Eighty-five percent of Republicans believe that the “national news media” hurts their country, according to a Pew poll released on Monday. On one level, this is unsurprising. The GOP has long been the party of biblical literalists, oil companies, and libertarian billionaires who know that their intentions for the welfare state lack majority support. Which is to say: It is the party of entities with an abiding interest in undermining trust in objective reality and those tasked with describing it (a group that is, unfortunately, quite adept at undermining trust in itself).
The GOP’s decision to make a grotesquely incompetent pathological liar its standard-bearer has, of course, made discrediting nonpartisan news media all the more important for the party.
But the reason why Republicans have so successfully discredited the Fourth Estate in the eyes of its voters is also a reason why conservatives’ antipathy for the “national news media” is a bit odd: Conservatives dominate the national news media.
The most-watched cable news channel in the United States comports itself as the Trump White House’s media arm. The most influential radio news programs are almost uniformly right-wing. The most-read digital news site of the 2016 election, by far, was that of conservative stalwart Matt Drudge. And the largest operator of local news content in the United States requires all of its affiliate stations to weave pro-Trump propaganda into their nightly broadcasts.
Sinclair Broadcast Group made headlines in May when it bought Tribune Media for $3.9 billion — a move that would give the company ownership of enough local television stations to reach 70 percent of American households.
Sinclair is owned by a big-money GOP donor, and it shows: The broadcaster coerced its local affiliates into skewing their coverage in favor of Trump during the 2016 campaign, hired former Trump spokesman Boris Ephsteyn as their chief political analyst after the mogul’s victory, and requires all its stations to air commentary from Ephsteyn and conservative pundit Mark Hyman, as well as updates from the Terrorism Alert Desk (sensationalized coverage of recent terror attacks) every week.
And now, Sinclair is forcing its (growing) list of affiliates to triple their weekly Ephsteyn content. As Politico reports:
His “Bottom Line with Boris” segments already air three times a week, but will now triple in frequency, featuring a mix of his political commentary as well as “talk backs” with local stations and interviews with members of Congress.
…Epshteyn reliably parrots the White House’s point of view on most issues. For example, he claimed last month that former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill was more damaging to Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch than to the president.
“Contrary to widespread expectations, we actually learned much more about the president’s opponents and his critics from Comey’s testimony that about any issue involving the president himself,” Epshteyn said.
It’s worth noting that even the self-styled objective media leans right on a variety of issues, including war and peace (see the cross-the-board raves Trump earned for his Syria strike) and entitlement spending (debate moderators found time to ask questions based on the tendentious premise that the national debt is a crisis, while declining to ask a single question about the threat of climate change).
The right might hate America’s news media. But our news media loves the right.