Sinclair fires back at critics, calls promos a 'well-researched journalistic initiative'

A Sinclair Broadcasting senior executive is pushing back at critics of an ad campaign who accused the company of pushing pro-Trump propaganda, stating the promos were "focused on fact-based reporting" and showed the company's "commitment to our communities." 

"The critics are now upset about our well-researched journalistic initiative focused on fair and objective reporting," Scott Livingston, senior vice president of news, wrote in an internal memo on Monday that was obtained by CNN.

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"For the record, the stories we are referencing in this campaign are the unsubstantiated ones (i.e. fake/false) like 'Pope Endorses Trump' which move quickly across social media and result in an ill-informed public. Some other false stories, like the false 'Pizzagate' story, can result in dangerous consequences."

"We are focused on fact-based reporting," he added in the memo to employees. "That's our commitment to our communities."

News anchors at local Sinclair stations say in the promos that they are “concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country."

The Sinclair promos also warn of an "extremely dangerous" threat to democracy.

"The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media," their scripts read. "More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first.”

Livingston in the memo also referred to a Monmouth University poll released Monday that he believes underscores the general theme of the campaign regarding fake news.

"A new Monmouth University Poll out today says Americans are concerned, in fact, 77 percent of the respondents believe 'fake news' is reported at least occasionally in mainstream media," wrote Livingston. "This is a concern that is shared by Democrats, Republicans and Independents."

"This poll underscores the importance of our journalistic responsibility effort," he continued. "We hold ourselves to the highest standards of accuracy and fact checking."

Critics slammed the Sinclair promos after they went viral over the weekend via a compilation made by Deadspin, an online publication.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough called the promos "Trumpian" while adding that they "smack of state-run media for an autocrat.”

Kentucky congressional Democratic candidate Amy McGrath slammed the ads as a "right-wing script" and announced she was pulling campaign ads from a television station owned by Sinclair. 

"Sinclair’s corporate-mandated 'must-read' right-wing script on its nearly 200 television stations about 'fake news' is itself an extreme danger to our Democracy and eerily mimics the propaganda efforts that authoritarian regimes often use to control the media in their own country," she said in a statement.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), meanwhile, called on the Justice Department to reject a merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media. Such a merger would give Sinclair coverage of 72 percent of American households. 

"I have written a letter to the Justice Department calling for the Sinclair merger to be rejected outright. It is signed by 37 of my colleagues," wrote Cardenas on Twitter.

Some conservatives pushed back on the criticism, arguing that nothing in the actual transcript could be considered pro-President Trump.

"Here’s the thing: the actual text of this universally-issued missive has nothing to do with Trump," wrote conservative commentator and podcast host Ben Shapiro on "The Daily Wire."

"Go ahead. Check it. There’s nothing about Trump there. And complaints about one-sided news and 'sharing of false and biased' news on social media have been absolutely common on the Left."