of the company’s numerous direct ties to the Trump administration and its ability to reach unsuspecting local news viewers across the country by co-opting the trustworthiness of actual local reporters. In one extreme example, this spring, Sinclair required local anchors at its news stations to narrate promotional segments decrying “biased and false news” in Trumpian terms.

    Epshteyn has frequently claimed the media is biased against Trump and attacked specific outlets and reporters -- in particular, CNN. He has also interviewed GOP officials about purported “media bias” in the past, including White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith. And in one of the first “must-run” segments Epshteyn hosted, in June 2017, he argued that regular White House press briefings had become “a circus and a distraction.”

  • Mike Pence turns to Sinclair for an embarrassingly friendly interview as Trump defends the media giant 

    Pence on corporation-friendly tax cuts: “President Trump has been delivering on his promise: to cut taxes for working families” 

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    Vice President Mike Pence has joined a growing list of Trump administration officials benefiting from softball interviews with Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    On July 24, part of Pence’s sit-down interview with Sinclair chief political analyst and former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn was shared online.

    In this latest “Bottom Line With Boris” segment, Epshteyn and Pence discuss how “President Trump has been delivering on his promise: to cut taxes for working families and businesses” thanks to the Republican tax overhaul known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In reality, the legislation predominantly benefited large corporations, and wages have actually fallen by 1.8 percent since the cuts were enacted. Epshteyn does not mention this in the segment, but rather asks the sorts of vague questions that set Pence up to use the interview as an infomercial for Trump and the Republican party.

    Here is a full transcript and video.

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: I joined Vice President Mike Pence on his trip to Philadelphia this week. He focused on tax reform. Here’s what he had to say.

    [INTERVIEW CLIP]

    MIKE PENCE: As you look at this economy, confidence is back, jobs are coming back. In a real sense, America is back, and it’s because President Trump has been delivering on his promise: to cut taxes for working families and businesses.

    EPSHTEYN: Where do you see the job market going in the next six months, a year, two years?

    PENCE: Well, 3.7 million new jobs is an extraordinary amount of progress, but the fact of the matter is there [are] still many Americans that are on the sidelines. But the encouraging news, Boris, is that in the last month the unemployment number nationally ticked up a little bit.

    EPSHTEYN: Right.

    PENCE: But that was because more Americans were now looking for jobs across the country. And so making sure that we continue to make these tax cuts permanent, that we continue to roll back red tape, but that we also make sure that Americans who are now looking for work have the training, the vocational education, and the skills to fill those good-paying jobs that are open now.

    EPSHTEYN: You’re criss-crossing the country ahead of the midterms. So important. How vital of a role is tax reform playing in your message while you’re out there?

    PENCE: To continue to move the nation forward, we’ve got to have partners. We’ve got to have renewed Republican majorities in the House and in the Senate that will work with us as we drive for more tax reform, roll back more federal red tape, and have an energy policy that puts America first. So we’re out there telling the story and it’s a great story to tell.

    [END OF INTERVIEW CLIP]

    EPSHTEYN: Here's the bottom line: The historic tax cuts signed by President Trump into law in December are going to continue to be a key agenda item for the Republican Party heading into November. Expect to hear a lot about the tax cuts on the campaign trail throughout the country.

    This interview segment will now air as “must-run” content on more than 100 Sinclair-owned and -operated local TV news stations across the country. As of publication, a Media Matters search of the iQ media database shows the segment has already aired in at least 20 states. There will be at least one more excerpt from the interview released as an additional segment in the coming days -- according to Epshteyn’s newsletter, the next Pence segment will focus on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

    The fawning Pence interview is just the latest entry in a long list of friendly connections between Sinclair and the Trump inner circle. Sinclair has previously aired softball segments with at least six other administration officials, as well as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

    Hours after the Pence segment was first posted online, President Donald Trump tweeted a defense of Sinclair, signaling displeasure with a recent and surprising Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to send Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media to its likely doom. Trump tweeted that an even larger Sinclair “would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People.” Had the deal been approved, pro-Trump propaganda like these interviews would have reached more than seven in 10 American TV households.

