The Sinclair Broadcasting Group — the pro-Trump media conglomerate — is taking over local television. And it’s now using its reach to spread a counternarrative that the media and liberals are playing up the heartbreaking consequences of separating immigrant families at the border.
Sinclair regularly forces its 193 local stations to air a segment by former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn. His most recent segment (flagged by Media Matters) took on the family separation crisis on the border that has dominated the news for several days. The crisis was sparked by the Trump administration’s recent decisions to jail asylum-seeking parents for illegally crossing the border, which led to their children being separated into detention centers.
But Epshteyn saw something different in the media coverage of the crisis:
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.
The stories from the border are heart-wrenching: One Honduran man killed himself in a detention cell after his child was taken from him; children are crying themselves to sleep; and some Border Patrol agents reportedly lied to parents about why their kids were being taken away — and how long they would be separated.
But Epshteyn, using his Sinclair-sponsored platform, says such stories may just be the work of anti-Trump liberals.
Epshteyn then applauds Trump for stopping family separation with an executive order — “President Trump has correctly decided to step in and sign an executive order that will stop the separation of children from their families at the border” — without mentioning that it was Trump who implemented the policy in the first place.
The segment falls in line with a previous promo local anchors were forced to read, which also aimed to sow distrust in media. Much like Trump, Sinclair is gaslighting its viewers into thinking that maybe, just maybe, their eyes are tricking them — that the horrific stories they see and hear are manufactured by their political enemies.
It’s reminiscent of the way propaganda works in places like Hungary, where government-friendly stories “appear almost simultaneously across several platforms and feature near-identical headlines,” according to a recent Reuters report.
Sinclair currently owns 193 stations, which reach 39 percent of US viewers. It might soon reach 72 percent of Americans if its purchase of Tribune Media goes through.
Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the right-leaning Parents Television Council have asked the Federal Communications Commission to reject the Tribune deal.
“The merger’s result will be more uniform content, controlled from a distant corporate office,” the ACLU’s filing said.