Boris Epshteyn was a ubiquitous presence on cable news during the 2016 presidential race, articulating the vision and values of the Trump campaign in his role as a top communications aide. After a brief and by multiple accounts rocky few months in the White House, Epshteyn moved in April to an on-air role as a chief political analyst for Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Epshteyn’s presence in some of the daily newscasts produced by Sinclair’s 170-plus stations around the country has given Sinclair critics more ammo to assert that the powerhouse station group is bent on putting a conservative tilt on its coverage and currying political favor with the administration.
A survey of Epshteyn’s two-minute “Bottom Line with Boris” segments to date (he made his Sinclair debut in June) finds nary a harsh word for President Donald Trump. Epshteyn maintains his segments are clearly flagged as commentary and analysis. He sees his role as providing information and insight into the inner-workings of Washington to those far outside the Beltway.
“Are we focusing on the hysteria around President Trump? No, there’s plenty of other coverage of that,” Epshteyn told Variety. “We’re talking about the issues that hit home to the viewers, such as the (Veterans Administration), trade policy, tax reform and, of course, healthcare.”
Sinclair’s strength as the nation’s largest broadcast group is the company’s presence across the country into markets large and small. That reach is poised to grow considerably if its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media is approved by federal regulators.
The power of the local TV platform, which covers a wider swath of viewers than the typical cable news audience, was the draw for Epshteyn. He’s enjoying settling into his role as a commentator — one that plenty of political operatives on the left and right have made in the past. Before working for Trump, Epshteyn worked for the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign and has been involved in Republican politics. He’s also worked as an investment banker.
“Sinclair is a great company that has a very wide reach and the ability to deliver news and information to so many people,” he said. “This job is a great opportunity for me to talk about things that matter to me and, more importantly, the viewers.”
Much was made of the recent news that Sinclair was upping the volume of his “Bottom Line” segments to nine times a week, but Epshteyn said that was always the plan once he got up and running. He intends to conduct interviews with legislators and newsmakers to offer a mix of information and commentary.
Epshteyn also wants to make one thing clear. Despite the provocative suggestion in December from Trump administration special advisor Jared Kushner that Sinclair cut a deal with the Trump campaign for favorable coverage, there was no such arrangement known to Epshteyn.
“During the campaign, Inaugural and (in) the White House, no Sinclair station interview was ever seen as a lay-up,” Epshteyn said. “This is a serious journalistic organization with serious journalists.”