Don’t be fooled by the montages of TV anchors reading the same script about “fake news.” Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country’s largest TV station operator, insists it isn’t using the local news to shill for the president. To prove it, the company did what any Trump shill would do: attack CNN.
Visitors to the website of NBC Montana were greeted Tuesday by a breaking-news-style banner directing them to a Sinclair YouTube video. The four-minute video offers “evidence of a major media company’s dishonesty and hypocrisy” by juxtaposing clips of CNN media reporter Brian Stelter with excerpts from the script Sinclair anchors were made to read on-air last month. The argument is that Sinclair is only doing what CNN has been doing for years: simply calling out the threat of fake news.
Creepier than the video’s conspiratorial soundtrack is Sinclair’s scheme to mobilize hundreds of TV stations to deliver a corporate political agenda — the Fox-ification of local news, so to speak. But Sinclair’s “must-runs” are only one front in the right-wing media war. The other half of the battle — undermining the credibility of “mainstream” outlets — appears to have an early soldier in Butte native and bin Laden-shooter Rob O’Neill.
O’Neill has had a public beef with his “hometown newspaper,” the Montana Standard (which, like the Indy, is owned by Lee Enterprises) ever since the paper reported on his April 2016 DUI charge (which, the paper reported, was later dropped). But the Fox News contributor and memoir author has continued to mock the Standard, most recently via tweetstorm this month when he discovered the paper doesn’t follow his Twitter account. “The @MontanaStandard couldn’t hit their ass with both hands,” he wrote. O’Neill then asked his 96,000 followers if they were “pissed” that the “sheep” who work at the paper didn’t grow up in Butte.
For the record, “following” minor celebrities is near the bottom of local newsrooms’ real-news priorities. They’re preoccupied with other battles, like wrestling for access to public information (looking at you, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, and you, UM Foundation). Readers who prefer fake news have no shortage of options.