Local Sinclair journalists share concerns with CNN after Sinclair forces them to spread pro-Trump propaganda

CNN recently obtained internal documents sent to local Sinclair TV stations requiring them to run 60- to 75-second promos that attack mainstream media outlets. Sinclair journalists shared concerns with CNN, calling the promo requirements “inappropriate” and “manipulative.” An internal document calls for one or two anchors at each local station to criticize national media outlets for allegedly pushing “fake stories” and “personal bias.” One Sinclair anchor said, “I felt like a POW recording a message.”

These promos are Sinclair’s latest attempt to sneak pro-Trump messaging into local media outlets. In April, Sinclair hired Boris Epshteyn, a former aide to President Donald Trump, and began producing must-run segments for local stations called “Bottom Line with Boris” in which Epshteyn espouses conservative commentary bolstering the president. Epshteyn has used the segments to go after mainstream media before, and he frequently uses his airtime to defend Trump’s comments and actions.  

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s owners have strong ties to the Republican Party, and many Sinclair executives have a history of donating to Republicans and conservative causes. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Trump campaign coordinated with Sinclair for kinder media coverage. And in a 2017 segment, Sinclair’s vice president for news, Scott Livingston, accused mainstream media of “using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think” -- the exact phrase now included in Sinclair’s planned promos, which are supposed to start airing this month.

From CNN’s March 7 report:

“Please produce the attached scripts exactly as they are written,” the instructions say. “This copy has been thoroughly tested and speaks to our Journalistic Responsibility as advocates to seek the truth on behalf of the audience.”

The promos begin with one or two anchors introducing themselves and saying “I'm [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I'm [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”

Then the media bashing begins.

“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” the script says. “More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think' ... This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

Then the anchors are supposed to strike a more positive tone and say that their local station pursues the truth. “We understand Truth is neither politically 'left or right.' Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”