Sinclair Broadcast Group national correspondent James Rosen has been producing misleading news packages that air on Sinclair TV stations for months, pushing President Donald Trump’s agenda or defending him from criticism. Sinclair owns or operates hundreds of TV stations throughout the United States, many in battleground states and smaller cities, giving its pro-Trump propaganda a wide reach.
Rosen, who was formerly the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News until his departure in December 2017 amid sexual harassment reports from multiple colleagues, was carrying water for Trump even before he began working at Sinclair in early 2019. In mid-2017, Rosen defended Trump for reportedly disclosing “highly classified information” to the Russian ambassador during a White House meeting. In October 2017, Rosen falsely claimed the federal charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort didn’t extend to his time with the campaign -- and had to correct his inaccurate reporting. And nearly a year after joining Sinclair, Rosen disclosed the name of the man widely believed by right-wing media to be the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint triggered an investigation into Trump’s abuse of power toward Ukraine and led to the president’s subsequent impeachment by the House of Representatives.
Transcript searches showed that Rosen’s news packages were aired on at least 42 Sinclair-owned or -operated TV stations in 35 states, blanketing the nation with pro-Trump propaganda during the election season.
Some of Rosen’s dishonest defenses of Trump fit into a larger pattern of GOP talking points -- like covering for his pandemic mishandling -- while others seem to be isolated incidents. For instance:
- On July 23, Rosen uncritically reported the debunked Trump administration claim that its use of federal police in American cities, called Operation Legend, resulted in 200 arrests in Kansas City, Missouri, in just two weeks. But The Kansas City Star reported on July 22 “that’s not even close to true,” noting that “a senior Department of Justice official on Wednesday corrected comments by Attorney General William Barr, who minutes earlier had said 200 arrests had been made within two weeks in Kansas City as part of Operation Legend, a federal anti-crime effort.” The newspaper continued: “Speaking with McClatchy after the Wednesday event, the senior Justice Department official clarified that the 200 figure included arrests dating back to December 2019. It also included, the official said, both state and FBI arrests in joint operations.” In fact, the newspaper reported, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said only one person had been arrested by federal law enforcement in the city during the operation.
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER): The streets of Chicago have witnessed over 400 Chicagoans murdered, a spike of roughly 50% over last year. Chicago police also face increasing hostility amid protests over racism and police brutality.
Now, President Trump, touting an election year “law and order” message, has announced Operation Legend, a surge into Chicago and other cities of federal officers from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other agencies.
ROSEN: The first theater for Operation Legend was Kansas City, where 200 agents surged in and made, according to federal officials, 200 arrests within two weeks. Next up, Albuquerque, New Mexico, where some 35 federal agents will swoop in to combat a violent crime rate that last year was nearly four times the national average.
- On August 26, Rosen erased Trump’s many actions that have harmed LGBTQ Americans. In a report Rosen aired for Sinclair previewing the third night of the Republican National Convention, he closed by noting without pushback that Trump’s former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, Ric Grenell, “is expected to make the case, as he has elsewhere, that Mr. Trump is the most pro-LGBTQ president in history.” Media Matters’ Brianna January has previously documented Grenell’s efforts to whitewash the many actions and policies Trump has done to harm LGBTQ Americans, including advocating for anti-LGBTQ policies during his 2016 campaign; implementing rules that codified discrimination against LGBTQ Americans in health care, housing, adoption, and foster care; rescinding Obama-era guidance to protect trans students from discrimination and bullying in school; and many, many more.
Many of Rosen's Sinclair news packages aired misinformation in support of Trump on the pandemic, foreign policy, and Russia:
Rosen has repeatedly covered for President Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER): Defense Secretary Mark Esper called on China Thursday to release more information about the origins of coronavirus, signaling in an interview with NBC News that even the current state of the disease in that country remains difficult to assess.
ROSEN: The comments followed an explosive Washington Post story which reported this week that State Department officials had warned in overseas cables in 2018 about allegedly unsafe practices in the Wuhan laboratory where Chinese scientists worked with bats in the study of infectious diseases.
America’s top diplomat refused to rule out that the laboratory may have played some role in how the coronavirus outbreak began.
MIKE POMPEO (SECRETARY OF STATE): We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There’s still lots to learn. You should know that the United States government is working diligently to figure this out.
ROSEN: The final determination as to what caused the outbreak will likely factor heavily into the measures the U.S. eventually takes, if any, to impose consequences on China after the pandemic recedes.