  • A senior Sinclair executive donated to the campaign of disgraced racist Joe Arpaio

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Frederick Smith, a senior executive at Sinclair Broadcast Group, recently donated $1,000 to Arizona Republican Joe Arpaio’s Senate campaign.

    Sinclair is a massive right-wing media corporation that owns or operates nearly 200 local television stations across the country. It’s known for injecting right-wing spin and propaganda into broadcasts, including through its infamous “must-run” segments. The Federal Communications Commission recently decided the company's proposed acquisition of Tribune Media needs greater legal scrutiny, citing potential "misrepresentation" by Sinclair due to its reliance on legal maneuvers to skirt station ownership limits.

    Smith is a vice president and member of the board of directors at Sinclair. His father, the late Julian Sinclair Smith, founded the company.

    Arpaio was previously the sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ, before losing re-election in 2016. The ACLU documented that he oversaw "discriminatory conduct, including his office’s cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees and its practice of illegally detaining people based on their perceived immigration status and discriminating against Latinos in traffic stops." 

    In 2017, as The Washington Post wrote, Arpaio was convicted of "criminal contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton wrote that Arpaio had shown a 'flagrant disregard' for the court’s command and that his attempt to pin the conduct on those who worked for him rang hollow." President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio shortly afterward.

    Arpaio is now running as a Republican for Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat. In January, as Media Matters documented, Arpaio gave an interview to the anti-Semitic publication American Free Press to promote his candidacy. Arpaio had also given interviews to the outlet in prior years.

    Smith donated $1,000 to Arpaio’s Senate campaign on May 23, according to Arpaio’s most recent Federal Election Commission filing. Like Sinclair’s political action committee, Smith has largely donated to Republicans this election cycle. As Politico reported, Smith also donated $1,000 last year to “Rep. Greg Gianforte's campaign the day after the Montana Republican was charged with assaulting a reporter.” The Guardian reported in April that Robert E. Smith, who is Frederick Smith’s brother and a member of Sinclair’s board of directors, donated the maximum amount of $5,400 to Gianforte's campaign.

    Sinclair did not respond to a request for comment.

  • The Sinclair-Tribune merger might be in big trouble because of Sinclair's shady business tactics 

    FCC signals it will slow-track the merger, citing Sinclair’s practice of using legal loopholes to skirt ownership rules

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 16, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement saying he had “serious concerns” about the pending acquisition of Tribune Media by conservative local TV giant Sinclair Broadcast Group. The statement said the FCC would not be able to approve the acquisition outright and Pai will recommend that the matter be sent to an administrative law judge -- a move, according to Politico, that is “often viewed as a deal-killer.”

    In the July 16 statement, Pai cited evidence that “certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.” In other words, the FCC can’t approve the deal because Sinclair would be breaking the law -- and doing it so blatantly that even Pai, a Trump appointee who’s currently being investigated for leading the FCC in deregulation efforts that suspiciously benefit Sinclair, couldn’t turn the other way.

    In fact, the company outlined in its final proposal to the FCC exactly how it would use legal loopholes to continue controlling stations in practice that it would legally be required to sell. It identified at least four local TV stations it was planning to sell, while simultaneously entering into agreements to continue controlling certain services and marketing for those stations -- WGN in Chicago, IL; KUNS in Seattle, WA; KAUT in Oklahoma City, OK; and KMYU in Salt Lake City, UT. It was planning to sell WGN to a newly formed company run by a Sinclair business partner, and to sell the other three to Sinclair-affiliated conservative pundit Armstrong Williams for well below market price. (Two additional stations, KDAF in Dallas, TX, and KIAH in Houston, TX, were going to be sold to another company affiliated with Sinclair, Cunningham Broadcasting.) 

