Sinclair Broadcast Group is boosting President Donald Trump’s effort to smear Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by weaponizing the past business endeavors of his son Hunter Biden. The unabashedly pro-Trump media giant is using its nationwide network of local broadcast stations to beam credulous coverage of the purported Biden scandal to their millions of viewers.
Sinclair has produced at least nine separate reports on Hunter Biden’s business dealings since the New York Post’s initial October 14 report on the dubious allegations peddled by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Those reports have run at least 311 times cumulatively across Sinclair’s stations, airing on at least 75 stations in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
The right-wing media conglomerate’s reporting includes multiple reports on GOP complaints about how social media companies responded to the story; a segment detailing Republican demands for a special counsel to investigate the allegations; and another promoting Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s interview with a former Hunter Biden business partner. The latter ran on at least 27 Sinclair-owned or -operated stations in 29 states, reaching potential swing-state voters in Nevada, Iowa, Texas, Florida, and Ohio.
Mainstream news outlets have been skeptical of Trump’s dubious narratives about the Bidens, responsibly assessing, rather than trumpeting, his team’s accusations. That has kept the story largely confined to the Murdochs’ media empire and right-wing fever swamps.
But Sinclair is an anomaly in the news industry. Like Fox, the smear campaign’s epicenter, it is run by a family of wealthy conservatives, employs pro-Trump commentators, and maintains close ties with the president’s administration. Unlike Fox, its distribution pipeline is designed to keep viewers from realizing they are consuming right-wing propaganda.
Sinclair takes advantage of the fact that Americans largely trust their local news stations. Its national desk produces programming with a conservative slant, which Sinclair then forces its nationwide network of stations to broadcast. The result is that unsuspecting viewers get right-wing propaganda mixed in with more typical fare, like local news or traffic and weather reports. In 2019, one such Sinclair segment -- which unlike the Hunter Biden stories was labeled as commentary -- fearmongered about undocumented immigrants raping children and aired on at least 47 stations in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
Trump himself seems to appreciate Sinclair’s help in getting out his message. On Wednesday, he retweeted a Sinclair station’s tweet about its Hunter Biden story.