Sinclair Broadcast Group’s newest program signals the conservative media giant’s shift toward more openly embracing right-wing propaganda and hiring Fox News castoffs.
On April 2, Mediaite reported that Sinclair was set to debut America This Week, a new weekly program hosted by Eric Bolling. The first episode would include appearances by several members of the Trump inner circle: former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and 2020 campaign adviser and the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. Bolling is a newly official Sinclair personality who has been making appearances on its national programming for months, and he also hosts a streaming show with right-wing outlet BlazeTV. He was previously a host and co-host at Fox News -- where he regularly trafficked in conspiracy theories, misogyny, and race-baiting -- but he left in 2017 amid reports that he sent multiple colleagues unsolicited images of genitalia.
The first two episodes of Eric Bolling’s America This Week program are straight out of Fox News
In a sign of Sinclair’s increasing willingness to adopt the Fox News model of poisoning viewers against any other news sources, much of the first hour-long program was devoted to decrying so-called media bias against President Donald Trump:
- The program began with a brief introductory monologue from Bolling in which he told viewers, “This show is all about holding the mainstream media and the powerful accountable.” Bolling then decried “today’s media, where truth and facts give way to biased opinions and a dangerous disregard for fact.”
- Bolling then led a discussion with former Trump adviser and Sinclair contributor Sebastian Gorka and Democratic strategist and frequent Fox News guest Jonathan Harris, and another with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Both Gorka and Lewandowski addressed supposed mainstream media bias against the president.
- Later in the episode, Bolling featured a report about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from James Rosen, another former Fox News employee.
- He also played a pre-taped interview with presidential daughter-in-law and current Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, which touched on the idea of media bias against the president.
- The show also aired an interview at the “Breitbart Embassy” with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon discussing, again, media bias against Trump, the concept of a “deep state,” and Bannon’s thoughts about various public figures including former FBI Director James Comey, progressive philanthropist George Soros, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the pope, Trump, and himself.
The second episode had similarly Fox-y elements:
- Bolling’s monologue was focused on a “crisis at the border.”
- It was followed by a discussion with Gorka, again, along with Democratic strategist Joel Payne, about immigration and special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- Bolling then introduced his interview with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) about “the Russian collusion illusion.” Nunes spent the last portion of the interview discussing the false talking point that conservatives are being “shadow banned” or otherwise discriminated against by social media platforms and his lawsuit against Twitter.
- Bolling conducted a long interview with former President Barack Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee (also a frequent Fox News guest), in part to discuss whether a good economy ought to be credited to Obama or Trump.
- There was another report from Rosen, this time focused on Attorney General Bill Barr’s misleading statements before Congress about “spying” on the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.
- And there was a discussion about Hitler apologist and far-right personality Candace Owens and “nationalism” between Sinclair chief political commentator Boris Epshteyn and Sinclair commentator Ameshia Cross.
The episodes attempt to show some balance by including short segments from Sinclair local reporters in different states, and bringing in reporters at national outlets for a segment called “Balls and Strikes” in which Bolling goes over stories of the week (so far, Politico’s Gabby Orr, Time’s Brian Bennett, and The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay have appeared).
America This Week premiered mostly online
The first two full episodes of America This Week were posted on local Sinclair station websites on April 3 and April 10. While initial reporting suggested the show would air on Sinclair news stations across the country weekly, thus far it appears to have been distributed primarily online, with short excerpts aired on TV.
According to the iQ media database, on April 3 and 4, local stations typically aired one (or both) of two short clips from Bolling’s interview with Bannon and then told audiences to head to the station website to see the entire program. The teasers and interview snippets aired on at least 61 Sinclair stations in 29 states and the District of Columbia. A handful of stations told viewers the full program would be broadcast on Sunday nights at a certain time, but iQ media video showed those stations airing different national programming such as Entertainment Tonight or wrestling matches at those times instead.