    These legal maneuvers are commonly known as “sidecar” agreements, and Sinclair is notorious for using them in a manner that’s been described as bordering on “regulatory fraud.” Basically, when Sinclair bumps up against an ownership cap in a local market, it sells one of its stations to nominally fall below the cap. Then it uses “sidecar” agreements -- sometimes known as shared service agreements, joint sales agreements, or local marketing agreements -- to keep operating the station anyway.

    For example, Sinclair doesn’t actually own any local TV stations in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area of Pennsylvania -- but it still controls some content and/or handles operations at three stations there (WOLF, WSWB, and WQMY). And because of Sinclair’s complicated web of agreements, one of those Wilkes-Barre stations (WOLF) is sharing news anchors with two other Sinclair stations in entirely different states.

    According to Reuters, Pai's draft order to send the acquisition to a hearing goes so far as to cite potential "deception" by Sinclair in pursuing these kinds of legal arrangements. It’s unclear if the order for a hearing will definitely end Sinclair’s bid -- but it is a damning, if incredibly belated, recognition of the blatantly absurd regulatory tricks the company regularly employs to get its way.

  • Activist groups deliver 600,000 petitions to the FCC demanding the merger of Sinclair and Tribune be stopped 

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, JOHN KERR & MILES LE

    On July 12, 2018, activist groups gathered outside the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, D.C., to deliver over 600,000 petitions demanding that the unprecedented acquisition of Tribune Media by conservative local TV giant Sinclair Broadcast Group not go through.

    Video shot by John Kerr

    Are there Sinclair stations near you? Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

  • A congressman who’s criticized Sinclair is up for re-election, and Sinclair’s chief political analyst is helping his challenger fundraise

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Sinclair Broadcast Group chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn is helping a Republican congressional candidate fundraise -- and she’s running against a Sinclair critic.

    On July 12, Epshteyn tweeted criticism of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)’s opening statement in the congressional hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok, in which Nadler mentioned the ongoing family separation crisis at the Mexican border caused by Trump administration policies. In his criticism, Epshteyn also tagged Nadler’s Republican challenger in the 2018 midterm elections, Naomi Levin.

    Levin responded to the tweet with more criticism of Nadler and then shared a link to a donation page for her campaign -- and Epshteyn retweeted the link to his nearly 32,000 followers.



    Nadler has previously criticized Sinclair, signing onto a letter to Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley last fall demanding more information about the company’s pending acquisition of Tribune Media. Nadler was also one of 85 lawmakers who called for a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigation of Sinclair in 2004, when the broadcasting group planned to mandate that its stations air an anti-John Kerry documentary shortly before the presidential election.

    The acquisition, should it be approved by the Trump Department of Justice and FCC, would bring a Sinclair station (WPIX, which it is poised to buy from Tribune) to Nadler’s district, which covers parts of New York City, for the first time.

    Eric Hananoki contributed research to this post.

  • Like clockwork, Sinclair has a must-run cheering on SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh

    Sinclair chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn: “He is easily the most confirmable candidate” 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    In a July 9 reality TV-like event, Trump formally nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Sinclair Broadcast Group’s chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn, who used to work in the Trump White House, was there in person to watch it unfold. And, as expected, he was ready to tell local news viewers how great this decision was.

    Less than a day later, Epshteyn published his latest commentary segment for Sinclair, in which you can practically hear him salivating over the Kavanaugh pick. In the 90-second segment, Epshteyn manages to throw just about every justification for supporting the Kavanaugh nomination at the wall, while attempting to paper over any of the myriad reasons lawmakers might oppose the nomination.

    Kavanaugh -- who, according to a recent analysis, would be nearly as far right ideologically as the most conservative current justice, Clarence Thomas -- doesn’t "seem affected by any political ideology,” Epshteyn argues. Epshteyn also suggests that Democratic senators in states like Indiana, North Dakota, and West Virginia will vote to confirm Kavanaugh if they want to "keep their chances to be reelected alive" come November. (Sinclair has local news stations in both Indiana and West Virginia.) 

