U.S. President Donald Trump has now twice defended the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest television operator in the U.S., which is under fire following the viral video showing anchors at its local news stations across the country reading a script bashing news media and "fake news."
Trump tweeted both on Monday and Tuesday attacks on the news media in defense of Sinclair. On Tuesday morning Trump wrote, "The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The “Fakers” at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!"
Trump tweeted Monday that it was funny to watch “Fake News Networks” complain about bias as they are "among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke."
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Deadspin put together a compliation of different news station's anchors reading the script, which prompted quick condemnation from across the news media. Deadspin claim in the video the anchors looked like "hostages recording videos to prove they are alive."
The news anchors read lines like:
“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.”
“Some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias.”
“This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
Scott Livingston, a Sinclair senior Vice President, defended the ads in a memo, “We are focused on fact-based reporting,” Mr. Livingston said. “That’s our commitment to our communities. That’s the goal of these announcements: to reiterate our commitment to reporting facts in a pursuit of truth.”
However, critics denounced the ads and the use of journalists in them as "insidious" and "dangerous to our democracy."
Peter Chernin, who held high-ranking positions at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation for two decades, tweeted, "This is insidious. The first key to stopping it is to call on advertisers who support this propaganda and express your objections."
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel tweeted, "this is extremely dangerous to our democracy."
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" also went after Sinclair comparing the organization to "state media," with co-host Joe Scarborough saying, "It looks like something we would mock the Russians for in the days of Pravda."
“A national broadcasting system that is shoving propaganda down local anchor’s throats, straight from the pen of somebody who is a Trump acolyte, is really chilling,” Scarborough added.
“It’s kind of beyond chilling, right?” Jon Meacham said. “It’s state media, essentially. It’s one of the things that we’ve always, as a country, prided ourselves on a free and raucous press.”
Media Matters describes Sinclair as being "well-known for its history of abusing public trust to air right-wing spin and promote xenophobia on local news shows." Sinclair currently operates almost 200 local television stations.