Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation's largest television station owner, is facing fresh scrutiny for its latest "must-run" segment, which features the right-wing broadcaster's chief political commentator Boris Epshteyn trying to defend President Donald Trump's recent racist attacks on a group of freshman Democratic congresswomen.
On Sunday, Trump targeted four progressive women of color collectively known as "the Squad"—Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.)—tweeting that they should "go back" to the countries "from which they came." That led the hashtag #RacistPresident to trend on Twitter and provoked widespread criticism, including a House resolution condemning Trump's comments that passed mostly along party lines.
Sinclair has often come under fire for forcing the local television news stations it owns nationwide to air "must-run" segments—including short clips of Epshteyn, a former Trump adviser, delivering right-wing commentaries. Epshteyn's attempted defense of Trump's racist tweets was highlighted by the watchdog group Media Matters for America in a blog post initially published Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the group updated the post to note that "by the morning of July 17, the segment had already aired on at least 50 local news stations in 27 states and the District of Columbia, according to the iQ media database."
NEW: Sinclair's latest Boris Epshteyn must-run segment on the racist Trump tweets about @AOC, @AyannaPressley, @RashidaTlaib, and @IlhanMN concludes, "For those who believe that the American system is not for them … you are free to go."https://t.co/IfZm0yDLx8 pic.twitter.com/MqSMvy6opN
— Pam Vogel (@pamela_vogel) July 16, 2019
In the new "Bottom Line with Boris" segment, Epshteyn claims that Trump "has spoken out against radical, far-left Democrats... who consistently bad-mouth the United States." Challenging the condemnation of Trump, he says that "the wrongful, knee-jerk conclusion that the president is somehow racist for criticizing those who denigrate America is reflective of a liberal ideology that is obsessed with identity politics."
"For those who believe that the American system is not for them, unlike the people in communist North Korea or socialist Venezuela, you are free to go," he adds, echoing Trump's tweets. "Love it or leave it."
This is far from the first time the broadcasting behemoth has pushed messages that reiterate Trump's inflammatory remarks. Last year, as Common Dreams reported at the time, Sinclair forced local news anchors to recite a script denouncing "fake" and "false" news stories, which bore a striking resemblance to the consistent hostility that the president directs at journalists, publications, and news networks. Deadspin, which edited together several of the scripted segments, accused Sinclair of turning its anchors "into soldiers in Trump's war on the media."