    Here is the full transcript, along with video of the segment playing on Sinclair flagship station WBFF (Fox 45) in Baltimore, MD:

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: On Monday of this week, I had the honor of seeing President Trump nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for almost 12 years. Kavanaugh is immensely qualified for the high court. He served as a Supreme Court law clerk for Justice Kennedy after attending Yale University and Yale Law School. Kavanaugh also worked in the Bush White House.

    The more conservative Republicans may not be thrilled with the selection. However, it is important to remember that Kavanaugh is a constitutionalist and will uphold the rule of law.

    Moderate Republicans are big fans of Kavanaugh’s pick. He has described Roe v. Wade as binding precedent and his decisions don’t seem affected by any political ideology. That position on Roe and the fact that Kavanaugh has not really taken a stand on Obamacare’s individual mandate put a lot pressure on Democrat senators in conservative states, such as Sens. [Joe] Manchin from West Virginia, [Heidi] Heitkamp from North Dakota, and [Joe] Donnelly from Indiana, to vote for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    Here's the bottom line: Kavanaugh was the least controversial nominee from the president's list of potential justices. He is easily the most confirmable candidate for the open seat. I imagine that we will see most of the Democrats in Republican-leaning states who are up for reelection in November vote for Kavanaugh in the end so as to keep their chances to be reelected alive.

    This segment will now be forcibly aired, often spliced into local news coverage, on more than 100 Sinclair-owned or -operated news stations throughout the country as part of the media giant’s infamous “must-run” lineup. According to a Media Matters search of the iQ media database this morning, the segment has already aired on stations in at least 21 states.

    Are there Sinclair stations near you? Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

  • New EPA chief Andrew Wheeler has a fondness for right-wing media and climate-denier blogs

    But will he be as combative toward the mainstream press as Scott Pruitt was?

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Scott Pruitt, ousted administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), had cozy relationships with right-wing media outlets and combative relationships with the mainstream press. Andrew Wheeler, who's stepped in as acting administrator, has also shown a fondness for right-wing media and signs of disdain toward some mainstream media. But Wheeler has not interacted with the press in the same hostile and tribal ways that Pruitt did. Will Wheeler's approach to the media shift now that he's at the helm at EPA?

    On the topic of climate change, it’s easier to predict whether Wheeler will change course: probably not. Like Pruitt, Wheeler has long been skeptical of climate science and climate action, as evidenced not just by Wheeler’s public statements but also by his Twitter account. He has tweeted out links to climate-denying blog posts, including one post that declared, “There is no such thing as ‘carbon pollution.’”

    Pruitt leaned heavily on right-wing media

    Throughout his tenure at the EPA, Pruitt made heavy use of right-wing media outlets to spread his preferred talking points and fight back against media coverage he didn't like. During his first year, Pruitt appeared on Fox News more than twice as often as all other major TV networks combined, Media Matters found, and Fox was less likely than other networks to cover Pruitt's scandals. Pruitt was also a frequent guest on national right-wing talk-radio shows, where he received soft treatment.

    After Pruitt got unexpectedly tough questions during an April interview with Fox's Ed Henry, he retreated to right-wing outlets that were even more likely to give him good press, giving interviews to the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Washington Free Beacon, and a Mississippi talk-radio show.

    Pruitt cultivated a particularly cozy relationship with right-wing outlet The Daily Caller, giving the site exclusive quotes and information. The Daily Caller in turn repeatedly defended Pruitt against scandals and attacked people who released damaging information about him. Even after Pruitt resigned, The Daily Caller continued to act as his attack dog, publishing pieces with headlines including "Source: A torrent of negative press ended Scott Pruitt's career at EPA" and "Jilted former EPA aide with sordid history takes full credit for Pruitt's resignation."

    Pruitt attacked and stymied mainstream media outlets

    Under Pruitt, the EPA press office repeatedly attacked, stymied, and manipulated reporters at mainstream news outlets, as Media Matters documented. The agency refused to release basic information about its activities, blocked journalists from attending official agency events, favored reporters who would provide positive coverage, and publicly insulted and retaliated against reporters and outlets whose coverage officials didn't like.

