Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation’s largest TV station owner, rolled out its latest news and public affairs program this week, a one-hour broadcast called “America This Week” hosted by Eric Bolling.
Bolling isn’t the only prominent former Fox personality to make the move to Sinclair, a company based in suburban Baltimore that owns 191 TV stations across the country, including WJLA, Washington’s ABC affiliate. Last month, Sinclair signed up former White House adviser and Fox commentator Sebastian Gorka as a contributor. In January, it hired veteran Fox reporter James Rosen, adding him to its Washington bureau.
The new hires’ Fox connections may be little more than a coincidence, but it could also reflect a mini-Fox-ification effort by Sinclair. Both have long aired commentary that appeals to conservatives.
“We look for people who have credibility and show a commitment to quality journalism,” a Sinclair spokesman, Rob Ford, said in a statement that made no mention of Fox. “For years, Sinclair has been one of the most honored and awarded broadcasters in the industry, and we are always looking for ways to expand our already impressive roster of talented journalists. We have hired talent from some of the biggest networks and will continue to seek out new additions wherever they exist as part of our commitment to bringing diverse viewpoints to our audiences.”
Fox and Sinclair compete for news viewers in different ways. Fox airs nationally via cable; Sinclair is more decentralized. Its stations broadcast in small towns (Elko, Nev.) and large cities (Baltimore, Seattle). Many of its stations produce their own local news programs, but Sinclair supplements these with commentary segments and news reports produced in Washington.
It often orders its stations to carry these segments on a “must-run” basis, giving its newscasts both a local and a national focus.
The company drew attention last year when a video went viral showing its many news anchors reading a seemingly Trump-friendly promotion about “biased and false news” from the same company-supplied script.
Sinclair’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn, is a former Trump campaign and White House adviser who reliably sides with the president in commentaries that Sinclair distributes to its stations. Epshteyn appeared frequently on Fox and other cable networks as a Trump surrogate during the 2016 campaign and during the early days of the new administration. He also wrote opinion columns for FoxNews.com, although he was never employed by the network.
Sinclair’s national news reporting often stays close to Trump’s line, too. The day before the 2018 midterm elections, WJLA aired back-to-back interviews with the president’s son, Eric Trump, and an exclusive interview by Sinclair’s Washington bureau with the president. There were no equivalent interviews with Democratic candidates or party representatives.
Sinclair reportedly was gearing up to create a competitor to Fox News last year. At the time, it was on the verge of acquiring 42 major-market stations owned by Tribune Media for $3.9 billion and supposedly was considering converting one of the Tribune outlets, cable superstation WGN, into a news and commentary network. Among its rumored hires was Bill O’Reilly, who was forced out of Fox News in 2017 over sexual harassment allegations. Sinclair denied the reports at the time.
Any such plan was ultimately scotched by federal regulators, who delayed approval of the Sinclair-Tribune merger on regulatory grounds, leading Tribune to pull out of it and to sue Sinclair. Since then, there has been no sign of any effort by Sinclair to create such a network.
Bolling’s first show this week brought together his old Fox colleagues Gorka and Rosen as interview guests. Bolling also conducted interviews with Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and adviser to his 2020 campaign; Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager; and Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist.
Both Bolling and Rosen — who was with Fox nearly 19 years — were forced out under controversial circumstances. Bolling parted ways with the network in 2017 a month after he was accused by three colleagues of sending unsolicited and lewd photos to them, as first reported by HuffPost. (He disputed the allegations.) Rosen was reportedly forced out for making “sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists,” according to NPR, which also reported that Rosen was accused of groping a colleague in 2001 when they traveled together. (Rosen did not comment on NPR’s report.)
Neither Bolling nor Rosen responded to requests for comment from The Washington Post.
Gorka, who appeared regularly on Fox News star Sean Hannity’s show, said last month that he decided not to renew his contract with Fox because of his new gig with Sinclair.
His early projects for Sinclair included a 30-minute special last year about the failures of socialist regimes around the world titled “Inside Socialism.” Another Gorka-hosted special last year was titled “The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures.” It featured Gorka, a hard-liner on immigration, asking viewers, “Can the teachings of Islam and Western values ever be reconciled? Is it possible for the waves of refugees arriving in the West to assimilate and coexist peacefully?”
Gorka’s hiring at Sinclair, however, apparently doesn’t preclude him from appearing on Fox. He told the Hollywood Reporter last month that “I’m still supporting Sean Hannity and other Fox shows as a free agent as my new schedule permits.”