Sinclair investigative reporter James Rosen is naming purported whistleblower on local news broadcasts


Citation Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Local news stations controlled by right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group have been airing reports that purport to reveal the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint triggered an impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

Right-wing media and Trump have waged a campaign to out the whistleblower as a means to discredit the impeachment inquiry. But, importantly, the contents of the whistleblower’s complaint have been corroborated in great detail by others, including during testimony in the impeachment inquiry, meaning any biographical details about the whistleblower themselves are irrelevant. Naming the whistleblower, however, does put that person in danger, according to the whistleblower’s attorneys, and legal experts have warned that attempts to reveal the identity of the whistleblower could create a chilling effect on the federal whistleblower system.

Several Sinclair-operated local news stations first aired the purported name of the whistleblower in an October 31 news package from investigative reporter James Rosen. (And other stations posted the segment to their websites.) Rosen’s sourcing for the identity was thin; he said a White House staffer told him that the person named “is considered by Trump loyalists in national security circles to be the likeliest candidate to be the whistleblower.” His report showed the purported whistleblower attending an event and highlighted their face.

Rosen later appeared on the November 6 edition of the national Sinclair program America This Week and detailed his attempts to contact the whistleblower. Rosen hyped the fact that his October 31 segment “was the first story to put moving footage of” the alleged whistleblower “on television.” He also attempted to portray the person he named as the whistleblower as biased, saying that “he was hostile to President Trump” while adding that “I think we're going to be hearing more about this individual.” The segment also featured a chyron naming the alleged whistleblower on screen.

This America This Week appearance began streaming on most Sinclair station websites on November 6 and will also air on dozens of Sinclair news stations this weekend.

The whistleblower’s purported identity has also been released by Breitbart and Donald Trump Jr. and by a guest appearing on Fox News, despite the network’s purported policy of not releasing the name.