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Sinclair Broadcasting Group Denies It Offered Donald Trump Softball Interview Deal

Deadline logo Deadline 12/20/2016 Lisa de Moraes
© Provided by Deadline

Sinclair Broadcasting Group pushed back at news reports about an offer it made to Donald Trump during the campaign.

“Over the past three days, there have been numerous misleading press stories about Sinclair’s election coverage,” Sinclair Broadcasting Group VP News Scott Livingston said this afternoon in a statement. “We offered both major presidential candidates the same opportunities to be interviewed by our local anchors on a regular basis. There was no ‘deal’ on the tone, tenor, or subject of the interviews. We did not offer favorable or preferential treatment to either candidate, nor did we ever waiver from our commitment to provide rigorous, thoughtful, and thorough coverage to the millions who rely on local television.

“It is in everyone’s best interest that candidates speak to voters through interviews with professional reporters,” Livingston continued. “Our outreach to both Secretary Clinton’s and President-elect Trump’s campaigns was meant to deliver meaningful, informative newscasts to our local viewers.  We stand behind that practice.”

Last Friday, Politico first reported the news Jared Kushner told business execs that Donald Trump’s operation had struck a deal with Sinclair during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage. Kushner’s remarks were made at an off-the-record meeting in the Morgan Stanley Cafeteria for the Partnership for New York City. According to Politico, citing six unnamed people the news outlet said had heard the remarks, Trump’s son-in-law said the agreement with Sinclair, which owns television stations across the country in many swing states and often packages news for its affiliates to run, gave them more access to Trump and the campaign. Sinclair agreed its stations would broadcast the Trump interviews across the country, without commentary, Politico reported. Sinclair operates and/or provides services to 173 television stations in 81 markets.

Sinclair and station groups said such a deal is nothing nefarious or new and is something many campaigns have done in previous years to get around the national media, Politico reported.

The news outlet cited a Washington Post report from 2014 that said local Sinclair TV stations have, in the past, been directed to air “must run” stories produced by Sinclair’s Washington bureau “that were generally critical of Obama administration and offered perspectives primarily from conservative think tanks.”

In the Politico post, Livingston said the offer for extended interviews with local anchors was made to both candidates. Trump did a handful of them, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine did a few, and Clinton did none. A Trump spokesman said the deal included the interviews running across every affiliate but that no money was exchanged between the network and the campaign. The spokesman said the campaign also worked with other media outlets that had affiliates, including Hearst. Barbara Maushard, senior vice president for news at Hearst Television, said in a statement “Any suggestion that Hearst Television cut any deal with political candidates is categorically false and absurd.”

Sinclair operates and/or provides services to 173 television stations in 81 markets, broadcasting 482 channels and having affiliations with all the major networks.

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