Right-wing media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group is reportedly getting rid of its political commentary segments run by Boris Epshteyn, the company’s chief political analyst and former aide to President Donald Trump.
The decision to get rid of the Trump-aligned segments is part of a companywide move to focus more on investigative reporting rather than political analysis, NBC News first reported on Wednesday. CNN later confirmed the report.
“We have to shine a light on our value proposition every quarter hour, in every newscast. Therefore, we will be expanding our local investigative journalism footprint in our daily newscasts. We are excited to dedicate more time in our newscasts to report on critical and relevant issues,” the company said in a statement to staff that was obtained by NBC News.
“To allot additional airtime for this storytelling, we will be ending the commentary segments this Friday, Dec. 13, featuring Ameshia Cross, and Boris Epshteyn,” the statement continued.
The company hired Cross ― who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign ― earlier this year to balance Epshteyn and provide a liberal perspective on political commentary segments.
A spokesperson for Sinclair did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Sinclair ran Epshteyn’s pro-Trump “Bottom Line with Boris” segment on the company’s nearly 200 local television stations across the country. Epshteyn’s commentary, delivered to Sinclair stations as “must-run,” has long been a source of controversy in the media industry.
During one segment last year, Epshteyn echoed Trump’s dehumanizing “invasion” rhetoric on immigration. Sinclair responded by distancing itself from the political analyst in a November 2018 tweet.
“Boris will be moving into a sales-focused role with the company,” a source familiar with the situation told NBC News on Wednesday. It’s unclear whether Cross will stay with the company.
Sinclair has been known to align itself with the Trump White House in other ways.
In 2016, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said the Trump campaign made a deal with Sinclair to get the media giant more access in exchange for running interviews with Trump without commentary, according to Politico. At the time, Sinclair denied that anything improper had occurred regarding the deal.
In March 2018, Sinclair ordered local news anchors across the country to read a “must-run” script denouncing “some media outlets” for “false news” and “fake stories.” Deadspin and ThinkProgress created supercuts of anchors reading the script, showing newscasters reciting the identical lines.
“I felt like a POW recording a message,” one anchor at a Sinclair-owned station told CNN.
After the supercut went viral, Sinclair President and CEO Chris Ripley sent a companywide email telling employees to stay the course despite what he called “politically motivated attacks” from outside the company.
In April 2018, conservative host Jame Allman resigned from “The Allman Report” on Sinclair-owned KDNL-TV after threatening to sexually assault David Hogg, one of the teen survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Hogg has become an outspoken gun control advocate since the massacre, leading to vicious attacks from the right.
That same year, the Federal Communications Commission blocked Sinclair’s efforts to merge with Tribune, a move that would have resulted in the company growing exponentially. The FCC’s decision led to significant criticism from Trump, who had been used to favorable political commentary from the media giant until now.
As recently as this August, at least 20 Sinclair-owned stations ran stories showcasing merchandise from the Trump reelection campaign.