Media Matters reports that Sinclair Broadcast Group is mandating local news stations to run a video segment from former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn warning that the group of migrants currently at the border, fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, represent “an attempted invasion of our country.”
Sinclair, the largest owner of television stations in the U.S., owns KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock. In all, Sinclair local news broadcasts reach more than 2 million American households, where they get a healthy dose of right-wing propaganda slipped into their local news, delivered straight from the apparatchiks at corporate headquarters.
As this blog has covered extensively, Sinclair has long produced “must-run” video segments that station managers are required to include in local broadcasts, often featuring, Epshteyn the company’s in-house misinformation minister. They also periodically force local anchors to read hammy propaganda scripts, pretending to offer commentary, reading along like hostages in a Trump Truth funhouse. While such segments are identical at Sinclair stations across the country, it’s not always clear that they are not locally produced.
This latest must-run segment comes in the wake of unrest in Tijuana, where American authorities recently shot teargas at a group of migrants, including small children, who attempted to cross the border. The Department of Homeland Security stated that some of the migrants threw rocks at border agents.
Be afraid, Boris tells a couple million Americans, interrupting the local news: “The fact of the matter is that this is an attempted invasion of our country. Period.” The trouble is here at home, too, Boris bellows: “It
The must-run segment will be mandated on an estimated 100 Sinclair-owned stations across the country and has already aired in at least 24 states, Media Matters reports. Anyone
UPDATE FROM LESLIE: The Epshteyn segment — that is, KATV owner Sinclair’s sentiments — that an invasion is imminent and people on the left aren’t true patriots ran Tuesday morning, news director Nick Genty said. He said the Epshteyn segments — which run three times a week or so — are clearly labeled commentary. HE said the call from the Times was the first he’d received and that he never gets complaints from people until they read about the segments in places like Media Matters or other national media, rather than immediately after seeing the broadcast. I asked Genty if he thought that reacting to reports of Sinclair’s business practices rather than to Sinclair directly made the complaints inauthentic. He said no.
Genty likened KATV’s commentary to a newspaper’s
Genty was unimpressed by anchors in other states saying they feel manipulated by being forced to read boilerplate promotional material, that, ironically, warns that some news outlets are using their platforms to push their personal biases “to control what people think.”
Although those Sinclair scripts read by local anchors invited feedback “if you believe our coverage is unfair,” CNN reported that Sinclair’s instructions to local affiliates stated that “corporate will monitor the comments and send replies to your audience on your behalf.”
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post argues, “The larger context is important. This isn’t conservative opinion. It’s disinformation“:
Sinclair is now reportedly requiring dozens of local stations to air a segment that defends the tear-gassing of migrants and describes them as an “invasion of our country.” The segment is classic agitprop. It whips up hysteria about a crisis that has “greatly escalated,” and bashes “the left” for undermining the military and refusing to “abide by the rule of law.” This is nonsense. The rule of law dictates that migrants have the legal right to apply for asylum, not that they represent a breach or an infestation (a word Trump loves) or an “invasion.” The segment smoke-screens this central fact with chaotic, frightful imagery.
If anything, Trump has undermined the rule of law, by sending in the military to bolster GOP campaign propaganda — an extraordinary act of official misconduct. Sinclair is lending air cover to this campaign and flirts with endorsing violence against asylum-seekers.