A nationally aired Sinclair Broadcast Group news package attempted to fault “both sides” of the political aisle for politicizing a potential coronavirus vaccine. The misleading segment has already aired on more than 40 Sinclair stations in dozens of states across the country.
President Donald Trump has been claiming as recently as this week that a vaccine may be ready to deploy before Election Day, a time frame that experts say is highly unlikely to be met, concerning for public health, and seemingly designed to appeal to voters rather than to produce an effective treatment. Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris has echoed these concerns, saying any announcement, “would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of” a potential vaccine instead of relying solely on Trump's frequently false claims.
Yet Sinclair correspondent Ahtra Elnashar claimed that both Trump and the Democratic presidential ticket are “looking to score political points” over the timing of a vaccine release-- failing to mention that the Democrats’ points simply align with scientific consensus while Trump’s do not.
According to a transcript search of the Kinetiq video database, the news segment aired on at least 44 Sinclair stations in at least 36 states beginning on September 8.
Despite the president's claims, a vaccine is not expected to be ready for distribution until 2021, even if the companies working on developing one do complete Phase 3 testing in November.
Trump has a history of spreading misinformation about coronavirus treatments. He pushed the drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive and cure for months even though scientists were unable to replicate the French study that created the hydroxychloroquine craze. Trump also pressured the Food and Drug Administration to speed up the approval of convalescent plasma as a treatment, despite experts' objections about its effectiveness. And the Trump administration has installed COVID-19 conspiracy theorists as top communications officials at the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
But Elnashar’s news segment does not present any of this evidence to question the president’s claim that a vaccine will be ready by the election. Instead, after stating that “both sides" are "looking to score political points on the timing” the piece plays a clip of Trump mocking his opponents by saying they’re criticizing the vaccine effort because he’s “pulled this off.” Elnashar claimed Trump “is optimistic” about rapid progress on a vaccine while Harris is skeptical.
Elnashar also noted that nine pharmaceutical companies reassured the public that a vaccine will be safe and fully tested before distribution, but she didn’t mention a likely factor in why they did that: The president was undermining already tenuous confidence in the potential vaccine.
This piece fits Sinclair’s history of omitting aspects of a story inconvenient to the president in its nationally syndicated news packages. So far in 2020, Sinclair has repeatedly ignored Trump’s efforts to undermine the Postal Service when covering mail-in voting, failed to mention the right-wing gunman who killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, when reporting on protests there, and omitted the president’s history of sabotaging immigration reform in a report on the border wall.