Reid Flips Out Over Sinclair Busting Liberal Influence in Local News

June 14th, 2024 8:18 AM

Joy Reid hosted a panel of clowns on Wednesday’s episode of MSNBC’s The ReidOut to denounce local news stations questioning President Biden’s mental acuity. The panel of lefties condemned the Sinclair Broadcast Group for broadcasting a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report on the president’s age as it affects the election. They also portrayed the group as an insidious promoter of propaganda intending to deceive unsuspecting voters.

Turning to former CNN host turned Vanity Fair special correspondent Brian Stelter, Reid displayed the different TV stations owned by Sinclair and bemoaned their significant reach, claiming that “they’re pretending and masked as a normal news station” because they ran reports about President Biden’s mental state. Stelter exaggerated the supposed challenges faced by journalists working at Sinclair stations, who were forced to report on talking points mandated by an apparently tyrannical group. 

He also insisted that the WSJ report was notably flawed, even though it specifically called into question the acuity of both candidates and mentioned Trump’s blunders as well as Biden’s. 



Reid played another recording of when Sinclair “got caught…reading the same script on all these different stations that got busted,” misrepresenting it as a rare phenomenon exclusive to the broadcasting group. 

MSNBC contributor Molly Jong-Fast decried it as a “nefarious” product of the “conservative echo chamber” and Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Post. She dramatized him as a mastermind with “a vested interest in right-wing propaganda,” preying on vulnerable grandmas. 

Kind of sounds like when the liberal media were singing from the same sheet music that Hunter Biden’s laptop was a “disinformation campaign” and “foreign intelligence operation.”

Fake Republican Matthew Dowd regurgitated Jong-Fast’s raving contribution, arguing that Sinclair was “far more dangerous” than Fox News because it exploited the established trust in local news stations. Naturally, everybody at MSNBC is completely confident that the network covers the truth and makes no attempt to deceive its viewers.

Reid compared the incident to Hillary Clinton’s emails and widespread coverage of that story, wisely deducing that “the media does have the power to make people do–to, you know, shape people's opinions.”

She also surprisingly admitted that “Joe Biden is old–let's just be clear–and he looks old, he sounds old, he walks old. He looks–you know, you see he’s a senior citizen.” To her, the primary difference between the candidates was that Biden “still sounds like he’s in touch with reality,” which NewsBusters proved was ridiculously false

The panel excused Biden as a well-meaning senior citizen while Trump, in Dowd’s words, “is a unique combination of both mentally unstable and incredibly corrupt.”

Stelter hilariously suggested that Biden voters demanded a higher standard while Republicans blindly accepted Trump’s words:

Why are so many Trump voters holding Trump to such a low standard? I would argue that most Biden voters hold Biden to a higher standard. Why is it that many Trump voters accept the word vomit–or, or the word salad that comes out of his mouth?

Kind of like the high standards Stelter had on his CNN show, Reliable Sources, when he failed to push back on a guest who claimed Trump was going to kill more people than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

Towards the end of the discussion, Reid and Jong-Fast exchanged theories on what Republicans really wanted, concluding that “there aren’t any” policies they support and they “don’t seem to want anything.” An intriguing change in tune for Reid who devoted significant portions of earlier episodes to fretting over the consequences of a possible second Trump presidency.

The transcript is below. Click "expand" to read:

MSNBC’s The ReidOut



JOY REID: But we begin tonight with the power of choice. As all of you faithful readers tuning in right now have made a choice to watch this program, you know what you want, and we are very thankful that you’ve decided to tune in. On the other hand, there are people who choose to watch Fox, which they are perfectly entitled to do, and those viewers are doing so knowing that they're going to get a heaping dose of right-wing talking points and Trump cheerleading. They’re choosing that because that's what they want. 

But when, say, your grandma tunes into her local news station for traffic, weather, and sports–maybe it's an NBC affiliate or an ABC or CBS–she's probably not looking for a very specific right-wing narrative from the media conglomerate who just so happens to own that station. In fact, she probably doesn't even know what's happening. 

But it is, at scores of local stations owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns or operates 185 local television stations across the country. New reporting by Aaron Rupar of Public Notice and Judg–Judd Legum of Popular Information highlights how Sinclair has inserted one specific right-wing narrative about President Biden’s age into local broadcasts nationwide. Local anchors teed-up a segment based on a recent dubious Wall Street Journal report about the president’s acuity and the election, all with a virtually identical script.


REID: Joining me now is Molly Jong-Fast, Vanity Fair special correspondent and MSNBC contributor, Matthew Dowd, former Republican strategist and MSNBC senior political analyst, and Brian Stelter, Vanity Fair special correspondent and author of Network of Lies. Brian, I’m gonna go to you first ‘cause you are our media guy. I mean, this is how broad–I wanna put up this map. This is how much coverage Sinclair has across the United States. You can see that all over the country and the thing that's important to note is that, yes, 51 of them are Fox affiliates–and I–my first job was as a–for a Fox affiliate, they’re not necessarily exactly like Fox–51 are Fox, ABC is 39, CBS 30, NBC 25, Univision eight. So, they’re pretending and masked as a normal news station.

