Sinclair Broadcast Group investigative reporter James Rosen has produced at least three misleading reports in the past two weeks carrying water for the Trump administration, all broadcasted into dozens of states around the country. These reports pushed the false claim that there was never a coronavirus testing backlog in the U.S., failed to mention Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s notable role in the firing of Inspector General Steve Linick, and ignored the Al Qaeda ties to a December terror attack at a U.S. military installation in Florida while parroting the administration’s claims of success against terrorist organizations.
Rosen, who joined Sinclair at the beginning of 2019, was formerly the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News until his departure in December 2017 amid sexual harassment reports from multiple colleagues.
On June 19, Rosen reported an “exclusive” that an internal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) investigation into defective coronavirus test kits determined that Centers for Disease Control “scientists likely used a component in the kits that was ‘contaminated.’” (The contamination of the CDC’s test kits had already been widely reported in mid-April.) Rosen’s segment included a quote from recently installed HHS spokesperson and Trump loyalist Michael Caputo saying that despite the contamination of the early test kits, “we never had a backlog of tests in this country.”
Such an obviously false statement should not have found any space in a news report, even from a pro-Trump outlet like Sinclair. Multiple news organizations reported on testing backlogs months ago. A March 31 Atlantic article on the coronavirus testing crisis in America reported that at that time, California alone had a backlog of more than 57,000 tests. An April 1 CNN article reported that as of March 25, there was a backlog of about 160,000 coronavirus test orders at just one lab company, Quest Diagnostics. And a March 25 Wall Street Journal article reported: “Despite efforts to ramp up mass testing for the new coronavirus this week, many cities and states are facing more shortages and backlogs as demand surges.” These crucial facts were missing in Rosen’s report, which has the effect of whitewashing Trump’s disastrous handling of this public health crisis that has to date killed more than 126,000 Americans.
This news segment aired on at least 29 Sinclair-owned or -operated stations in 28 states.
On June 22, Rosen reported another “exclusive” about an inspector general investigation that found the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism isn’t properly managing “the money and training it provides to foreign countries that share our counterterrorism objectives.” This time, Rosen used his report to push Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s attacks against former Inspector General Steve Linick, who was fired by President Donald Trump. As the segment noted, Linick recently testified that before his firing he had faced pressure from Pompeo’s aides to drop his investigations into allegations that Pompeo and his wife “made inappropriate use of official staff for personal errands, and charges that the Trump administration improperly fast-tracked an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.” The report followed this up with a dismissive statement from Pompeo calling Linick “a bad actor” who “didn’t take on the mission of the State Department to make us better.”
The Rosen segment pushed Pompeo’s criticism of Linick while hiding a key fact from his audience -- that Pompeo himself had asked Trump to fire the inspector general. Several members of Congress criticized Linick’s firing, with some suggesting it “may be an illegal act of retaliation” for the investigations into Pompeo. On May 16, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced he had launched an investigation into Linick’s firing. Rosen’s decision to deprive his audience of these facts may have left them with the mistaken impression that there was nothing wrong with Trump’s firing of Linick.
This report aired on at least 35 Sinclair stations in 32 states.
And on June 24, Rosen reported on the release of the State Department’s annual country report on international terrorism. He said the Trump administration had “claimed major strides” in the fight against international terrorist organizations. Rosen’s report highlighted successful actions against ISIS in 2019 and though it noted that Al Qaeda continues to pose a threat, it suggested that it’s limited to Africa and the Middle East.
Rosen failed to mention that Al Qaeda-linked terrorists recently struck in the U.S. under Trump’s watch. The December shooting at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, where three U.S. sailors were killed, was labeled an act of terrorism by the attorney general in January. In May, the FBI and the Justice Department announced that the attack was linked to Al Qaeda, and the killer, as CNN reported, “was a longtime associate of al Qaeda who had communicated with operatives from the group as recently as the night before the shooting.” FBI Director Christopher Wray said the attack “was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation by a longtime AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] associate.” Rosen’s failure to mention this Al Qaeda-linked attack while hyping the administration’s successes against ISIS potentially misled viewers into thinking that Trump’s mess of anti-terrorism policies have been successful.
This report aired on at least 25 Sinclair stations in 27 states.
Rosen began carrying water for Trump at the end of his 18-year career at Fox, and some of his earlier reporting at Fox was even more misleading. He dutifully peddled Fox’s obsession with, and false claims about, the 2012 terror attacks on U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. He also repeatedly injected his bizarre personal opinion that then-President Barack Obama felt “innate repulsion” and “revulsion” about the use of military force against terrorists -- years Obama had ordered the U.S. military forces to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In 2014, Rosen was rebuked by organizations that advocate for reporter access and safety overseas for suggesting military forces pose as journalists.
In mid-2017, Rosen defended Trump for reportedly disclosing “highly classified information” to the Russian ambassador during a White House meeting. In October 2017, Rosen falsely claimed the federal charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort didn’t extend to his time with the campaign -- and had to correct his reporting.
In addition to the three recent Sinclair reports highlighted here, some of Rosen’s other work for the company has also been problematic. In November 2019, nearly a year after joining Sinclair, Rosen disclosed the name of the man widely believed by right-wing media to be the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint triggered an impeachment investigation into Trump, leading to the president’s subsequent impeachment by the House of Representatives. An April 24 report from Rosen attempted to justify a boast from Trump that, “statistically, we're doing phenomenally, in terms of mortality, in terms of all of the different elements that you can judge” during the coronavirus pandemic. The report failed to mention that nearly two weeks earlier, the U.S. surpassed all other countries in confirmed COVID-19 deaths. And Rosen’s June 8 report on police violence downplayed its threat to Black Americans and pushed the tired “Black-on-Black” crime canard.