Two reports from Sinclair Broadcast Group covering the Trump administration’s deployment of federal personnel to Portland, Oregon, failed to mention that a federal agent shot a protester in the head with a projectile or that protesters were abducted in unmarked vehicles. The first report aired a day after a video of one of the abductions had been aired three times by a local station, and the second report aired days after news organizations around the country began reporting on these acts.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that on the night of July 11, U.S. marshals “shot and severely injured a protester” in the head with “what friends and witnesses said was an impact munition.” Graphic video of the incident shows victim Donavan LaBella collapsing to the ground after the federal personnel opened fire near a courthouse. The shot reportedly fractured LaBella’s face and skull, requiring surgery.
Oregon Public Broadcasting also reported on July 16 that federal personnel “have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.”
Portland-based CBS affiliate KOIN covered one of the federal abductions of the protesters into unmarked vehicles on July 15.
Two protesters, Mark Pettibone and Conner O’Shea, told Oregon Public Broadcasting some people warned them about people in camouflage driving around the city in unmarked vehicles and grabbing people. Soon after, one of the unmarked vehicles pulled up to them and people wearing camouflage jumped out. O’Shea managed to run and hide, while Pettibone said he was grabbed and “tossed into the van” and that his abductors used his hat to blindfold him. He was then taken to a courthouse, where he was read his rights, put into a cell, and asked to answer some questions. When he declined, he was released about 90 minutes later with no record of his arrest. Pettibone later told The Washington Post that “he did not know whether the men were police or far-right extremists, who frequently don military-like outfits and harass left-leaning protesters in Portland.”
Oregon civil rights attorney Juan Chavez told Oregon Public Broadcasting the federal abductions into unmarked vehicles are “terrifying” and “like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay,” adding, “It sounds more like abduction. It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets.” Another civil rights attorney, Ashlee Albies with the National Lawyers Guild, said of the reported detentions: “I would be surprised to see that pulling up in an unmarked van, grabbing people off the street is an acceptable policy for a criminal investigation.” Jann Carson of Oregon’s ACLU chapter told The Washington Post these actions are “flat-out unconstitutional” and added: “Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street, we call it kidnapping. … Protesters in Portland have been shot in the head, swept away in unmarked cars, and repeatedly tear-gassed by uninvited and unwelcome federal agents.”
But none of this information about the shooting or the abductions was included in two reports by Sinclair national correspondent Kristine Frazao highlighting Trump’s deployment of federal personnel to Portland. The first report aired on Sinclair stations at approximately the same time Oregon Public Broadcasting’s report on the abductions was published and a day after KOIN reported on it. But when Frazao’s report aired in Portland on Sinclair-owned KATU the next morning, it was still not updated to include the information about the abductions. This report aired on at least 47 Sinclair-owned or -operated stations in 31 states, including in Oregon, according to a Kinetiq transcript search.
A second report from Frazao which also focused on Trump sending federal personnel to Portland similarly failed to mention the brutal and terrifying acts they committed. This report began airing on July 20, several days after the abductions were being reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Washington Post, and others, and aired on at least 45 Sinclair stations in 33 states.
This isn’t the first time Sinclair Broadcast Group or Frazao have failed to adequately cover police violence against protesters. Between May 29 and June 1, seven individual segments from Frazao and another Sinclair correspondent, Scott Thuman, reported on the protests that began after the police killing of George Floyd but failed to mention any of the violence police officers were committing against protesters. In early June, a Sinclair America This Week panel discussion on the protests featured pro-Trump commentator Sebastian Gorka telling Black panelist Ameshia Cross that “Martin Luther King would be horrified” that she was defending the protests. In mid-June, Frazao pushed the mythical “Ferguson effect,” a long-debunked myth from conservatives that increased scrutiny of police use of force is linked to increased violence against police officers and/or increased crime in general. Also in June, Sinclair investigative reporter James Rosen downplayed police slayings of Black Americans and invoked the racist “Black-on-Black” crime canard.
There are more examples of Sinclair airing misleading coverage of the protests; some of its figures have even advocated a more violent crackdown on protesters. And these reports don't just air once on a TV channel or station. Instead, they're disseminated nationwide to dozens of local television stations on a regular basis. And now with Frazao’s omissions in her recent reporting, many viewers may never learn that federal agents shot a protester in the head and abducted at least one more.