Sharyl Attkisson

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  • A short history of the right-wing politics of Sinclair Broadcasting

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country's largest operator of local television stations, is in the process of buying Tribune Media. Sinclair and its affiliates have a history of airing conservative-leaning reporting and commentary, and its executives have donated to Republicans and Republican causes. The company also has ties to President Donald Trump and his administration, covered him very favorably during his presidential campaign, and hired one of his former aides as an analyst.

  • The Trump Administration Just Helped A Pro-Trump Media Empire Grow

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Thanks to the deregulatory efforts of President Donald Trump’s Federal Communications Committee, the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group announced today that it will purchase dozens of televisions stations across the country, allowing the company to spread its conservative programming to new markets and consolidate the ownership of broadcast stations in fewer hands.

    Sinclair has entered into an agreement to purchase Tribune Media Group, which owns 42 television stations in 33 markets, along with cable, digital, and real estate assets, according to a press release from the companies. Given Sinclair’s existing slate of 173 television stations in 81 markets and its national news operation, the combined broadcast company will become the largest provider of local TV news in the country.

    The move comes at an opportune time if Sinclair hopes to capitalize on recent shakeups at Fox News, with some speculating that the company could even hire Bill O’Reilly in an effort to build a conservative rival to that network.

    The purchase would have been impossible if Trump’s newly appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, had not rolled back a key Obama administration regulation that had prevented Sinclair from further expansion. Pai’s actions will allow a stalwart conservative media mogul to acquire more power.

    Sinclair is helmed by longtime chairman David Smith, the son of the network’s founder, who with his family has heavily funded Republican causes. Smith has wielded his media company in support of his conservative ideology, using the stations “to advance a mostly right-leaning agenda since the presidency of George W. Bush,” according to The New York Times.

    Indeed, every presidential election since that era has featured at least one controversy involving Sinclair’s open support for the Republican nominee.

    In 2004, the network ordered its stations to pre-empt regular programming in order to broadcast a documentary that smeared Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) war record. Following a massive grass-roots advertiser boycott, Sinclair backed off its original plan, instead airing a 30-minute special that featured portions of the documentary.

    In 2008, in the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, Sinclair aired a conservative group’s advertisement linking then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers. CNN and Fox News both declined to run the ad.

    In 2012, the network was back in the spotlight after its stations in Florida and Ohio ran an election special that predominantly smeared Obama.

    And in late 2016, Sinclair reportedly agreed to broadcast its “Trump interviews across the country without commentary” using its “television stations across the country in many swing states” in a deal with the Trump campaign for more access. Sinclair ended up with 15 “exclusive” interviews with Trump, “including 11 during the final three months of the campaign in critical states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio,” and 20 more with top Trump surrogates. In addition, “news stories and features favorable to Trump or that challenged Clinton were distributed to Sinclair stations on a ‘must-run’ basis,” according to The Washington Post.

    Sinclair has also garnered attention for “its refusal to broadcast an episode of ‘Nightline’ devoted to reciting the names of every member of the military killed in action in Iraq” and for “instruct[ing] anchors to read statements supporting Mr. Bush and his administration’s efforts to fight terrorism” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Sinclair’s original news and public-affairs programming has featured several prominent conservative reporters and commentators. These include Mark Hyman, a top Sinclair executive and conspiracy theorist who provides right-wing commentary for the network; Armstrong Williams, a top advisor to Ben Carson’s presidential campaign who is best known for having received payments from the Bush administration to promote its policies without disclosing that detail in his media commentary; former Trump White House aide Boris Epshteyn; and Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS News reporter with a lengthy record of shoddy, inaccurate reporting who has pushed a bizarre conspiracy theory that the government hacked her home electronics. The company will also distribute a TV show from the conservative website DailyMail.com.

    Sinclair’s conservative programming bent has a lot of impact because of the concentration of its stations in presidential swing states. The Tribune purchase will give the network more influence, as Tribune’s television portfolio includes stations in states with high political value, like Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, and Ohio.

    When Trump seeks re-election in 2020, he will be able to count on the support of a massive network of television stations helmed by a conservative who owes his company’s latest growth to the president.

  • Sharyl Attkisson Got A Show After Years Of Pushing Misinformation And Conspiracies

    ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings starting October 4 on Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, which include ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates. Attkisson has a lengthy record of shoddy, inaccurate reporting, and she has pushed a bizarre conspiracy theory that the government hacked her home electronics.

  • Sharyl Attkisson Teams Up With Conservative Broadcaster For National News Show

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Attkisson

    Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings for Sinclair Broadcast Group across its 62 stations, the group announced April 22.

