Update (7/28/20): Sinclair told CNN it will no longer air Eric Bolling's interview of conspiracy theorist Judy Mikovits, stating: “Given the nature of the theories she presented we believe it is not appropriate to air the interview.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Eric Bolling interviewed Judy Mikovits, the star of the coronavirus conspiracy theory video Plandemic, which was removed in May from some social media sites for its dangerous misinformation about COVID-19, along with her lawyer Larry Klayman for his weekly program America This Week. After Media Matters and other news organizations reported that Bolling failed to adequately push back against claims from his guests, Sinclair announced that it would delay airing that episode, and Bolling told CNN he was not aware of Plandemic before he interviewed his guests. But Bolling himself has made several claims about the pandemic that are similar to themes present in the conspiracy theory video.
In the interview, Mikovits made baseless accusations against the country’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, such as saying that he “manufactured the coronaviruses” and shipped them to Wuhan, China. Klayman announced that they were pursuing some kind of legal action against Fauci and falsely claimed that $3.7 million in government grant money was given to an infectious disease lab in Wuhan -- the amount was actually $600,000, a fact which Bolling failed to mention. (This claim was also made in the debunked Plandemic video.)
After Sinclair initially defended the interview and aired it on one of its stations, the company announced it will “delay this episode’s airing” and “spend the coming days bringing together other viewpoints and provide additional context.” The episode was also deleted from numerous Sinclair stations’ websites without an explanation.
Bolling released a statement, saying, “Admittedly I was caught off guard by some of Dr. Mikovits’ claims. At no point did I agree with her. Further, I brought on another doctor to debunk the theories she espoused. I repeat: I do not agree with Dr. Mikovits.”
But looking at some of the reporting which debunked Plandemic, it’s clear Bolling and his previous guests have made several conspiratorial and misleading claims that are similar to some of the content in that video.
In one example, FactCheck.org reported that Plandemic “makes the unsubstantiated claim that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is ‘the most effective medication to treat’ COVID-19.” Bolling and at least one of his guests have advocated for the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, and he seemingly used his April interview of Fauci as some sort of ‘gotcha’ on the use of the drug.
But as FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, USA Today, The New York Times, and the BBC have noted, there has been little evidence that hydroxychloroquine works in COVID-19 patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency authorization of the drug for COVID-19 after evidence from clinical trials suggested it was ineffective.
Next, according to Science magazine’s fact check of Plandemic, Mikovits’ interviewer in the video said: “If we activate mandatory vaccines globally, I imagine these people stand to make hundreds of billions of dollars that own the vaccines.” On June 23, Bolling made a conspiratorial suggestion that Fauci might profit from any coronavirus vaccine.
FactCheck.org also reported that in the video, Mikovits claimed that “it’s very clear this virus was manipulated” and it underwent “accelerated viral evolution.” Bolling made a similar statement following his interview with Mikovits, in which he said that China “accelerated the virus.” He said virtually the same thing in the June 30 edition of America This Week: “Now personally, I believe we’ll one day find out that the Chinese government accelerated the virus to be more contagious and deadly. That’s just my opinion, hope I’m wrong.” As FactCheck.org noted, “Scientists have said the genetic features of [the coronavirus] indicate it was neither created in a lab nor manipulated.”
Lastly, Science magazine reported that in Plandemic, Mikovits “claims the new coronavirus is being wrongly blamed for many deaths.” On the April 15 edition of America This Week, Bolling brought his personal physician Dr. Colby Grossman on the show to discuss whether COVID-19 deaths were being misclassified. Grossman noted that while he did not personally endorse the theory, some have suggested that death counts are inflated because “if you have more COVID deaths, then you may potentially be able to get more COVID money.” Weeks before that episode, many of Trump’s conservative media allies were also arguing that the coronavirus death toll was being “inflated” because it includes people who died with the disease but also had underlying conditions.
Sinclair Broadcast Group stated on Saturday that Plandemic “has been widely discredited and we as a company do not support the baseless claims” made during Bolling’s interview. Yet Bolling himself has made or seemingly supported some of those very same claims. And as he admitted to CNN, Bolling was entirely clueless about his guest and had seemingly done zero preparation for the interview.
During a time when more than 147,000 Americans have been killed by this deadly pandemic and the past week had a four-day streak of more than 1,000 people again dying of it every single day, Sinclair should not be putting the grave responsibility of communicating information about COVID-19 in the hands of a man who demonstrated he cannot handle it.