The America This Week snippets that some local news viewers saw on air last week were these two clips:
Steve Bannon railing against media bias at The New York Times and CNN (as seen here on KEYE in Austin, TX):
Or Steve Bannon discussing a “deep state” and doing word association about himself (as seen here on KTVL in Medford, OR):
The following week, the second episode of the program again was featured on Sinclair station websites and promoted on the air with clips from Bolling’s interview with Nunes. As seen on KBAK in Bakersfield, CA:
The first episode of Bolling's show does not appear to have aired in full on any local news stations -- at least not on any the larger news affiliates that are included in the iQ media database. It is possible the show aired on smaller stations, like CW or MyNetwork affiliates, or on digital-only subchannels, both of which cater to smaller audiences. On April 10, Bolling promoted the show on Twitter, telling users to “check your local listings.” The replies are largely from accounts saying that they couldn’t find the program. The local Washington, D.C., Sinclair station, WJLA, aired Wheel of Fortune during the 7 p.m. hour that night.
Eric Bolling represents the essence of Fox News
For months before the premiere of America This Week, Bolling had been hosting ongoing town hall programming for Sinclair focused on opioids, including one in which he interviewed first lady Melania Trump. He was also beginning to make appearances on other Sinclair national programming as a “political anchor,” and he interviewed both President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on behalf of Sinclair in recent months.
At Fox, Bolling regularly trafficked in the casual misogyny, race-baiting, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and right-wing conspiracy theories that continue to define the network. In his time at Fox:
- Bolling was a major voice pushing the racist birther conspiracy theory about Obama. He even examined Obama’s birth certificate on the air, speculating that the certificate’s border showed it may have been photoshopped.
- He also speculated about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, saying, “There wasn’t a robbery. … This was a hit.”
- Bolling had to apologize for asking if the first female pilot for the United Arab Emirates, who participated in bombing against Islamic State terrorists, “would … be considered boobs on the ground.”
- He whined that allowing young girls to play football was part of “the wussification of American men” and criticized a story of a 9-year-old girl playing football, saying, “Let the boys be boys, let the girls be girls.”
- Bolling told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) that she should “step away from the crack pipe.”
- He lectured “rappers,” saying that they should be happy because white people are “financing their lifestyles” by buying their music.
- Bolling criticized Obama's leadership by claiming the first Black president was “chugging a few 40s” instead of doing his job.
- When Gabonese President Ali Bongo visited the White House during the Obama administration, Bolling characterized it as “a hoodlum in the hizzouse.”
- He has also argued that “there’s no racial aspect of [police] profiling” and said that racism doesn’t exist anymore.
- Bolling argued that “every terrorist on American soil has been a Muslim.”
- Bolling also opposed the proposal to build a Muslim community center near ground zero in New York City, suggesting it could be “a meeting place for some of the scariest minds,” even “some of the biggest terrorist minds.”
Bolling joins other former Fox News personalities who’ve moved to Sinclair
Bolling is one of three former Fox News employees to have landed at Sinclair after leaving the network, all of whom appeared in both episodes so far of America This Week.
Former Fox contributor Sebastian Gorka, an anti-Muslim extremist and Washington, D.C., swamp creature, recently officially became a Sinclair contributor as well. Like Bolling, Gorka had appeared multiple times in Sinclair national news programming beforehand, and he also hosted at least two special programs that aired on Sinclair local news stations. One of these specials, called The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures, featured footage labeled as “ISIS propaganda” and shots of terror attacks followed by Gorka asking viewers, “Can the teachings of Islam and western values ever be reconciled? Is it possible for the waves of refugees arriving in the west to assimilate and coexist peacefully?”
Sinclair investigative reporter James Rosen also joined Sinclair this year; he previously worked as Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent before leaving the network in early 2018 amid reports that he sexually harassed colleagues.
Sinclair’s recent decisions to formally hire multiple ex-Fox News figures and to give one of them a weekly online program signal the media giant’s shift to more openly embracing its reputation as a right-wing outlet. For years, Sinclair flew under the radar and was quietly injecting conservative spin into local news programming -- but now that it’s become more of a household name, it seems to be pivoting even further right.
Before the broadcasting giant began airing Trumpian “must-run” segments warning of media bias last spring, Sinclair stations were already running multiple commentary segments featuring what were clearly right-wing perspectives, producing fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments, and broadcasting weekly shows from conservative conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson and right-wing grifter Armstrong Williams. In recent months, Sinclair finally brought a liberal commentator on board to produce “must-runs” from a different point of view, but the company simultaneously invested in Rosen, Gorka, and Bolling.