    One of many such attacks came in September, when the EPA sent out a press release that personally maligned Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker, accusing him of having "a history of not letting the facts get in the way of his story." Another attack happened in June of 2018, when EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox called an Atlantic reporter "a piece of trash” after she asked for comment on one of Pruitt's aides resigning. 

    Pruitt appeared to attack the media on his way out the door, too. His resignation letter blamed "unprecedented" and "unrelenting attacks" on him.

    Wheeler liked tweets from right-wing media figures, defended Milo Yiannopoulos

    Wheeler, for his part, has also demonstrated an affinity for right-wing media figures and outlets, but he's done it in a different way -- via his personal Twitter account. He has "liked" many tweets by conservative media figures, including ones that criticize mainstream or liberal media outlets.

    Wheeler "liked" a July 3 tweet by Donald Trump Jr. that linked to a Daily Caller post lauding Fox News's high ratings and mocking CNN's lower ones:

    He "liked" a June 11 tweet by NRATV host and Fox regular Dan Bongino that bashed MSNBC:

    Wheeler "liked" a June 1 tweet by libertarian talk show host Dave Rubin that criticized a HuffPost story: "HuffPo isn’t a place of journalism, it’s a place of Far Left activism." (Media Matters rebutted the misleading claims of right-wing figures who criticized the story.)

    He "liked" a May 22 tweet by NRATV host and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch that knocked Planned Parenthood.

    He "liked" an April 3 tweet by conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel that inaccurately claimed Obama EPA officials spent as much on travel as Pruitt did.

    He "liked" a January 6 tweet by Fox News personality Brit Hume that mocked Al Gore.

    Wheeler has "liked" tweets from frequent Fox News guests Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens of the conservative group Turning Point USA, including this one:

    According to Daily Beast reporter Scott Bixby, in 2016 Wheeler tweeted out a conspiracy theorist's video that defended Milo Yiannopoulos, an alt-right troll and former Breitbart editor, but Wheeler later deleted the tweet:

    In August 2016, Wheeler publicly defended alt-right troll Milo Yiannopolous after the latter was banned from Twitter for encouraging users to harass actress Leslie Jones. In a now-deleted tweet, the lobbyist linked to a six-minute video, “The Truth About Milo,” produced by InfoWars editor-at-large and noted conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson, in which Watson posited that conservatives might be “banned from using the internet altogether if they trigger your butthurt.”

    Since being named acting head of the EPA last week, Wheeler appears to have deleted 12 more tweets from his feed.

    Wheeler tweeted links to climate-denier blog posts

    While EPA watchers have predicted that Wheeler is likely to differ from Pruitt in his demeanor, Wheeler has displayed the same attitude as Pruitt toward climate change.

    In 2011, when Wheeler was a lobbyist for the Murray Energy coal company, he tweeted a link to a post on the climate-denial blog JunkScience.com. The post, written by the site's founder and longtime climate denier Steve Milloy, argued that information from the American Lung Association should not be trusted because the organization "is bought-and-paid-for by the EPA."

    Wheeler retweeted a Milloy tweet from 2015 that took a shot at Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and highlighted projections about India's rising coal use.

    In 2009, Wheeler sent a tweeted promoting a climate-denying blog post published on the conservative American Thinker site:

    On at least two occasions, Wheeler has tweeted links to posts on RealClearPolitics that questioned the science of climate change. A tweet in 2009 linked to a post titled "A Reason To Be Skeptical," and the tweet included the hashtag #capandtax, a conservative smear against cap-and-trade policies. The piece he linked to, which also appeared in The Denver Post, promoted “Climategate,” a bogus, manufactured scandal in which conservatives claimed that hacked emails showed climate scientists were fabricating evidence of warming temperatures. 

    And a tweet in 2015 praised a RealClearPolitics essay that argued, "There is no such thing as 'carbon pollution.'”

