Update (10/2/20): Sinclair correspondent Scott Thuman covered Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists during the debate in an October 1 report which began airing around the time this article was published, but still presented it vaguely and failed to mention his comment that the Proud Boys should “stand by.”
President Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacist groups and his call for the violent Proud Boys gang to “stand by” during the first presidential debate of the 2020 election got widespread media coverage -- but the comments were not included in news reports from Sinclair Broadcast Group national correspondents who covered the debate.
During Tuesday’s debate, moderator Chris Wallace repeatedly asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacist groups. After saying, “Sure, I’m prepared to do that,” Trump asked for a specific name and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden mentioned the Proud Boys. Trump responded: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” before changing the topic to “antifa and the left” and claiming that violence “is not a right-wing problem.” (Trump’s own acting Department of Homeland Security secretary has said that white supremacists were the “most persistent and lethal” domestic terror threat.)
But Sinclair national reporters missed a chance to inform viewers about the group, a violent far-right gang with links to white supremacist movements, including the deadly “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. After the debate, the Anti-Defamation League explained that “some Proud Boys members espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups.” The group, which has repeatedly had members convicted of gang violence and sent to prison for violent activity or arrested on charges related to violence, celebrated Trump’s shoutout to them and his call for them to “stand by.”
Even though many news organizations covered Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists and his apparent endorsement of the violent Proud Boys gang, four separate news reports from three of Sinclair’s national correspondents which aired across the country neglected to even mention this alarming behavior.
Sinclair chief political correspondent Scott Thuman reported immediately after the September 29 debate about discussion on Trump’s tax returns, which according to reporting by The New York Times show that he’s paid no federal income tax in 10 of the past 15 years, and the candidates’ differences over the Supreme Court. Thuman’s report, which failed to mention Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacist groups and his order to the Proud Boys to “stand by,” aired on at least 49 Sinclair-owned or -operated stations in 40 states, according to a Kinetiq transcript search.
Thuman had a second report on the debate the following morning in which he led off with the personal attacks between Trump and Biden and also added Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of the presidential election to his report. But the Sinclair chief political correspondent still neglected to cover Trump’s comments on white supremacist groups and the Proud Boys in this report, which aired on at least 26 Sinclair stations in 24 states and Washington, D.C.
Sinclair national correspondent Kristine Frazao also covered the debate on September 30, noting media coverage of the chaotic nature of the debate (due chiefly to Trump’s constant interruptions, which Frazao did not clarify) and reporting that both sides claimed victory afterward. But like her colleague Scott Thuman, Frazao failed to mention Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacist groups in her report, which aired on at least 38 stations in 34 states and Washington, D.C.
And Sinclair national correspondent Ahtra Elnashar followed the trend of her fellow Sinclair reporters in ignoring Trump’s call for the Proud Boys to “stand by” and his refusal to condemn white supremacist organizations. Instead, she covered the candidates’ “stark differences in policy” on the Supreme Court, climate change, and the coronavirus pandemic. Elnashar’s report aired on at least 43 stations in 36 states and Washington, D.C.