As the nation reckons with police targeting Black Americans in the wake of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor killings, Sinclair Broadcast Group is giving platforms to two former Fox hosts who have made numerous previous anti-Black, pro-police remarks and who are undermining the ongoing protests.
Eric Bolling, host of Sinclair weekly news talk show America This Week, and Bill O’Reilly, host of No Spin News — which now airs on a handful of streaming platforms, including Sinclair’s streaming platform STIRR — have both called for a crackdown on the protests taking place across the country. Rather than meaningfully engage with the issue of police brutality, Bolling and O’Reilly have instead attempted to scare their audiences with fearmongering and misinformation.
Both figures have long histories of racist — and specifically anti-Black — rhetoric
O’Reilly’s and Bolling’s media careers have followed similar arcs. Both were hosts at Fox News before being forced out after reports of sexual harassment. O’Reilly left the network in 2017 after multiple sexual harassment settlements came to light, and Bolling left the same year after there were reports that he sent unsolicited images of genitalia to coworkers. Now, both hosts are using Sinclair platforms in some fashion to stage comebacks.
The two men are poor commentators on issues of race, given their lengthy history of anti-Black remarks while at Fox. A vocal supporter of birtherism, Bolling once examined President Barack Obama’s birth certificate on-air at Fox Business. The host also suggested that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) “step away from the crack pipe” and once claimed that “there is no racial aspect of [police] profiling.” Bolling made headlines multiple times for trafficking in racial stereotypes when discussing the actions of Obama and other high-profile Black political leaders.
O’Reilly has also directed racist insults at Waters, once referring to her hair as a “James Brown wig,” and he also stated that slaves who built the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government,” among other ignorant and racist statements.
O'Reilly has responded to the current protests by attacking Black Lives Matter
In his recent commentary on the protests, O’Reilly has downplayed systemic racism in the United States and the ways in which it plagues police forces. On June 3, O’Reilly cited an op-ed by right-wing commentator Heather Mac Donald to argue that “there is no epidemic of police hunting down Blacks and killing them. Doesn’t exist; it’s never existed,” although he acknowledged, “There are bad police officers.”
O’Reilly has also attacked Black Lives Matter, a movement he once compared to the KKK while at Fox. In an appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show on June 3, O’Reilly claimed that celebrities who support the Black Lives Matter movement are supporting “anarchy.” O’Reilly also called on his audience to “fight back” by boycotting companies and celebrities who support the movement, and he even suggested that fans should boycott the Sacramento Kings after an announcer was forced out for tweeting “All Lives Matter.”
Bolling has fearmongered about “antifa” activity and pushed debunked theories about the protests
Bolling has spread misinformation about the protests on both America This Week and social media. In particular, Bolling has exaggerated the role “antifa” -- anti-fascists activists -- have played in sporadic violence at some protests despite a lack of evidence. In an interview with professor and activist Marc Lamont Hill, Bolling suggested that the “antifa crowd, the antagonist groups” are “overtaking” the message of peaceful protesters. Later in the same show, Bolling discussed antifa with former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland and implied that “pallets of bricks” were being staged for protesters, a theory which was later debunked. In a tweet, Bolling alluded to another conspiracy theory that billionaire philanthropist George Soros has helped organize the protests.
Both Bolling and O'Reilly have advocated for a more violent crackdown on protests
Bolling and O’Reilly have been united in calling for a more violent response to protesters. On America This Week, Bolling said, “I believe it is the Second Amendment that ultimately ends the violent rampages in America. Gun ownership is the great equalizer when matters get too hot for police and politicians.” Meanwhile, O’Reilly has repeatedly called to bring in the National Guard.
Both hosts also defended the tear-gassing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square ahead of President Donald Trump’s photo-op in front of St. John’s Church. O’Reilly mocked concern about the use of tear gas, saying he had “no problem with that” and “if you’re asked to get out of the way so a president can be safe, you get out of the way.” In an interview with former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Bolling said: “I keep hearing this peaceful protest crap. … At some point you have to say enough is enough, … and you put the protest down. That’s just the way it has to work in America.”
At a time when many Americans are pushing for change, Sinclair has chosen to elevate two hosts with a history of anti-Black and pro-militarized police commentary to present a purposely distorted interpretation of the ongoing protests -- and in some cases, outright misinformation.