    TV Technology reported that the show will be able to reach 37.5 percent of U.S. TV households and will air "on Sinclair's Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates nationwide." The magazine added, "the 30-minute program, which will be based in Washington, D.C., will be a blend of investigative and political journalism, with a focus on accountability, according to Sinclair. Attkisson will join Sinclair in June, and the show is expected to launch in the fall of 2015."

    Media Matters has documented Attkisson's long history of sloppy and inaccurate reporting, including her confused allegation that someone in the government broke into her computers. After leaving CBS, Attkisson has been producing reports for the conservative Daily Signal, which continue to be plagued by her inaccurate reporting.

    Sinclair Broadcasting has often injected conservative messages into their news broadcasts. A few days before the 2004 election, Sinclair reportedly ordered its stations to pre-empt regular programming in order to air a film leveling several false allegations against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

  • The Right-Wing Media's Nonsense Attacks On Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    Loretta Lynch, President Obama's pick to replace Eric Holder as the U.S. attorney general, is a highly regarded and well-qualified federal prosecutor who has support from law-enforcement authorities and politicians on both sides of the aisle. But that hasn't stopped right-wing media from mounting a smear campaign to thwart Lynch's nomination. With reports indicating that GOP leadership may yet again block an up-or-down vote on Lynch's nomination, here are some of the most nonsensical arguments against her confirmation and facts that media outlets have missed -- or misrepresented -- about Lynch.

    Conservative Website Accuses Loretta Lynch Of Being A Different Woman, Who Worked For The Clintons

    In a rush to find fault in Obama's well-qualified nominee, the right-wing website Breitbart.com managed to attack the wrong Loretta Lynch, not once, but twice. In a November 8 post, Breitbart.com writer Warner Todd Huston claimed that "few are talking about" the fact that Lynch defended the Clintons during the Whitewater probe in 1992 -- probably because it wasn't the same Loretta Lynch who was nominated. After learning of the mistake, Breitbart.com noted at the bottom of the one article that was not taken down, "The Loretta Lynch identified earlier as the Whitewater attorney was, in fact, a different attorney."

    Right-Wing Media Failed To Paint Lynch As A Partisan Radical -- But It's True She Was A Sorority Sister

    Right-wing media have also tried to paint Lynch as a dangerous partisan. National Review's Hans von Spakovsky characterized Lynch as "on the side of radical" because she supported the Department of Justice's legal challenges against strict voter ID laws, which are based on half a century of modern civil rights precedent. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs complained that Lynch's membership in the historically black sorority Delta Sigma Theta was "controversial" because Holder's wife pledged at the same time. It is true: At times, she has defended civil rights, and she once belonged to a well-known sorority.

    Senate Republicans Relied On Right-Wing Media's Favorite Guests During Lynch's Confirmation Hearing

    Senate Republicans turned to some of right-wing media's go-to contributors to turn Lynch's confirmation hearing into what Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called a "sound bite factory for Fox News." The Republicans' witness list included:

    • Conservative journalist Sharyl Attkisson, who has brought a lawsuit against the DOJ alleging that "the government" illegally surveilled her three computers and phones in retaliation for her reporting on the Benghazi attacks and the "Fast and Furious" investigation
    • Catherine Engelbrecht, a Tea Party activist who has claimed that the DOJ's litigation against unnecessarily strict voter ID laws is a "radical, racialist assault on voting rights"
    • Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, who has claimed that Obama encouraged violence in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown
    • Jonathan Turley, the lawyer representing House Republicans in their lawsuit against the president

    When Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked if any of them had a problem with Lynch's nomination for attorney general, none of them raised their hands -- they were there to complain about their favored right-wing media topics, and they did.

  • Now Sharyl Attkisson's Lawyer Suggests Her Personal Computer Wasn't Hacked

    Attkisson Had Claimed That Computer Was Hacked In Book, Lawsuit

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Sharyl Attkisson

    Sharyl Attkisson's lawyer told the Daily Beast that an investigation that found no evidence her personal computer was hacked is "irrelevant" because it reviewed the wrong computer, despite her own repeated claims that the desktop in question had been compromised. He also falsely claimed her lawsuit against the federal government for alleged hacking was focused solely on a separate work computer.

    Attkisson, a former CBS reporter who now freelances for conservative outlets, previously claimed that her personal Apple laptop, personal Apple desktop, and a CBS News-issued Toshiba laptop had been breached as part of a federal effort to monitor her because she did reporting critical of the Obama administration.

    In June 2013, CBS News confirmed that the CBS News computer was breached, using what the network said were "sophisticated" methods. They did not identify the party or parties behind the breach.

