On March 7, CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group was forcing anchors at the local TV stations the telecom giant owns to read an “anchor delivered journalistic responsibility message” that mirrored President Trump’s unprecedented attack on the news media (read the script in full below). Sinclair owns five* TV networks in Iowa — CBS affiliate KGAN and Fox affiliate KFXA in Cedar Rapids, Fox affiliate KDSM-TV in Des Moines, and Fox affiliate KPTH and CBS affiliate KMEG in Sioux City. It also owns KTVO, a station licensed in Kirksville, Missouri, that serves southeastern Iowa. As a video compilation published Saturday by Deadspin shows, at least one of those Iowa station’s anchors read the media-bashing script.
The video shows KGAN anchors Mitch Fick and Jeneé Ryan reading the script during a recent broadcast, which was aired in Cedar Rapids and throughout eastern Iowa including Iowa City, Dubuque, and Waterloo.
The script claims there is a “troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country,” that “the sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” and that “some media outlets publish these same fake stories … without checking facts first.” The script goes on to read that “some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think,” which “is extremely dangerous to a democracy.”
These statements are ripe with irony. Local TV stations are notorious for poorly researched stories that are often just re-reported versions of stories in that day’s local newspaper that don’t give credit to the original source. Moreover, Sinclair — which owns more local stations in the United States than any other company — is notorious for airing conservative propaganda, including segments from its chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump adviser who was born in Russia, called Bottom Line with Boris; and from its former vice president for corporate relations Mark Hyman called Behind the Headlines with Mark Hyman. The segments in the videos below are full of false and misleading information about immigration policy and the Affordable Care Act.
The Sinclair anchors who read the company’s media-bashing script went on to claim the higher ground, saying “it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand truth is neither politically left nor right. Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”
To the contrary, Sinclair stations openly air misinformation supportive of right-wing causes and Trump, who is more accurately “extremely dangerous to a democracy.” During his campaign and since becoming president, Trump has repeatedly and aggressively lashed out at reporters, going as far as to call for restrictions on constitutionally protected speech. Last fall, for instance, he tweeted that NBC should have its (nonexistent) broadcast license “challenged” and possibly even “revoked” after the network produced a series of stories on his statements about nuclear weapons.
According to CNN’s initial report, several local anchors speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired “said the promos were a source of dismay in their newsrooms.”
Here’s the full text of Sinclair’s script, as transcribed from reluctant anchors at a Seattle station by ThinkProgress:
Hi, I’m (A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…
(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.
(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.
(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories — stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.
(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think. This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.
(B) At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand truth is neither politically left nor right. Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.
(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.
(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual. We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.
(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.
* Correction: This article previously named NBC affiliate WHO-DT in Des Moines and WQAD-TV, which is based in Moline and also airs in the Davenport area, as Sinclair-owned stations. The two stations are currently owned by Tribune Media. Sinclair is in the process of acquiring that company, but the deal is still pending FCC approval. Because of a typo, KTVO, the Sinclair station licensed in Kirksville, Missouri, was also previously misidentified as WQAD.