Over the weekend, the online news outlet Deadspin posted a video featuring dozens of broadcast anchors from across the country reciting the same corporate-mandated screed denouncing the “irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.” As CNN reported in early March, the script was distributed by the Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group to its local stations (it owns nearly 200) with instructions to “play using news time, not commercial time.” Deadspin’s supercut of the resultant recordings quickly went viral, and has so far racked up nearly a million views on the Deadspin website alone. It didn’t take long for the words “chilling” and “terrifying” to start creeping into headlines; Last Week Tonight host John Oliver likened the anchors depicted in the video to “members of a brainwashed cult.”
President Donald Trump leapt to Sinclair’s defense this morning, tweeting, “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, 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."
In case you missed the Indy’s previous coverage, Sinclair bought three Montana-based NBC affiliate stations, including Missoula’s KECI, from Bonten Media Group Holdings last year. KECI’s website now includes tabs for Sinclair’s global terrorism tracker and the nationally produced segment “Bottom Line with Boris,” featuring Trump-adviser-turned-Sinclair-analyst Boris Epshteyn. A separate video of Sinclair station promos compiled by Think Progress includes a shot of a KECI anchor reading a portion of the promo transcript.
The Bonten acquisition and, more notably, Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion purchase of the Tribune Media Company have drawn considerable — and occasionally whimsical — criticism from watchdog nonprofits Media Matters for America and Allied Progress. In a statement released today, Allied Progress Executive Director Karl Frisch had this to say about the latest Sinclair buzz: “It’s of little surprise that President Trump is defending a media company that has had his back since he was merely candidate Trump. Defending Sinclair as a symbol of respectable local journalism while the company forces stations to parrot talking points often found in his tweets, is the height of hypocrisy, but unfortunately an ominous taste of things to come.”