    Attkisson writes in her book Stonewalled that she subsequently gave her "personal Apple desktop iMac computer" to the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General for review, claiming that she believed a government agency was monitoring it. A report of that review, entered into public record on January 29, found no "evidence of remote or unauthorized access" on the "personal iMac computer" OIG examined. (The report also raised serious questions about the techniques used by CBS' private technician, who examined the CBS laptop and her personal computers.)

    Now, when asked to explain why the OIG was unable to find evidence of hacking on the personal Apple computer, Attkisson's lawyer Tab Turner is claiming that the findings are "irrelevant," because the OIG looked at the wrong computer. The Daily Beast reported:

    Concerning the Inspector General's report, Turner characterized it as "irrelevant," claiming that Attkisson's "work computer" is "the sole focus" of her legal complaints.

    As for why the Feds reached their decidedly unhelpful conclusions, Turner said: "It's pretty simple. They didn't look at the computer."

    It is entirely unclear why Attkisson would have turned her personal computer over to the OIG for review if, as her lawyer's statement suggests, she did not believe that machine had been compromised. Indeed, Turner's claims contradict Attkisson's own statements about the computer.

    Moreover, the work computer is not "'the sole focus' of her legal complaints." In fact, the lawsuit filed in the D.C. Superior Court claims that all three of Attkisson's computers were compromised.

    The lawsuit claims that the CBS News technician found "evidence on both Ms. Attkisson's Toshiba laptop and Apple desktop computers of a coordinated, highly-skilled series of actions and attacks at the operation of the computers and the storage and access of data thereon." It claims Attkisson personally "observed for the first time that a third computer, her personal MacBookAir, was access remotely, controlled, and that data was deleted." Finally, the lawsuit claims that "The surveillance of Ms. Attkisson's computers" -- plural -- "violated the Fourth Amendment."

    Attkisson has changed her hacking story multiple times, and the twists in the tale lead to certain confusions. For example, the Daily Beast piece, which questioned Attkisson's lawyer, claims Attkisson gave the OIG "her MacBook Air." Attkisson's 2014 book Stonewalled and the OIG report itself, on the other hand, say the investigation was of her Apple iMac desktop. Regardless, it appears that her lawyer believes the only computer with any evidence on it is the CBS Toshiba work laptop -- contradicting Attkisson's own previous statements on the matter.

    In fact, Stonewalled begins on the very first page, under the subtitle "My Computer's Intruders," with a description of suspicious activity -- on Attkisson's Apple desktop computer.

    Attkisson's Stonewalled, Page 1

  • Computer Security Experts: Sharyl Attkisson's Hacking Analyst Blew It

    Experts Agree With IG Report, Find Private Technician May Have Contaminated Personal Computer

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Computer security experts tell Media Matters that the report of a federal investigation into Sharyl Attkisson's claims of computer hacking, which found no evidence of a remote intrusion, suggests that Attkisson's computer may have been contaminated by a private technician who reviewed the computer for her.

    Attkisson, a former CBS News reporter who now writes for the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, has claimed that her computers were hacked under an alleged federal effort to monitor her following her critical reporting of the Obama administration.

    But the investigation from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General, based on an examination of her personal computer, found that the OIG "was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise," according to an abbreviated report of the review that was entered into the congressional record when Attkisson testified before Congress on January 29.

    Computer security experts contacted by Media Matters reviewed the OIG report and explained that the findings revealed that at least one of the private technicians used by Attkisson likely contaminated any evidence that may have been on her computer. 

    In her book Stonewalled, Attkisson describes a private computer forensics analyst hired by CBS News coming to her house in February 2013 to examine her computers for potential intrusions.

    The technician initially "opens up the CBS News laptop and begins deconstructing the files," until he finds some suspicious activity having occurred in December 2012. The technician then decides to take "a quick look at [Attkisson's] personal Apple iMac desktop computer" before leaving. He goes "straight to December" on the iMac as well, finds more suspicious activity, and tells Attkisson, "Oh shit!...That's not normal. Someone did that to your computer."

    CBS News confirmed in June 2013 that Attkisson's CBS-issued laptop was breached, using what were "sophisticated" methods, but did not comment on her personal computers, nor did they identify the party or parties behind the breach. Attkisson then gave her personal Apple computer to the DOJ's inspector general for review, claiming evidence from the CBS analyst and other private security technicians who examined her computers confirmed for her that she was under surveillance by the federal government. 

    The OIG report "did not find evidence of remote or unauthorized access." However, they did find evidence of someone with physical access to the computer performing an examination in February 2013 (around the same time Attkisson says a CBS technician visited her home) that "is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." The OIG concluded that this technician's actions "could have obscured potential evidence of unauthorized access."

    Computer security experts contacted by Media Matters reviewed the OIG report, and agreed with the government's assessment that the technician's actions ignored the basics of standard forensic examination and contaminated the computer.