- In an April 24 report, Rosen attempted to justify Trump’s bizarre boast that “statistically, we're doing phenomenally, in terms of mortality, in terms of all of the different elements that you can judge.” In his report, Rosen failed to even mention a crucial fact about the U.S. death toll: Almost two weeks prior, the U.S. surpassed all other countries in confirmed COVID-19 deaths. It’s even more false now with the U.S. death toll exceeding 210,000.
- In a June 19 report, Rosen included a quote from Health and Human Services spokesperson and Trump loyalist Michael Caputo in which he falsely claimed that “we never had a backlog of tests in this country.” In fact, multiple reports from the early months of the pandemic had covered huge testing backlogs throughout the United States. (Caputo took a leave of absence from HHS last month “after a social media tirade in which he falsely accused government scientists of engaging in ‘sedition.’”)
- In a July 31 report, Rosen suggested former President Barack Obama was unfairly criticizing Trump for his objectively horrible handling of the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. Rosen suggested it's unfair that Obama said Trump responded poorly and politically to the coronavirus pandemic -- but Trump’s failures during the coronavirus pandemic are well-documented, and reporting published the day before Rosen’s report began airing suggested that the Trump administration deliberately let the coronavirus impact Democratic-led states harder. He also suggested Obama’s criticism of Trump for sending federal personnel to attack protesters was beyond the pale, but ignored Trump baselessly accusing Obama of treason in June.
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER): Theirs is almost certainly the nastiest presidential rivalry in American history. The 45th occupant of the Oval Office not only campaigned against the legacy of his predecessor, as is common practice, but has since used the bully pulpit of the presidency to attack Barack Obama in unusually blunt terms.
DONALD TRUMP: The Obama administration was a disaster. He was an incompetent president.
ROSEN: The 44th president, known for eloquent oratory, has been less direct in his criticism of his successor, but has hardly been shy about taking potshots at Mr. Trump, including these veiled remarks in a eulogy for John Lewis on Thursday, in which he likened the incumbent to one of the 20th century’s most notorious racists.
BARACK OBAMA: George Wallace may be gone. But we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.
ROSEN: And in a conference call with former aides in May leaked to Yahoo News, Mr. Obama charged that President Trump has responded to the coronavirus with the attitude of, “What’s in it for me?”
OBAMA: It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster.
- On August 2, Rosen pushed Trump’s blame for Democrats for not passing more coronavirus relief without noting that House Democrats passed a bill for this months earlier. In fact, House Democrats passed a comprehensive relief package all the way back in May, known as the HEROES Act. The House also passed The Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act in June, spun off from the HEROES Act, which provides a $75 billion relief fund for homeowners and extends an eviction and foreclosure moratorium through March 2021.
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER): President Trump returned to the White House from a Virginia golf outing Sunday afternoon without even the rudimentary outlines of a deal with congressional Democrats in place to extend unemployment benefits and provide other relief funds as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on.
ROSEN: President Trump blames House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for rejecting the various proposals he has put forward.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Democrats view this as a political thing. They view it for November 3, and we don’t do it that way, we’re doing the right thing. So we want to get the money out, it’s a lot of money, and we want to get it done.
ROSEN: Pelosi, however, pointed out that the White House and GOP lawmakers have disagreed among themselves over whether to extend the $600 a week in jobless benefits that had helped sustain an estimated 30 million Americans, and which expired on Friday.
SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We are unified in our support for the $600. They are in disarray on -- many of their members in the Senate, Republican members, don’t want any addition.
ROSEN: Still, Pelosi and Schumer insist on bundling the unemployment insurance with other items that are complete nonstarters for the Republicans.
STEVE MNUCHIN (TREASURY SECRETARY): The Democrats right now are insisting on over a trillion dollars to the state and local governments. That’s something that we’re not going to do, to bail out those states that had financial issues. Mark Meadows and I will be back there every day until we reach an agreement.
- On September 8, Rosen made false claims to make Trump and Senate Republicans’ actions on unemployment insurance payments during the pandemic look better. In his report, Rosen claimed “both sides want to renew unemployment benefits that expired at the end of July.” He added, “President Trump issued an executive order directing such payments at 70% of wages, capped at $600. And some states are complying.” But Rosen got the amounts wrong: Trump’s executive order capped unemployment payments at $400 per week, and also forces cash-strapped states to foot 25% of the bill and takes money away from FEMA’s disaster relief money -- details Rosen neglected to report. The Senate GOP bill also offered only half of the unemployment benefits that lapsed in July, $300 per week. In addition, Rosen noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wanted Republicans and Trump to agree to more aid, but failed to mention that the Democratic-controlled House passed a bill renewing the lapsed jobless benefits and including this aid months ago.
