Update (10/22/19): The segment has now aired on at least 47 stations in 29 states and the District of Columbia, according to the iQ media database.
A new “must-run” commentary segment airing on dozens of Sinclair-controlled local news stations across the country plays into the anti-immigrant smear that “illegal immigrants” are frequently raping children.
In a new segment airing October 21 and 22, Sinclair chief political commentator Boris Epshteyn argues, “The liberal obsession with supporting illegal immigration is having extremely scary consequences.” After rattling off a few vague sentences and displaying mug shots from cases involving child sexual abuse and undocumented immigrants, he appears to conclude that sexual violence against children is primarily caused by lax border security policies espoused by liberals.
The video ends with Epshteyn asking, “How many American children have to suffer before Democrats see that illegal immigration is a national security issue? It is time that both sides of the aisle make border security a top priority.”
This diatribe is now airing on dozens of Sinclair-owned and operated local TV news stations across the country, in many media markets with large immigrant populations, including along the southern border. According to the iQ media database, it aired on at least 28 news stations in 23 states on October 21, and will likely air on dozens more today.
Epshteyn’s segments typically run alongside a second “must-run” from liberal commentator Ameshia Cross, offering a different take on a given topic. Cross’ segment decried the cruel anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration. Cross also publicly condemned Epshteyn's video, tweeting, “I accept views alternate of my own. But what I don't accept is racist propaganda used to create a disturbing, hurtful & inaccurate depiction of an entire group of people.”
In the video, Epshteyn references two cases in Maryland in which undocumented immigrants were arrested for the alleged sexual abuse of minors. Epshteyn very briefly cites two other cases in New York and New Jersey in which local authorities did not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain two suspects in child rape cases over separate charges related to their immigration status.
Both Maryland cases were hyped by Epshteyn’s colleague Kevin Lewis at Washington, D.C., Sinclair station WJLA. The Appeal’s Adam Johnson reported earlier this month that Lewis had “selectively highlighted arrests of people with Hispanic last names and accused of sexual assault. His reporting—which appears to rely heavily on law enforcement and ICE—has created an incomplete and racist picture of sex crimes in the Maryland county.”
And Epshteyn points to a completely unrelated incident in which a Virginia police officer was suspended for breaching department policies and turning over an individual to ICE after a traffic accident (presumably to suggest that lax, liberal policies are making communities less safe).
Epshteyn’s insinuations are completely false -- available data shows immigrants to the U.S. commit crimes less often than their peers. But what's more: His comments dangerously play into racist stereotypes about Black and brown immigrants.
President Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 (for which Epshteyn was a media surrogate and senior adviser) by pushing this same trope and stoking xenophobic fear in white voters. Using isolated incidents of violence (often against white women) to fearmonger about minorities is a grotesque American legacy that long precedes Trump’s rise to political power -- but in recent years, this violent and dehumanizing rhetoric has permeated the public discourse even further.
Epshteyn’s latest segment is seemingly further proof that Sinclair is comfortable promoting, bankrolling, and profiting off overt anti-immigrant fearmongering. And this isn’t even close to the first time Epshteyn has used his Sinclair “must-run” platform to push shockingly xenophobic rhetoric to local news stations nationwide. In fact, it’s not even the first time he’s exploited a victim’s story to suggest “illegal immigrants” are rapists or murderers.
In August, Epshteyn was joined by acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli to defend recent ICE raids that devastated Latinx families in several Mississippi factory towns, separating children from their parents. Epshteyn argued, “What ICE is doing is not a targeted attack on people in our country. It is our government enforcing our laws. Period.”
Last November, Epshteyn defended the use of tear gas on migrant families at the U.S. southern border and warned of an “attempted invasion of our country.” (Sinclair half-heartedly attempted to distance itself from these comments, but clearly not much has changed in terms of the programming the company condones.)
In August 2018, Epshteyn attempted to exploit the murder of Iowa woman Mollie Tibbetts, against the express wishes of her family, to warn viewers that “Americans … dying at the hands of illegal immigrants is a very real threat.”
In June 2018, Epshteyn tried to minimize reports about the Trump administration policy separating families and detaining children at the border in cages, saying, “Many members of the media and opponents of the president have seized on this issue to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters.”
And in January 2018, he defended as “mere salty language” Trump’s racist diatribe reportedly referring to Haiti, El Salvador, and unspecified African nations as “shithole countries” and suggested the comments had been overblown.
To find Sinclair-owned or operated local news stations near you, visit FindSinclair.com.