Local television news giant Sinclair Broadcast Group has been making headlines in recent weeks as it seeks to both double down on its requirement that its stations run mandated conservative commentary segments and vastly expand its reach into new major cities across the United States.
Plenty of recent major profiles of Sinclair have discussed its unusual tactic of designating certain conservative commentary segments it produces in its national studios as “must-runs,” meaning that every Sinclair-owned local television news station -- all 173, across 33 states and the District of Columbia -- is required to air them. The Sinclair brand has been openly right-wing for decades, causing controversy when executives similarly mandated the airing of an anti-John Kerry documentary and chose not to run a Nightline episode they viewed as critical of George W. Bush in the early 2000s.
The latest Sinclair profiles often focus on the “Bottom Line with Boris” segments starring former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn, who is now employed as Sinclair’s chief political analyst. Epshteyn has been producing 60- to 90-second commentary segments several times a week since Sinclair hired him in April. Last month, Sinclair announced it would be upping Epshteyn’s segments from airing three times per week to nine.
Anchors at individual local news stations owned by Sinclair are seemingly not required to introduce the segments in any particular way before running them; in fact, employees at at least one station have said they try to run the segments along with commercials “so they blend in with paid spots.” The on-air segments themselves have no built-in disclosure that Epshteyn was until recently employed by the same White House he now regularly lavishes with on-air praise (online versions of his commentary note his White House connection). Viewers also might not know that Sinclair’s efforts to expand to new cities across the country and corner the markets in mid-sized cities in battleground states are possible only because of the deregulatory efforts of the administration Epshteyn loves so dearly.
Sinclair is empowering Epshteyn to broadcast regular segments effusively praising his former employer to local TV news viewers across the country who aren’t signing up to watch garbled propaganda every evening. His segments often seem to lazily tow the administration’s line on a given news story, when they bother to address a story at all -- sometimes his segments are glaringly focused on subjects that have nothing to do with whatever embarrassing headlines Trump is making that day.
There are a few key examples of Epshteyn’s propaganda you may have already seen, like the video from June in which he mirrored the Trump administration’s war on the press by declaring the White House press briefing “a circus and a distraction,” or last weekend’s jaw-droppingly ill-timed defense of 10-day White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
But these aren’t isolated examples. Here are five other “Bottom Line with Boris” segments that your aunt in Cedar Rapids may have unwittingly watched. Judge for yourself.
Trump’s trade policies are good and so is “America first” as a slogan!
From the beginning of the segment:
America first. That has been President Trump’s slogan since the campaign, and it continues to be the mantra of the administration when it comes to international trade. What does an “America First” trade policy mean? It means fair trade, smart trade, taking a hard line with our trading partners, including our closest allies.
CNN is biased against Trump!
In Epshteyn’s June 28 “Bottom Line with Boris” segment, he focused on echoing Trump’s talking points casting CNN as biased and pushing a highly misleading (and embarrassing) video of a CNN medical producer discussing the network’s political coverage from right-wing video artist James O’Keefe.
Epshteyn concluded that CNN was “struggling” to report on the facts writ large:
It’s also important to further focus on CNN’s digital presence. The network’s website is supposed to be delivering news. However, it is dominated by opinion-based headlines and articles with more commentary than impartial fact. The bottom line is this: CNN, along with other cable news networks, is struggling to stick to the facts and to be impartial in covering politics in general and this president specifically.
States should cooperate with Trump’s “voter fraud” commission!
In Epshteyn’s July 5 “Bottom Line with Boris” segment, he encouraged states to cooperate with the Trump administration’s bogus voter fraud commission, which experts have said could actually be used to suppress legal votes.
The extent of voter fraud in our elections has been hotly debated between the left and the right. The president's commission has been established to come up with a factual, impartial answer to that question. The states should do everything within their power to cooperate with the commission, and that’s the bottom line.
Trump's Department of Veteran Affairs is crushing it!
In Epshteyn’s July 11 “Bottom Line with Boris” segment, he celebrated the Department of Veteran Affairs’ report that it had fired numerous employees, declaring that Trump was “not wasting any time cleaning up the department” and was “delivering on those campaign promises.”
The president made veterans issues a focal point of his campaign and his administration is now delivering on those campaign promises. We have to honor our veterans. We owe them proper treatment. Both the structure and substance of care of our veterans have to improve dramatically. The VA is unquestionably taking steps in the right direction. The bottom line is as long as Secretary [David] Shulkin and his department continue down this road, the VA will regain the trust of the American people and our veterans will receive the care they duly deserve.
Don’t trust any national media to report on James Comey!
In Epshteyn’s June 11 “Bottom Line with Boris” segment, he covered former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before Congress on June 9. Epshteyn’s commentary did not focus on the substance of the hearing, but rather on three aspects Epshteyn says the “national media” failed to cover, including its own “inaccurate” reporting on Russia.
Epshteyn’s concluded that viewers “learned much more about the president’s opponents and his critics” during the hearing than about anything related to Trump. OK.