Sinclair Broadcast Group has denied a claim reportedly made by Donald Trump advisor Jared Kushner that Trump’s presidential campaign made a deal with Sinclair for favorable coverage across its vast TV station holdings.
Sinclair’s statement also included an apology from Andrew Seaman, chair of the ethics committee of the Society of Professional Journalists. Seaman published a blog post Saturday on the SPJ’s web platform that was critical of Sinclair and Kushner’s assertion, which was made Friday during a private meeting with business executives in Manhattan, according to a report by Politico.
A spokeswoman for president-elect Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kushner’s remarks. Kushner, owner and publisher of the New York Observer, is Trump’s son-in-law. He is expected to play a significant role in the Trump administration.
According to Politico, Kushner told the private gathering that the campaign cut a deal with Sinclair, exchanging access to the candidate for what he reportedly described as “straighter” news coverage of Trump. Sinclair news chief Scott Livingston strongly denied there was any such deal. He maintained that both Trump and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, were approached with offers to conduct extended interviews with various Sinclair journalists.
“After hearing from Sinclair’s representatives and viewing emails between the company and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign, I don’t believe the interview arrangements fell outside what would be considered ethical journalism,” Seaman said in the statement emailed by Sinclair’s PR team. “Therefore, I apologize to Sinclair for assuming the statements reported in the Politico story, which was based off third-party reports, were accurate. From what I can tell, the situation is a victim of a game of telephone. One person makes a statement, another person repeats that statement with some errors and it builds upon itself. Unfortunately, I made myself part of the chain by not reaching out to Sinclair for clarification. I’m sorry.”
Sinclair has vast influence in heartland markets across the U.S. as the owner or operator of 173 stations across the country. The Baltimore-based company is the nation’s largest TV station owner when measured by number of stations. Sinclair stations have been a platform for conservative documentaries and perspectives in its local news and commentary programming.
More recently, however, the company has focused on expanding the breadth of its programming operations with the launch of digital multicast entertainment networks as well as the acquisition of the Tennis Channel. Last month the company saw a transition at the top with David Smith, son of founder Julian Sinclair Smith, handing the CEO reins to former investment banker Christopher Ripley.
In a statement Livingston stressed that Sinclair stations gave no preferential coverage to Trump.
“We offered both major presidential candidates the same opportunities to be interviewed by our local anchors on a regular basis,” he said. “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.”
(Pictured: Jared Kushner with wife Ivanka Trump)