The conservative broadcasting giant first came under fire after Deadspin published a video this weekend stitching together a slew of anchors at Sinclair-owned stations reading that script chiding mainstream outlets—in Trumpian fashion—for “media bias” and for running “fake stories without checking the facts first.”
The video prompted immediate, forceful backlash from critics who said the campaign resembled President Trump’s repeated attempts to delegitimize mainstream news reporting. Others, like Deadspin, pointed out the eerie nature in which the anchors from the country all willingly read from the same script, seemingly conscripted as “soldiers in Trump's war on the media.”
Anchors from three different Sinclair stations, who spoke with The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, said that over the past two days, Sinclair’s regional news directors have begun reaching out to some anchors to offer a mild apology.
The anchors individually said they had frank exchanges with Sinclair’s regional news directors about the company’s handling of the script and the resulting Deadspin video.
In two of these conversations, anchors chided regional news directors for forcing local anchors to read the scripts. And in all three conversations, the news directors did not apologize for the content of the promotional video itself.
“The apology was for putting us in a bad spot, for making us unwilling targets,” one anchor told The Daily Beast. “There is no remorse from the corporate leaders who will continue peddling their politics and quest for profits by any means necessary.”
Several other anchors featured in the video remain upset that they have not received any personal calls from Sinclair management.
“I'm the one taking the heat, and still no one is talking to me,” one anchor lamented.
In an internal email sent earlier this week to anchors included in Deadspin’s video, Sinclair’s vice president of news Scott Livingston acknowledged that anchors had faced “challenging” criticism.
“Unfortunately, you are facing the brunt of the reaction on social media,” Livingston wrote in the note obtained by The Daily Beast, “That’s unfortunate. I know all of you did your best in executing this promo spot and I greatly appreciate your efforts.”
He concluded: “I believe the message does reinforce our commitment to objective and fair reporting. It’s disheartening for this message to be distorted and politicized. We will be reaching out to answer any questions.”
While some Sinclair executives have privately expressed remorse for setting their anchors up to be subject of widespread political criticism, others have not.
In an email exchange with The New York Times published on Wednesday, Sinclair chairman David Smith dismissed the backlash, saying, “You can't be serious!”
He continued: “Do you understand that as a practical matter every word that comes out of the mouths of network news people is scripted and approved by someone?”
Several anchors expressed exasperation that Smith had dismissed the blowback to the promotional videos, which many anchors say they anticipated.
“To act like ‘What's the big deal?’ Fuck you, this isn't your reputation,” one anchor told The Daily Beast.
Still, others have resigned themselves to the fact that they are now fodder for internet content in perpetuity.
“Unfortunately, nothing is going to rid me of the regret and feeling like I’m a sell-out,” one anchor who received an apology said.
“I wish life had do-overs.”