Rosen has also covered for Trump’s foreign policy failures, glossed over corruption at the State Department, and embellished his Middle East record
- In a June 22 report, Rosen dishonestly pushed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s smears against fired Inspector General Steve Linick. In his segment for Sinclair, Rosen failed to mention Pompeo’s notable role in Linick’s firing -- asking the president to fire Linick while the inspector general was investigating Pompeo himself for misconduct, a possibly illegal act of retaliation.
- In a June 24 report, Rosen left out an Al Qaeda attack in Florida while covering the Trump administration’s claims of success against the terror organization. Rosen covered the State Department’s annual country report on international terrorism, saying that the Trump administration had “claimed major strides” in the fight against international terrorist organizations. But he failed to mention that the December 2019 shooting at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, where three U.S. sailors were killed, was labeled an act of terrorism by the attorney general in January. In May, the FBI and the Justice Department announced that the attack was linked to Al Qaeda, and the killer, as CNN reported, “was a longtime associate of al Qaeda who had communicated with operatives from the group as recently as the night before the shooting.” FBI Director Christopher Wray said the attack “was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation by a longtime [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] associate.” Rosen’s failure to mention this Al Qaeda-linked attack while hyping the administration’s successes against ISIS potentially misled viewers into thinking that Trump’s mess of anti-terrorism policies have been successful.
- On July 30, Rosen uncritically repeated the false reason Trump gave for withdrawing thousands of U.S. troops from Germany, which he has long lied about. Rosen reported that Trump linked the move to “Berlin's failure to meet spending requirements for the NATO military alliance.” However, Reuters reported in November that Germany was on track to meet the agreed-upon spending target by 2031. This is later than the 2024 deadline agreed to, but as Agence France-Presse reported, some of the countries Trump is sending the withdrawn troops to spend even less on defense than Germany. Rosen also hid the specific details of Trump’s reasoning, which included: “Germany’s delinquent. They haven’t paid their fees. They haven’t paid their NATO fees.” Trump’s repeated claims that Germany is somehow “delinquent,” owes the U.S. money, pays “fees” into NATO, etc. are false.
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER): In his first appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 15 months, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, facing sharp questioning by the panel's Democrats, defended President Trump's order this week to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, a move the commander-in-chief has linked to Berlin's failure to meet spending requirements for the NATO military alliance.
MIKE POMPEO (SECRETARY OF STATE): This is personal for me. I fought on the border of East Germany. When I was a young soldier, I was stationed there.
ROSEN: When asked about President Trump's statement on Tuesday to the news outlet Axios on HBO that he has not raised with Russia's President Vladimir Putin recent intelligence suggesting that Moscow has paid bounties on the head of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Pompeo answered without saying whether those reports are true or not.
POMPEO: Make no mistake about it, every single threat to our soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, we have raised this with our Russian counterparts not only at my level, but Ambassador Sullivan and every one of our team that interacts with the Russians.
- On August 18, Rosen misled viewers about the effects of the Trump administration-brokered deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, suggesting it included a permanent end to Israel’s plans to annex the West Bank. In a segment that included an interview the Sinclair correspondent conducted with Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, whom he labeled the architect of the deal, Rosen said that in order to secure the deal, Israel “abandoned plans to annex parts of the Palestinian West Bank.” But nearly a week before Rosen’s segment, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself said in a televised address about the agreement that Israel merely had to “temporarily wait” to annex the West Bank to secure the deal.
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER): As a senior White House adviser with a sweeping policy portfolio and the husband of Ivanka Trump -- the president’s daughter, herself a White House adviser -- Jared Kushner is often described as the second most powerful man in Washington.
And it was Kushner who ran point on Thursday’s historic announcement of a U.S.-brokered peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the first time any Persian Gulf nation has agreed to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state -- the first such move by any Arab state since Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994.
To secure the deal, known as the Abraham Accords, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abandoned plans to annex parts of the Palestinian West Bank. But the deal did not involve a traditional land for peace swap, held for decades as Israel's only path to normalize ties with the Arab world.
- In a September 9 report on Trump’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, Rosen credulously cited the Trump administration’s actions that brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran as one of his positive accomplishments. After reporting that a right-wing Norwegian politician nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize, Rosen uncritically repeated the administration’s claims that his accomplishments include “withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the killing of Iranian terror chief Qasem Soleimani.” But Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general brought the United States to the brink of war and led to military retaliation from Iran that caused injuries to more than 100 U.S. military personnel -- which Trump lied about. Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has also been an absolute failure. Rosen failed to mention any of these or other critical details of Trump’s actions in the Middle East.
