Sinclair was unusual in having commentaries on its local newscasts. Most stations avoid commentary during newscasts.
The ending of Epshteyn’s “Bottom Line with Boris” commentaries, and those of his more liberal counterpart, Ameshia Cross, is oddly timed, coming just as the focus of many newscasts will be on the 2020 presidential race. Their last commentaries will air on Friday, the company said.
In an internal memo, the company said it would use the time devoted to Epshteyn’s and Cross’ commentaries for more investigative reporting. It didn’t say whether it would expand its stations’ news staffs to produce more of this kind of journalism.
Epshteyn will remain with Sinclair, but in a sales role, according to people at the company. It’s not clear what his title will be.
A Sinclair spokesman, Robert Ford, confirmed the accuracy of an NBC News report about Epshteyn’s diminished profile, but he declined further comment.
Epshteyn declined to comment as well and referred a reporter to Ford. In a tweet Wednesday, he wrote, “I’m thankful to be a part of @WeAreSinclair and to have produced poignant and insightful commentary for these last two plus years. I look forward to continuing to work with this great company.”
Sinclair hired Cross, who worked on President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, earlier this year to balance Epshteyn’s point of view.
The company drew criticism and unwanted attention last year for enlisting its many local news anchors in a scripted promotion that echoed some of Trump’s rhetoric about the news media. In response, Trump praised Sinclair.
On the eve of the midterm elections last year, for example, Sinclair’s Washington station, WJLA, aired back-to-back interviews with Eric Trump and President Trump in which they promoted Republican candidates. There were no equivalent interviews featuring Democrats.
Sinclair often turns to conservative personalities for commentary and guest appearances.
One of its semi-regular panelists for its televised town-hall broadcasts about national issues has been Wayne Allyn Root, a radio talk-show host. Root has promoted a variety of discredited notions, such as that former president Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and that a Democratic National Committee staffer, Seth Rich, was killed by Democrats to cover up his role in providing the DNC’s emails to WikiLeaks in 2016. He has also claimed, without evidence, that the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 was coordinated by Muslims.
Epshteyn sparked a brief controversy last year when, echoing Trump, he described the migration of Latin Americans to the United States as an “invasion.” The comment prompted Sinclair to distance itself from its chief political analyst via a tweet reading, “The opinions expressed in this segment do not reflect the views of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”
It went on to say, “Above all, we are committed to fair, unbiased journalism across our stations nationwide.”