For the second day in a row, the legacy media has found itself obsessed with the controversy surrounding Sinclair Broadcast Group's promotion denouncing fake news and promising journalistic honesty and integrity. CNN's New Day presented no exception to the media hysteria, with co-host Alisyn Camerota comparing the promos to hostage videos.
Media Correspondent Brian Stelter argued that Sinclair's decision to push the promos proves the existence of an "alternative reality of a pro-Trump media in this country." The New Day panel also made the argument that the support for Fox News Host Laura Ingraham in her feud with Parkland student David Hogg comes from Russian bots.
The Sinclair story received a new dose of oxygen after President Trump came to Sinclair’s defense on Twitter, saying “The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The ‘fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!”
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 173 local news stations in 34 states, first began airing these promos on March 23. Sinclair Senior Vice President of News Scott Livingston referred to the initiative as a “corporate news journalistic responsibility promotional campaign” in an internal memo.
The generic statement recited by local news anchors at Sinclair-owned stations read, in part, “It’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.” The local news anchors also took on the topic of fake “But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided new stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.”
Camerota herself admitted that “there was nothing particularly offensive” about these promos. But that didn’t stop her from complaining that “they all had to parrot it around the country as though they were in a hostage video.”
While the media does not seem to like Sinclair’s denunciation of “fake news” because they attribute that term to President Trump, keep in mind that President Obama used the phrase “fake news” in the weeks following the 2016 Presidential Election as the Democrats began crafting the Russian interference narrative as an excuse for their loss.
The discussion then turned to a Monmouth University poll showing that 77 percent of respondents believe the traditional news media report fake news. Guest co-host Avlon cited the results of this poll as proof that “Trump has been largely successful in muddying the terms of the debate” while Stelter took refuge in the poll’s findings that more Americans trust CNN and MSNBC than President Trump.
Guest co-host Jim Sciutto reminded New Day viewers that “there is actual fake news. It’s weaponized by Russia.” Avlon pointed to “this debate between Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host now on vacation, and the Parkland student David Hogg” as a “specific example of that.”
He mentioned “a project that tracks Russian bots found a dramatic increase in Russian bots using the hashtag surrounding that debate; trying to elevate the debate on Ingraham’s side overwhelmingly”; effectively implying that all of Ingraham’s support comes from the Russians. Ingraham has found herself the target of a hit job by Media Matters, which has convinced advertisers to stop advertising during her show; hoping that will convince Fox News to cancel the show.
The media has adopted two narratives as fact: Anyone who goes after fake news is carrying water for the President, while anyone who expresses sympathy for right-of-center politicians, media personalities, or policy positions, is carrying water for Vladimir Putin. Both of these narratives most definitely fall into the category of “fake news.”
To read the transcript, click "expand" below.
CNN New Day
JIM SCIUTTO: Welcome back this Tuesday morning. President Trump defending Sinclair Broadcast Group after critics raised concerns about the company’s controversial new promos. The President tweeting just minutes ago, “The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The ‘fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!” Sinclair Senior Vice President of News Scott Livingston sent an internal memo blasting the negative coverage and defended the initiative as “corporate news journalistic responsibility promotional campaign.” That’s a mouthful.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: I’m glad they’re done with the double speak.
SCIUTTO: CNN, that clear things up. CNN Senior Media Correspondent, Host of Reliable Sources Brian Stelter and CNN Media Analyst Bill Carter. We should mention that most of those Sinclair stations are CNN affiliates. So Brian, really, you know, sticking to their guns here, right? Sinclair saying, in fact, I noted in another comment that they made to employees, they said “Listen, if you have a problem with it, you’re welcome to work somewhere else.”
BRIAN STELTER: Right and that was the message also delivered in meetings inside newsrooms yesterday but there is a lot of dissent, a lot of concern inside these local newsrooms about this initiative and more broadly about Sinclair’s promotion of conservative politics inside local newscasts. It’s come to a head because of these promos. But I think it’s worth recognizing as the President viciously attacks the media again today and promotes Sinclair and defends Sinclair, this story was not started by outsiders. It was started by insiders, by these local journalists who said “Whoa, this is inappropriate. I’ve had enough. I have to speak out.”