    This piece, which Wheeler called "great," largely dismissed climate science and criticized the media outlets and peer-reviewed journals that regularly report on climate change:

    Of course, we don’t have good data or sound arguments for decarbonizing our energy supply. But it sounds like we do. If you read Scientific American, Science, Nature, National Geographic, the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any of thousands of newspapers and magazines, and you take them at face value, you would have to agree that there is a strong likelihood that serious climate change is real and that decarbonization or geo-engineering are our only hopes.

    Wheeler gives interviews and quotes primarily to mainstream outlets

    Though Wheeler's Twitter account seems to show a preference for right-wing outlets, he does not exhibit the same ideological bias when he gives interviews or quotes to media. Most of the interviews he's given during his career in Washington, D.C., have been to mainstream outlets.

    Media Matters has identified eight interviews Wheeler has granted to media outlets since October 5, 2017, when President Donald Trump nominated him to serve as deputy administrator of the EPA:

    During his years as a lobbyist from 2009 to 2017 -- when he worked for coal, nuclear, chemical, and utility companies, among others -- he was quoted at least eight times by E&E News, a subscription-based news organization aimed at professionals working in the energy and environment fields, and he sat for one video interview with E&E. He also gave quotes at least twice to another inside-the-beltway news organization, Politico, as well as to The New York Times and FoxNews.com.

    From 1995 to 2008, when Wheeler worked for Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), he gave at least four more video interviews to E&E News. He was also quoted in a Washington Post article in 2008.

    Right-wing media are already leaping to Wheeler's defense

    Whether on not Wheeler starts giving interviews or information to right-wing outlets, right-wing outlets are likely to defend him against criticism. They've already started.

    The Daily Caller, which had a tight-knit relationship with Pruitt and his press office, published a story on July 5 titled "Pruitt has been gone for less than a day and his replacement is already getting attacked." And Breitbart ran a piece on July 5 that quoted conservatives praising Wheeler and argued that "the media is already attacking him in much the same relentless fashion it did Pruitt."

    What's next for Wheeler and the EPA press office?

    It's not surprising that Wheeler gave quotes and interviews primarily to mainstream and inside-the-beltway publications while he was working for Inhofe and representing his lobbying clients. He was trying to reach influencers and mold public opinion.

    In contrast, Pruitt, who has been rumored to be plotting a run for Oklahoma governor or senator, has spent his time in D.C. trying to raise his profile and burnish his image with GOP donors and the conservative base of the Republican Party. He often turned to highly partisan right-wing outlets to achieve those ends.

    Now that Wheeler is the boss setting the agenda and determining strategy, will he continue his conventional approach of talking to mainstream media, or will he follow Pruitt's recent example and turn primarily to highly partisan right-wing outlets like Fox News and The Daily Caller? And under Wheeler's leadership, will the EPA's press office treat reporters more professionally than it did under Pruitt, or will it continue to be highly combative with the media?

    In the few days since Wheeler was announced as interim EPA chief on July 5, he seems to have taken a more traditional and conciliatory approach. He's given two substantive interviews to major newspapers, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. And according to Politico, Wheeler will be taking a different approach from Pruitt in terms of dealing with the press: "Wheeler will announce where he is speaking or traveling in advance, he will publish his full calendars 'frequently,' without litigation from groups pursuing public records, and he and other top political appointees will hold briefings for the media on major policy announcements."

    But even if the media approach changes, the policy approach won't. "EPA's agenda remains largely unchanged," Politico continued. "Wheeler will still pursue much the same policy platform — fighting the courts to roll back a slate of Obama-era regulations on climate change, air pollution, stream protection and more."

    Ted MacDonald, Evlondo Cooper, and Kevin Kalhoefer contributed research to this post.

  • In exclusive "must-run" interview with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sinclair analyst says she’s been victimized by the press

    Sinclair’s Boris Epshteyn to local news viewers: “The way many in the media treat White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is disrespectful and despicable” 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Amid her regular routine of deflecting hard questions from journalists (last week, specifically about the Trump administration’s inhumane family separation policy), White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made time to sit down for a softball interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group to talk about liberal “media bias.”

