President-elect Donald Trump has long positioned himself at odds with the media, lashing out at reporters and outlets that dared to criticize him or shine light on his numerous scandals. His vitriol toward the press became so intense on the campaign trail that reporters covering his rallies began to fear for their safety.
The Trump campaign also sought out allies, like Fox News’ Sean Hannity, to counteract the media’s attempt at straightforward coverage with airtime unencumbered by tough questions (over $31 million in free airtime, in fact). Now it seems Hannity wasn’t the only one. The campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group for similarly uncritical coverage, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly told a group of business executives in Manhattan Friday.
Sinclair got more access to Trump and the campaign and, in return, broadcast Trump interviews without commentary to its television stations across the country, six people who heard Kushner’s remarks told Politico.
“Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio, reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 listeners — than networks like CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000.”
A Trump spokesperson told Politico the Sinclair deal included interviews running across every affiliate and that the campaign had sought to disseminate information through other media companies with affiliates, like Hearst.
Sinclair Broadcast Group owns or has partnerships with 173 television stations, on 482 channels, in 81 U.S. markets, according to its website.
“It was a standard package, but an extended package, extended story where you’d hear more directly from candidate on the issue instead of hearing all the spin and all the rhetoric,” Scott Livingston, vice president of news at Sinclair, said. Livingston also told Politico that the company offered extended interviews to both campaigns and that Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine did a few while Hillary Clinton did not.
For the most part, Trump has taken a more direct approach to try to squelch any negative coverage of himself or his numerous business interests. Just this week the president-elect smeared the editor of Vanity Fair on Twitter, saying he had “no talent” after the magazine published a critical review of Trump Grill.
Trump had a similar reaction to NBC Nightly News last week, presumably in response to a report mentioning his choice not to receive daily intelligence briefings and rejection of the intelligence community’s growing conviction regarding Russian interference in the presidential election.
The Trump campaign repeatedly denied credentials to outlets that covered him critically — including the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and Politico — and threatened to sue the New York Times when it published the accounts of two women who accused Trump of sexual assault. (The full list of journalists and outlets attacked by Trump is extensive, compiled here by Media Matters.)
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2016
Trump’s outright disdain for the media and repeated claims that the press was overwhelmingly biased against him seemed to take hold in voters: In the lead-up to the election, 52 percent of registered voters thought the media was biased in favor of Clinton; in another poll, 75 percent of respondents said they believed the media wanted to see Clinton elected.
In October, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ board of directors passed a resolution “declaring Trump an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists and to CPJ’s ability to advocate for press freedom around the world.” As he prepares to move into the White House, however, concern for the future of press freedom has risen exponentially.
His ascendance means “there’s definitely reason for concern,” Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center, which advocates for free expression, told Newsweek. “If the campaign and his past history are any indication, this will be a president who is dismissive of the role of the press. Accusatory. Punitive in his treatment of journalists. Arbitrary. Secretive when he wants to be.”