Sinclair Broadcast Group has a troubling track record with the truth. Since it announced its planned merger with news giant Tribune Media in May 2017, the company has faced a very public firestorm over its history of infecting local news coverage with politically charged programming. Turning America’s local news stations into partisan outlets is nothing new for Sinclair, though. The company could be considered the Godfather of agenda-driven local media, with criticisms of media bias dating back to the early 2000s. Most recently, Sinclair has been under fire for its now infamous “must run” segments – short pieces of political commentary produced in Sinclair’s national headquarters that the company requires all local affiliates to air.
One of the earliest criticisms of Sinclair’s coverage was in response to Sinclair executives’ mandate that news anchors at its local affiliates run editorials supportive of the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Newsroom staffers pushed back “saying such statements could undermine the public faith in their political objectivity.” Since then, Sinclair has continued to push heavily partisan commentary in the lead-up to elections and faced a barrage of negative attention for content critical of Democratic candidates before the 2004, 2010, and 2012 national elections. Most recently, in 2016, Sinclair made headlines for striking a deal with Jared Kushner to give the Trump campaign positive press, while heavily criticizing Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.