Sinclair Broadcast Group’s latest conservative “must-run” commentary segment focused on “violent video games and movies” in the wake of recent public mass shootings.
In a must-run segment posted online on August 20, chief political commentator Boris Epshteyn argued for limiting children’s exposure to “gratuitous violence” from video games and movies as one way to combat gun violence. Epshteyn acknowledged that “preventing mass shootings is an incredibly complex issue that one statistic or formula will not be able to solve,” but nonetheless devoted an entire segment to discussing the supposed “impact of violent media on the psyche of our youth.”
“Whether it has a chemical reaction or statistical correlation with as rare an occurrence as mass shootings is beside the point,” Epshteyn said in the segment, which also included some footage from first-person shooter games in apparent contradiction of his point.
There is no evidence that playing violent video games leads to perpetrating mass violence, and of course playing video games is popular in many other countries that don’t experience even close to the same number of mass shootings or levels of everyday gun violence as in the United States. The actual most accurate predictor for mass shooters is a history of hatred or violence toward women -- combined with easy access to firearms.
According to a Media Matters search of the iQ media database, the segment has aired on at least 38 stations in at least 26 states, including in El Paso, TX, where a white supremacist armed with an assault weapon recently killed 22 people and injured dozens.
Epshteyn’s segments are typically aired on local Sinclair stations along with a second must-run hosted by liberal commentator Ameshia Cross. In her segment posted on August 20, Cross cited actual research that found no links between video games and mass violence and concluded that while video games are “an easy scapegoat,” gun safety laws are a better avenue for change.
This is far from the first time Sinclair has broadcast misinformation about gun violence prevention to its local viewers. In another must-run segment aired last week, Epshteyn called for “giving heavy consideration to mandating armed guards in schools,” a common conservative talking point that plays off the pro-gun “good guy with a gun” myth. (In fact, there is no evidence that the presence of more firearms would help to stop mass shooting incidents.)
Earlier this month, Salem Radio Network host and Sinclair contributor Sebastian Gorka compared gun regulation to the Holocaust while making a regular appearance on the weekly Sinclair show America This Week. Discredited gun violence researcher John Lott pushed the popular conservative “gun-free zone” lie in an August 3 interview with a Sinclair station, falsely suggesting that the El Paso shooting took place in an area where “the victims weren’t allowed to defend themselves” because they were prohibited from carrying firearms. And that same week, Epshteyn hosted a segment addressing how to “solve the mass shooting problem” in America -- which didn’t include any discussion of actual gun violence prevention measures, or even mention the word “gun.”
Correction (8/21/19): The piece originally stated that John Lott’s interview with Sinclair took place on August 4. The interview was posted to the station’s website on August 4, but it aired on August 3.