By now, the term “fake news” has become something of a refrain for President Donald Trump, who uses the phrase to bash media outlets like CNN if they disagree with his policies. And now, the country’s largest local news owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, has made its affiliate stations denounce this same “fake news.” On March 31st, a video mashup revealed that dozens of Sinclair anchors had been forced to read the same script about fake news.
The script was originally uncovered by CNN, who reported it on March 7th, citing several Sinclair anchors who said they were uncomfortable with what they were being told to say. According to CNN, Sinclair instructed local station directors to air the 60- and 75-second “fake story” promos frequently to maximize exposure.
Deadspin compiled clips of Sinclair anchors reading the script into a chilling video, which was released on March 31st. The script, which was transcribed in full by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, decries “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country” in an echo of Trump’s anti-media tirades. The script also urges viewers to comment on their local stations’ websites if they feel the news has been biased. And a newsroom employee of local Seattle station KOMO-TV told the Post-Intelligencer that anchors weren’t happy about the script.
Scott Livingston, the vice president of news at Sinclair, told the Baltimore Sun that the scripted message was meant to reaffirm the news organization’s “commitment to reporting facts.”
Trump defended Sinclair in a tweet on April 2nd, writing “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC.”
Sinclair is infamous for its conservative lean, and over the past few years, the organization has come under fire for sending its affiliate stations “must-run” news packages, some of which include sensationalized stories about terrorism or commentators praising Trump.
There’s no denying that fake news stories, like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, exist, and they are dangerous. But given the president’s attempts to condemn valid news sources as “fake,” the Sinclair anchors’ script is scary. Now more than ever, it’s important to do our best to make sure the information we get is credible. That’s the only real way to avoid fake news.