HBO host John Oliver ripped right-wing network Sinclair Broadcasting Group for forcing its local news anchors to promote a message of alleged bias, calling them “members of a brainwashed cult.”
“Nothing says ‘We value independent media’ like dozens of reporters forced to repeat the same message over and over again like members of a brainwashed cult,” the HBO host said on “Last Week Tonight.”
Oliver’s remarks follow reports last month that right-leaning Sinclair mandated all local affiliate stations have anchors read aloud a promotional campaign that condemns other news outlets for pushing “fake stories.” Anchors say in the script that they are “concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.”
Some anchors complained to CNN in March, saying the “manipulative” message made them feel like a prisoner of war being staged for a recording.
“That statement is creepy enough, but when you see just how many local stations were forced to read it and you watch it together … you begin to understand Sinclair’s reach,” Oliver said, noting that if the company’s acquisition of Tribune Media is approved, Sinclair-owned local stations will reach 72 percent of American TV households.
The HBO host also said the Sinclair statement echoed “one of Trump’s favorite talking points, or more commonly, screaming points.”
Trump praised Sinclair and attacked CNN and NBC in a tweet on Monday.
“So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased,” he tweeted. “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”
So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018
Sinclair has been pushing its employees to inject extreme right political messages into their broadcasts that include attacks on the mainstream press.
Watch Oliver’s take on the controversy below.