Sinclair Broadcasting Group is the largest owner of local television news stations in the United States. It currently airs original programming on 193 channels throughout the country, enough to reach 39 percent of all American homes. By next year, it will likely reach 72 percent.
The company is also owned by a longtime Republican donor, and proudly operates as a platform for conservative propaganda. Sinclair formally promised to provide favorable coverage to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign (in exchange for access to the GOP nominee). Since the mogul’s election, the media giant has forced all of its affiliates to air commentary that advances White House talking points.
Thus, this week, local news channels around the country informed their viewers that dishonest liberals were trying to fool them into thinking that the Trump administration had been separating migrant children from their families, in a heinously cruel bid to deter refugees from seeking asylum in the United States.
“Our immigration system is undeniably broken and the discourse around this topic is toxic,” former Trump spokesman Boris Epshteyn explained on 193 differnt local news stations this week. “A perfect illustration of these facts is the recent firestorm surrounding President Trump’s decision to enforce a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and prosecute all adults illegally crossing our borders. Many members of the media and opponents of the president have seized on this issue to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters. Let’s be honest: While some of the concern is real, a lot of it is politically driven by the liberals in politics and the media.”
Epshteyn went on to criticize the media for its exaggerated criticisms of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, before informing the public that the president had “correctly decided to step in and sign an executive order that will stop the separation of children from their families at the border.” He never mentioned that the White House had initiated this policy — nor that Trump had spent much of the past week (falsely) claiming that he was powerless to change it.
In his fair and balanced commentary, Epshteyn also neglected to entertain the possibility that liberal outrage over Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy had less to do with cynical partisan motives — or a radical commitment to open borders — than with the fact that the U.S. government has been ripping infants from their mothers, locking them in cages, and then insisting it has no responsibility to promptly reunite the families it separated.
As regional newspapers wither and die — and Americans increasingly view national events through an algorithmically customized, ideological filter — local TV news has become one of the only sources of political information that’s trusted by Democrats and Republicans alike.
And local TV news is fast becoming one more propaganda arm of our demagogic president’s reactionary movement.