BRIAN STELTER: Yes, and instead of putting just a thumb on this scale, the s–the actual reach of Sinclair means they put an entire hand on the scale. They are having, uh, a-a-a-a profound influence and frankly, uh, uh, a disproportionate influence compared to other local TV stations. You know, Joy, I’m glad you’re talking about this story ‘cause local TV is really powerful.

REID: Yes.

STELTER: And there’s a lot of local journalists who are outstanding. My wife’s a local TV anchor. Her colleagues do outstanding work. But, here’s the problem with Sinclair in particular. Unlike all of those other networks, unlike all of those other owners, Sinclair does try to put a spin on the news. And I know a lot of the local journalists who work for Sinclair stations don't want anything to do with it. They don’t like it. They don't like reading the talking points but they have to. And here’s the biggest problem of all, Joy. That Wall Street Journal story had a lot of flaws, as you said. But Sinclair, they didn't do any original reporting. They didn’t follow up. They didn’t do any work. They didn't do any of their own work at all. They just ate it up and then they regurgitated what The Wall Street Journal said. That's the worst form of so-called journalism out there. It's not really news at all.

REID: Yeah.

STELTER: And that’s my biggest complaint about this.

REID: Right and they–and they’ve done this before, Molly. This isn't the first time. Let me play the previous one that where they got caught. And this was reading the same script on all these different stations that got busted. Uh, take a look. 

[Cuts to video]

[Many speaking at once]

[Cuts back to live]

REID: And this was a must-run editorial and it echoed Donald Trump's attacks on the media using phrases like “false news” and “fake stories.”

MOLLY JONG-FAST: Well, what we see is this conservative echo chamber, how they find a story and you see it. It starts in The New York Post, maybe it starts in the Gateway Pundit. I mean, there are, you know, dubious news sources all throughout the conservative spectrum. The New York Post often goes to The Wall Street Journal, both owned by Rupert Murdoch who has a vested interest in right-wing propaganda, also–who also owns Fox News. It goes to Fox and then it sort of trickles down. So, Sinclair, it's not so surprising that they do this, I mean, we’ve seen that they do this. But the fact that they’re using local news…

REID: Right.

JONG-FAST: …to get this propaganda into the minds of people who are just trying to figure out the weather and the traffic seems particularly nefarious.

REID: Yeah, absolutely. And Matthew, I mean, from a campaign perspective, it's a powerful ally to have because this isn't people who are, sort of, self–you know, they’re choosing to go to Fox because they want that. These are people who are just sitting back, as Molly said, just listening to the news and the sports and they are getting a propaganda narrative, while at the same time they’re constantly being fed the idea that Trump is vigorous and brilliant, because let’s just face it. As Nicolle Wallace has pointed out numerous times, Fox isn't even playing him live anymore because he has become more and more demented sounding. They won’t go live to him anymore, we don’t go live to him, almost no one plays his speeches, so what you’re left with in just your local news world is the idea that it’s Biden that’s daffy, not Trump.

MATTHEW DOWD: Yeah, I mean, I'm glad we're having this conversation because I have come to the conclusion that what Sinclair is doing is far more dangerous than what Fox News has been doing. 

REID: For sure.

DOWD: Far more dangerous because we all see, and most Americans see, Fox News–whether you watch it or not, or hate it or not–we all know it's the same l–we all kinda generally know it’s the same lens–they’re gonna be right-wing, it’s gonna be that–and so we filter it through that or people–many people filter it through that and then accept it, whether you’re part of that cult or not. The problem with Sinclair is, people don't have that filter on when they watch their traffic, they watch the weather, they watch local sports and all of that. And tha–when you look at the level of trust for news organizations, local news is trusted far more than other news, in the course of this. And I remember in 2004, Joy, that what I would say is show me what's getting reported on the local news and show me what's in the local paper in Phoenix or Detroit or Grand Rapids or whatever else. That to me is what's most important. That was before this Sinclair and now we have this. And that, to me, is far more pernicious than Fox News.

REID: Absolutely, Brian. I mean, the reality is, what took–what made Donald Trump unre-electable was not so much what necessarily we were saying here, because his voters wouldn't have watched it. It was all the stories of people dying that people were seeing on local news. And I remember saying that on this show is that Donald Trump, what he cannot overcome is that people dying in your community ends up on your local station. And those deaths are in A block, they’re in the top of that broadcast because it's a local tragedy and he can't get around that. Well, thanks to Sinclair, yeah, he can.

