In the days before the Supreme Court rejected the latest effort by outgoing President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the election, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s national correspondents had been dutifully reporting on his failed attempts. But their reports failed to mention a dangerous consequence of this ongoing challenge to democracy: Threats made to election officials and state lawmakers in the swing states where Trump concentrated his legal efforts.
On December 2, NBC News reported on threats of violence against election officials in multiple states, leading off with the viral video of Georgia Republican Gabriel Sterling begging Trump to stop inciting violent threats. The NBC report also mentioned that secretaries of state in Arizona and Nevada had faced serious threats and had turned them over to law enforcement officials. It also noted that “the Detroit News reported that a self-proclaimed Trump supporter interrupted a Zoom meeting and threatened to rape the mothers of election officials.”
A December 6 NBC article reported that “dozens of armed people gathered outside Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's home over the weekend ‘shouting obscenities’ and threatening violence in an effort to overturn the presidential election results in the state,” according to Benson.
And on December 8, The New York Times reported on threats levied at state lawmakers in some of these swing states. According to the article, one Michigan state representative received “racist death threats” in her voicemail. The chairperson of the Wisconsin Elections Commission has had to warn neighbors and police about “the constant threats” being sent her way, which include photos of her home and a message mentioning her children. Two Democratic state representatives in Pennsylvania said they and Republican colleagues have received threats. And one Democratic state representative in Michigan said he had “sent more than 20 death threats to the House sergeants to look into.”
But Sinclair national correspondents didn’t mention any of these, or other, violent threats in the past week as they covered Trump’s attempts to subvert our democracy and overturn the election. All of these segments aired on dozens of local TV news stations owned or operated by Sinclair, including in some states where officials are facing violent threats by apparent Trump supporters.
- On December 7, Sinclair national correspondent Ahtra Elnashar reported on an anti-democracy Trump rally in Georgia, that state’s recertification of the vote for President-elect Joe Biden, and Georgia and Michigan courts’ rejections of pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell’s lawsuit to overturn the election. But she failed to mention any of the threats faced by lawmakers and election officials in Georgia or elsewhere.
- On December 8, Elnashar reported on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit to overturn the election results in multiple swing states, which the Supreme Court later declined to hear. While she did mention the responses from the attorneys general of the four states the lawsuit targeted, all of whom ridiculed it, she again failed to mention the threats of violence resulting from this ongoing effort by Trump and his allies to overturn the election results.
- On December 10, Sinclair chief political correspondent Scott Thuman reported on Trump’s meeting with multiple state attorneys general about supporting Paxton’s doomed lawsuit to overturn the election. Thuman’s report mentioned that House Republicans started signing on to support the lawsuit and that Trump and his allies have lost dozens of court cases, but he never mentioned any of the threats faced by state lawmakers and election officials.
- And on December 11, hours before the Supreme Court rejected Paxton’s lawsuit, Elnashar reported that more than 120 House Republicans had signed on in support of the lawsuit while some Republican lawmakers were critical of the effort to overturn the election. Though she quoted Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) saying that “the Republican Party is in fear” of defying Trump, she once again failed to mention any of the specific threats against state lawmakers and election officials.
On December 14, the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr asking the Department of Justice to “investigate the multiple serious incidents of threats and intimidation directed at election officials” that have emerged since the election. She is also introducing legislation to increase criminal penalties for intimidation of election officials and poll workers.
There is no excuse for Sinclair’s national news team to keep viewers in the dark about this sad, frightening topic.