CAMEROTA: That’s the bigger issue.
STELTER: One staffer has resigned, one station has refused to run it. Others are also speaking out on social media. This is about an internal revolt.
BILL CARTER: I think it’s also blowing up on them. I think Sinclair is calling attention to itself in a way they probably didn’t particularly want. And they, they’re trying to make this deal. They want to expand. And now I think what they really are and their purpose is becoming much clearer and I’m not sure that was really what they wanted.
CAMEROTA: Except we’ll see if there’s any viewership erosion. I mean, people might like what they’re putting out. You know, I think of what Brian has touched on...
CARTER: Some people will and some people won’t.
CAMEROTA: ...is actually the bigger part of the story, which is the people inside have noticed their story selections changing, the angle’s changing. They’re becoming a conservative bent. What they said, what they forced the anchors to say was basically like “we will never give you biased reporting.” I mean, actually, if you look at it word for word, there was nothing particularly offensive. It’s that they all had to parrot it around the country as though they were in a hostage video. That was the weird part.
CARTER: That’s right.
CAMEROTA: But the, the more pernicious thing is the way they’re slanting the news.
CARTER: They slant the news.
STELTER: And increasingly, there’s an alternative reality of a pro-Trump media in this country, Fox News being the core of that, of that alternative reality, shows from Fox & Friends to Sean Hannity promoting the President’s talking points. To the extent that Sinclair’s also doing that, it increases this sense of an alternative universe of information and when we get to key moments in the Trump Presidency, for example, if there are new indictments in the Robert Mueller probe and Fox and other pro-Trump allies are going to either discredit it, deny it, deflect it. That’s ultimately why this matters.
SCIUTTO: Look at these, there’s a new poll out by Monmouth. This figure really struck me, it’s worrisome. 77 percent of respondents to this poll believe the traditional news report fake news. I mean, there’s a real crisis of confidence, is there not, Bill Carter?
CARTER: Well, I think it’s, it’s partly both sides looking at it and saying what Fox News is doing is slanted, what MSNBC news is doing is slanted and they think it’s fake and they interpret that as fake. But there is a lot of news that is being passed out that’s just not true and Trump is responsible for quite a bit of it. He says, he says that, for example, Amazon costs the post office billions of dollars and it’s just the opposite.
JOHN AVLON: And so what you’re saying, though, is that Trump has been largely successful in muddying the terms of the debate.
CARTER: He has.
AVLON: And so this 77 percent number, Brian, could also be reflecting the fact that folks on the right and the left have actually very different definitions of the sources of fake news and what that means.
STELTER: Right. Even definitions of what trusted media is. Everybody has a different definition of what is media, what they trust, what sources they believe and conversely what is now fake news. The President was really effective at redefining, exploiting the term fake news, trying to turn it around on real news networks, but this poll also shows more Americans say they trust CNN than President Trump. More Americans say they trust MSNBC than President Trump. He has a very loyal base. It’s what you all talk about every morning. They are with him on every issue and when it comes to his wars with various people, they’re with him. But that’s not the majority of the country.
SCIUTTO: The other thing about fake news, right, the President, you know, using that term. Again, there is actual fake news. It’s weaponized by Russia.
CAMEROTA: It’s fiction. It’s truly fiction.
SCIUTTO: We had this, where they’re created, I mean, fake stories out of the blue used to influence people and their thoughts and create division, that kind of thing, that’s the real fake news. And yet it’s used by the President as a way to attack critical coverage.
AVLON: And a specific example of that, which I think is really profound and worth remarking upon is in this debate between Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host now on vacation, and the Parkland student David Hogg. Over the weekend, Hamilton 68, a project that tracks Russian bots found a dramatic increase in Russian bots using the hashtag surrounding that debate; trying to elevate the debate on Ingraham’s side overwhelmingly. That itself is fascinating if folks want to see the extent to which these, these tweets are being weaponized.
CAMEROTA: And the Russian bots seize on these things. Whenever they sense division in the country, they seize on it and gin it up.