STELTER: Mmm. You’re–you are–yeah, that is true to some degree. It's not true as, uh, as a overall because, as you said, even some Fox affiliates are not the same as Fox News, right? There is a lot of great work out there but I am gonna be paying attention as this election goes on to how much Sinclair continues to put that entire fist on the scale, how much these local anchors are forced to read national scripts. Because as that anchor kept saying–all those anchors said the same thing, right, they’re reading the same words.

REID: Yeah.

STELTER: They said, “This could be an election decider, Joe Biden's age.” Well, that's true if the media obsesses over it and ignores Trump's faults. That will be true if the media puts its fists on the scale.

REID: It’s Hillary’s emails…


REID: …because the media literally only did one story the minute those emails–Russia grabbed those emails and hacked the DNC. There literally was no other story that anyone had any interest in. And so, the media does have the power to make people do–to, you know, shape people's opinions.

JONG-FAST: Absolutely true. And remember, they tried to impeach Joe Biden. The Republicans in the House, they tried to weaponize the government against him and they couldn't find anything and then their main witness ended up in jail. 

REID: (Laughs).

JONG-FAST: Soooo, you know, this is all they have is that Joe Biden is three years older than Donald Trump. 

REID: Right.

JONG-FAST: It's not like he’s 20 years or even 10 years. They guy is three years older.

REID: Right, and also three years older and his brain don’t work good. I mean, if we’re just being honest, I mean, he stands up there and he gives these incohere–and we have this, you know–and Matthew I’ll go to you on this because we do have this debate on our show–all of the shows on this network have the debate of whether to play him. Because, part of me says, you should, because I don't think people understand how much he has declined. Joe Biden is old–let's just be clear–and he looks old, he sounds old, he walks old. He looks–y-y-you know, you see he’s a senior citizen. But he still sounds like he’s in touch with reality. Donald Trump does not. An-an-and so the question becomes, I think for the media, do we show more of him being himself? Because that's the only way people can necessarily–naw I’ve heard other people say, “Just show it to focus groups,” ‘cause I think a lot of Americans have forgotten how he sounds.

DOWD: Well, I'm all, for one, for being as transparent as possible and wha–who is running in this campaign and showing them who they are. Showing–just basically lay it out to the American public and say, “This is the par–these are the people. This is Joe Biden. This is Donald Trump. And here you have it. And here’s him in his own words. And here’s Joe Biden in his own words. The funny–the interesting thing about me–about Donald Trump, is that he is a unique combination of both mentally unstable and incredibly corrupt. Right? He’s–he’s both–he’s a combination of both of those things. And so, he’s nefarious in how he operates in all those things but he’s also I–in my view, in my–Matthew Dowd’s view–mentally unstable in so many ways. And a lot of people have a hard time putting those two things together, that somebody can be both corrupt and-and do all sorts of nasty things while simultaneously being mentally unstable. But that's Donald Trump.

REID: Yeah. And, I mean, Brian…go, please.

STELTER: I think what we need to interrogate, then, is why are so many voters accepting that, right? Why are so many Trump voters holding Trump to such a low standard? I would argue that most Biden voters hold Biden to a higher standard. 

REID: For sure.

STELTER: Why is it that many Trump voters accept the word vomit–or, or the word salad that comes out of his mouth? That actually is the harder question, I think, to answer. I don't claim to have the answer. 

REID: Yeah. 

STELTER: But, Joy, that’s why you mentioned focus groups. Focus groups help us get to that answer.

REID: Absolutely! And, I mean, Molly, this is the challenge because, I think, Democratic voters tend to be much harder on their–on Democratic presidents, Democratic candidates, Democratic members of congress, like, they want things. 


REID: But, the thing that's disconnected in our politics is that Republicans don't seem to want anything. They don't want bridges or jobs in their community. They just want theater. 


REID: And so–they–because they are having a low standard as voters, they’re saying, “Just entertain me by owning the libs and then we don't care if you don't deliver us anything.” And, that's the problem.

JONG-FAST: Well, Republicans don't really want democracy anymore.

REID: Well, they want tax cuts. (Laughs).

JONG-FAST: Right, they want ta–very rich Republicans want tax cuts and they don’t care. Right. But a lot of these people just want authoritarianism. I mean, they like that. But if you ask–I mean, what I think is so fascinating about Republicans right now is they’re not really for anything besides tax cuts. 

REID: Right.

JONG-FAST: Right? I mean, they don’t–if you tried to list the policies that they are for..

REID: There aren’t any. Yeah.

JONG-FAST: Right, I mean, you know, it was infrastructure week a lot of times, but there never was any infrastructure…you know? So, that kind of thing is–you know, they want to give Trump more power. 

REID: Yeah. 

JONG-FAST: But to do what, exactly?

REID: And then that–that's the other piece. This is a media challenge because I don't think that we’re communicating to the audience always exactly what Donald Trump is going to do. Project 2025 isn't what he’s going to do. While he’s out there playing in traffic and talking about electrocution and sharks, the super-rich are gonna get–be–just glopping up tax cuts, and glopping up deregulation that is all for them. None of it’s for regular people.