    In a two-part interview conducted on June 20 and released on June 21 and June 25, Sanders joined Sinclair chief political analyst and former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn to talk about the ways so-called liberal media outlets are biased against her and the president and to discuss President Donald Trump’s recent summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. These parts of Epshteyn’s interview are now airing as “must-run” segments on more than 100 Sinclair-owned and -operated local TV news stations across the country, sandwiched between sports and the weather.

    In the latest “Bottom Line With Boris” segment, Sanders and Epshteyn discuss the “disrespectful and despicable” ways that “many in the media” treat Sanders. According to a Media Matters search of the iQ media database this morning, this segment has already aired on local news stations in at least 21 states.

    The entire astonishing two-minute spot is worth watching, if only to understand the propaganda that will now be broadcast into living rooms across the country. Below is a full transcript and video.

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: The way many in the media treat White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is disrespectful and despicable. Here is what she told me about her relationship with the press.

    [INTERVIEW CLIP]

    EPSHTEYN: What would you say the reason is for some of the overarching and really over-the-line heat that you have faced from some folks, sometimes very personal. What is the root, you think, of some of the treatment you’ve received?

    SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think some people, Democrats in particular, at some point they’re going to have to decide if they love our country more than they hate this president. And I hope that they’ll make the right decision in that process. But there’s certainly a lot of anger and a lot of hostility, and I think in large part it’s because they’ve got somebody like President Trump, who always beats them at their own game. He always overcomes the things that they say are not possible. They said he’d never run for president. He did. They said he’d never win. He did. They said he couldn’t get tax cuts done. He did. They said that the economy would completely crash. It’s the best it’s been since World War II. I mean, every single time that they try to tell him he can’t do something or that really bad things are going to happen, he proves them wrong, and I don’t think that they like that a lot.

    EPSHTEYN: What is something that people at home may not know about you, that they’re not seeing when you’re sparring with the media or representing the president?

    SANDERS: That maybe that I’m a little nicer than sometimes --

    EPSHTEYN: I think you’re very nice.

    SANDERS: -- than the media wants to make me out to be. Again, I’m a pretty, I think, happy person. I love life. And I’m a lot nicer, I think, than they make me out to be in the press.

    [END OF INTERVIEW CLIP]

    EPSHTEYN: Here is the bottom line: Sarah is a good person, a mother of three, and a public servant. I hope that all members of the press start treating her with the respect that she deserves.

    The June 21 segment of the interview focused on all the ways Sanders and Epshteyn believe the North Korea summit was successful; it has now aired on stations in at least 22 states. Here is a partial transcript of what local news audiences heard about the meeting:

    SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: And the president is a true leader on the global stage. And it was really magnificent to watch.

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: Do you think that North Korea will end up denuclearizing?

    SANDERS: As the president likes to say, we'll see what happens, but it was definitely a step in the right direction and we’re continuing to work towards denuclearization. We're going to keep pushing.

    EPSHTEYN: Last questions on this topic. What about the criticism -- the president has been criticized by some folks, expectedly -- for being "too nice" to Kim Jong Un. What do you say to that?

    SANDERS: I think those are people that are more worried about attacking this president than looking for the good that is happening both within our country and across the world.

    [END OF INTERVIEW CLIP]

    EPSHTEYN: Here is the bottom line: As you just heard from one of the few Americans who have met with Kim Jong Un face to face, the summit was a success.

    Sanders is far from the first Trump administration official (or personal affiliate of Trump’s) to retreat to the Sinclair safe space in order to escape criticism. Just last month, comically corrupt Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt sat down with Epshteyn for a softball interview. “Bottom Line With Boris” has previously featured interviews with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Small Business Administration head Linda McMahon, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, and then-Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

    And the friendly relationship between the Trump administration and Sinclair may be mutually beneficial. Thanks to the Trump Federal Communications Commission, segments like these could soon air on even more local TV news stations -- including in major cities and battleground states across the country -- ahead of the midterms, reaching 72 percent of U.S. television households.