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER): Buffeted by bad poll numbers less than two months before election day, forced on the defensive for the last week by the Atlantic magazine story that claimed the commander-in-chief privately referred to fallen American soldiers as suckers and losers -- a charge he and his aides have strenuously denied -- a beleaguered President Trump received a bit of good news overnight, in the form of right-wing Norwegian lawmaker Christian Tybring-Gjedde, who has nominated Mr. Trump for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
ROSEN: The nomination specifically cited the president’s central role in brokering last month’s announcement of normalized diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN (CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES): It's a step forward, but a relatively minor one. UAE has long been affiliated, had ties, to people in the Israeli government. I mean, I can remember meeting Israeli officials in the UAE at the airport.
ROSEN: The White House says the Israel/UAE accord materialized only because of President Trump's record in the Mideast, including withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the killing of Iranian terror chief Qasem Soleimani, action against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and the final destruction of ISIS. And most meaningfully, according to senior adviser Jared Kushner, the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as previous presidents had promised but failed to do.
ROSEN: Few observers of the political scene in Europe where the Nobel prizes are evaluated and awarded believe that President Trump, whose attacks on the NATO alliance has frayed America's transatlantic relationships, will actually receive the award. But if he does win he won't learn that news until October of next year.
- On September 11, Rosen misled about Trump’s record on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming he fulfilled a campaign promise to end them. PolitiFact determined that, in fact, the wars were still ongoing and “the U.S. presence in the region hasn’t significantly slimmed under Trump.” And while Rosen highlighted Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s vote to authorize the Iraq war started by President George W. Bush, he ignored Trump’s past support for that war, which many fact-checkers have noted he regularly lied about.
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT): The American wars that ensued in Afghanistan and then in Iraq led to enduring military deployments that President Trump has largely, though not entirely, drawn down, fulfilling a 2016 campaign promise he renewed in his bid for reelection this summer.
DONALD TRUMP: And keep America out of endless and costly foreign wars.
ROSEN: Former Vice President Biden, who voted for the Iraq War as a senator, has said in this cycle that he reversed that position as soon as the invasion began. In fact, Mr. Biden remained a supporter of the war, albeit as a frequent critic for many months.
JOE BIDEN: And I would vote that way again today.
ROSEN: Today, the Democratic nominee says he supports, quote, “a small footprint for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.”
Rosen covered for Trump’s inaction against Russian aggression
- In a June 29 report, Rosen began helping Trump dismiss reporting that Russia paid bounties to Taliban fighters to kill American troops in Afghanistan. In his report, Rosen quoted a Republican lawmaker calling reporting on Russia paying the Taliban bounties to kill American troops “‘fake news,’ part of a long-standing effort to portray President Trump as weak in the face of Russian aggressions.”
- On June 30, Rosen continued pushing the Republican narrative that Democrats were interested in the Russian bounty reports only because of Trump’s friendly relationship with Russia’s leader. Rosen also quoted Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe criticizing news organizations for reporting on the intelligence claims.
- On July 1, Rosen went even further in helping Trump dismiss this story. In his report, Rosen quoted an anonymous White House official calling the information reported in the first Times story about Russia paying bounties for the deaths of U.S. troops in Afghanistan “junk intelligence” and emphasizing that the leak was a crime.
- On July 20, Rosen aired a story focusing on documents released by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to cast doubt on the Trump-Russia narrative, including Graham’s suggestion that crimes were committed by the investigators and a quote from a Judicial Watch rep that it’s “phony.” But Rosen left out information that Trump team members were in contact with Russian government officials.
JAMES ROSEN (SINCLAIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER): Among the documents released by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is a set of typed annotations to a 2017 New York Times article made by Peter Strzok, in which Strzok -- then a top FBI official -- refuted the paper’s allegation that phone records and signals intelligence had captured evidence of contacts between Trump campaign personnel and Russian intelligence. “We have not seen evidence,” Strzok noted, “of any individuals affiliated with the Trump team in contact with IOs,” meaning intelligence organizations.
CHRIS FARRELL (JUDICIAL WATCH RESEARCH DIRECTOR): It’s an FBI record, it’s their documentation knocking down this phony story about Trump-Russia collusion. They knew then that it wasn’t true.
ROSEN: Sen. Graham said these documents should place some individuals in legal jeopardy, a reference to the criminal probe being led by U.S. Attorney John Durham. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, had no comment. But congressional Democrats say these disclosures do not change the fact that the Trump campaign welcomed Russian interference in 2016.