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Sinclair Catches Heat For Election Special

Sinclair has largely stayed out of the political fray since drawing the ire of the left during the 2004 election, when it planned to air the John Kerry-bashing Stolen Honor doc before Election Day. But the broadcaster finds itself catching heat today for an election special airing in Ohio and Florida, and perhaps other markets, that Talking Points Memo calls “Anti-Obama.”

Specials, critical of the Obama administration’s healthcare law, foreign policy and handling of the economy, ran November 6 on WSYX Columbus, WRGT Dayton and WPEC West Palm, and perhaps other stations. WSYX, an ABC affiliate, ran it at 6:30 and 11:30 p.m., says Talking Points Memo. Some of the content, notes TPM, came from corporate in Baltimore.

Writes TPM:

ABC affiliate WSYX in Columbus aired a half-hour “election special” twice on Monday night - first at 6:30 p.m. instead of World News with Diane Sawyer, and later at 11:30 p.m., during the slot normally held by Nightline. Rather than a side by side comparison of the two major party candidates, however, the special featured some of the most partisan criticisms of President Barack Obama, and spent relatively little time examining Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

“Much of the first two years of President Obama’s term in office was spent developing and defending Obamacare - that’s the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March of 2010,” anchor Bob Kendrick said, near the program’s halfway point. “It supposedly guarantees health care for any U.S. resident who could not obtain good health care otherwise. The biggest parts of the law go into effect in 2014, with other pieces of it rolling out over the next decade. The cost of Obamacare is making many Americans sick to their stomach, though.”

TVSpy reports that anchor Yolanda  Harris acknowledged criticism of the special on Twitter.

“Thanks for your input but I’ve heard enough about the election special that aired yesterday,” she wrote. “Please take your complaints to our corporate headquarters.. Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

In another Tweet from @yolandaharristv, she said: “Enough nasty comments about the election special. Had no choice. Not defending myself any longer. I’ll take the hits.”

Sinclair has been growing its group at a rapid clip, adding strong news stations to the portfolio and investing in local news. On the matter of partisan programming, CEO David Smith told me earlier this year:

“We have a simple policy: leave the politics outside the door when you come inside. Do one thing–tell the truth.”

Sums up Talking Points Memo:

To be sure, the program included some people speaking favorably of Obama. But on balance, Obama criticisms were elevated, while Mitt Romney seemed to escape the bulk of the attention.