Local Montana station KECI has not aired the audio recording of Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. The station is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the country’s largest operator of local television stations.
HuffPost first reported the lack of coverage from KECI on May 25 following widespread condemnation of Gianforte’s actions. KECI belongs to Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a pro-GOP media conglomerate that has a long history of relying exclusively on conservative leaning reporting and commentary. Sinclair recently entered into an agreement to purchase Tribune Media Group, which owns 42 television stations in 33 markets. Sinclair’s reporting has heavily favored Donald Trump and recently hired one of his former aides as a political analyst. From the May 25 HuffPost report:
If Montana residents tuned into the local news Wednesday night on NBC affiliate KECI, they wouldn’t have heard an audio recording of Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte attacking Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, even as it got widespread airplay on national television and online.
“NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from independent, reliable sources, officials and documents, regardless of what is reported by other media outlets,” anchor Laurel Staples explained to the 10 p.m. audience. (A similar statement appeared in KECI’s online reports).
Earlier that evening, The Guardian posted a recording in which Jacobs is heard asking Gianforte a question about health care policy right before the candidate snaps. Jacobs’ recording, which contradicted claims by Gianforte’s campaign that the “liberal journalist” was the aggressor, quickly became a key part of the unfolding story.
Before the night was over, Gianforte ― squaring off Thursday against Democrat Rob Quist in a special House election ― had been charged with misdemeanor assault.
KECI’s coverage ― or lack thereof ― drew attention on Twitter in part because the station was recently bought by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has a history of boosting Republican candidates. The conservative-leaning media company owns 173 outlets nationwide and is poised to add dozens.