    "We would never sit down, turn on the computer and start doing our investigation from the computer itself, for a number of reasons," said Peter Theobald, a computer forensics investigator with TC Forensics of Syosset. N.Y. "One is that our own activities would leave traces all over the computer. It would be like going to a crime scene in big muddy boots and walking all over the crime scene. We would copy the hard drive first and all of our work would be done from that copy."

  • Federal Report: Investigation Found No Evidence Sharyl Attkisson's Personal Computer Was Hacked

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Sharyl Attkisson

    An investigation by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General found no evidence that Sharyl Attkisson's personal computer was hacked. The former CBS reporter has claimed that her computers had been breached as part of a federal effort to monitor her because she did reporting critical of the Obama administration.

    Attkisson, who left CBS News last year and now writes for the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, previously claimed that her personal Apple laptop, personal Apple desktop, and a CBS News-issued Toshiba laptop were hacked while she was reporting on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. In June 2013, CBS News confirmed that the CBS News computer was breached, using what the network said were "sophisticated" methods. They did not identify the party or parties behind the breach.

    But according to her 2014 book Stonewalled, unnamed sources confirmed for Attkisson that an unnamed government agency was behind the attack. Attkisson reiterated her claims in January 29 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    As part of that hearing, an abbreviated report of the Office of the Inspector General's review of her allegations was entered into public record and obtained by Media Matters. The investigation, based in part on the OIG's examination of her personal Apple computer, found that the OIG "was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise." As Post opinion writer Erik Wemple first reported, the review found that "Attkisson is not and has not been under investigation by the FBI."

    Attkisson had provided to the investigators a cellphone video she took of one apparent hack, which showed words typed into a Microsoft Word document on her personal laptop rapidly disappearing. Computer security experts told Media Matters when the video was first made public that it more likely showed her computer malfunctioning due to a stuck backspace key.

    The OIG report seems to confirm that suspicion. "The video of text being deleted from a document appeared to be caused by the backspace key being stuck, rather than remote intrusion," the report states. The OIG found that a second video Attkisson provided of her CBS laptop showed "a standard error prompt."

    Furthermore, the OIG report found that a "suspicious" cable Attkisson had described in the book and to the OIG as potential evidence of a "tap" was "a common cable" used by her internet provider that "could not be used to monitor or otherwise affect the phone or internet service at her residence."

    An individual who examined Attkisson's computer prior to the OIG investigation, according to the report, used a "method of forensic examination" which "is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." This individual's actions "could have obscured potential evidence of unauthorized access."

    Attkisson claims that this individual was hired by CBS News and sent to her house to examine her personal computer, but CBS News told the OIG that they did not conduct any analysis on her personal computer.

    Media Matters has previously noted that Attkisson reversed herself on whether various technological problems she experienced were tied to the intrusion on her system. In the book, she suggested her phone, television, personal laptop, and cable systems had all malfunctioned due to the hacking. But during a radio interview she said the "disruptions happening in my electrical systems at home may in the end have nothing to do with the intrusion."

    Attkisson is currently suing the government for alleged "unauthorized and illegal surveillance of the Plaintiff's laptop computers and telephones from 2011-2013." 

  • Fox Host Revives Attkisson's Repeatedly Debunked Benghazi "Bombshell"

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Fox host Martha MacCallum rehashed Benghazi hoaxster Sharyl Attkisson's repeatedly debunked allegation that Hillary Clinton's State Department staff had "sifted through" and removed damaging Benghazi documents before turning them over to investigators, just days after a second witness has allegedly undermined Attkisson's report according to a letter from the ranking Democrat on The House Select Committee on Benghazi. 

    In a September 2014 report  for The Daily Signal, Sharyl Attkisson baselessly claimed that Hillary Clinton's State Department staff scrubbed "damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya." Although Attkisson's report was denied by the State Department and relied solely on speculations from disgruntled former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell, Fox News quickly heralded it as a "bombshell" and "smoking gun."

    A recently published November 2014 letter penned by the ranking Democrat on the House Benghazi Select Committee, Elijah Cummings, further undermined Attkisson's allegations, explaining that a second witness who Raymond Maxwell said could "corroborate his allegations" actually denied them, saying "he was never instructed to flag information in documents that might be unfavorable to the Department." 

    Despite the new developments, Fox News revived the discredited claim on the January 28 edition of America's NewsroomDiscussing the Benghazi Select Committee's third hearing, co-host Martha MacCallum attempted to assuage committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)'s claim that the Obama administration is withholding Benghazi documents, pointing to "the story a while back about documents being sifted through at the State Department over a weekend." MacCallum also went on to suggest "it could be that some of what you're looking for simply isn't around anymore."