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Boise’s KBOI among Sinclair-owned stations seeing criticism, but Trump’s support

In this Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004, file photo, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.'s headquarters stands in Hunt Valley, Md. President Trump is jumping to the defense of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is under fire following the rapid spread of a video showing anchors at its stations across the country reading a script criticizing "fake" news stories. Trump tweeted Monday, April 2, 2018, that it was funny to watch "Fake News Networks" criticizing Sinclair for being biased.
In this Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004, file photo, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.'s headquarters stands in Hunt Valley, Md. President Trump is jumping to the defense of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is under fire following the rapid spread of a video showing anchors at its stations across the country reading a script criticizing "fake" news stories. Trump tweeted Monday, April 2, 2018, that it was funny to watch "Fake News Networks" criticizing Sinclair for being biased. Steve Ruark

A Boise news station is among Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned channels under scrutiny after reporters across the country read from a prepared script criticizing “fake” news stories and other mainstream media.

Sinclair owns nearly 200 stations, including KBOI in Boise, KLEW in Lewiston and KIDK in Idaho Falls. Over the weekend, media outlet Deadspin released a video showing anchors from dozens of those markets reading the script in unison — including the Treasure Valley affiliate.

In Boise, anchors Natalie Hurst and Brent Hunsaker read the script, which Deadspin included in its article. The statement raised concerns about “fake stories” on social media, which the Sinclair stations said are then published by some media outlets.

“Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think.’… This is extremely dangerous to a democracy,” the script said.

On Monday, Boiseans on Reddit called for a boycott of KBOI and its advertisers. One user posted the Deadspin video, which included Hurst and Hunsaker.

“I saw this on channel 2 and had to change the station,” wrote user Meikami. “Straight up dystopian feeling.”

Some Idahoans took to Twitter to reach out to the station or to Hurst herself. Several said they found the broadcast disconcerting, while others said it caused them to consider other news sources.

Ron Gardner, who served as anchor at KBOI from 1995-2000 when the station operated as KBCI, has been particularly outspoken about the script on social media.

“I was a broadcast journalist for 32 years, and I see this Sinclair move as an effort to discredit all news media except Sinclair,” Gardner told the Statesman. “That’s a threat to the free press and should be a concern to everyone.”

But Sinclair and KBOI were not without their supporters. Most notably, President Donald Trump on Monday sent a series of tweets lauding Sinclair Broadcasting while simultaneously skewering CNN and NBC.

“So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased,” Trump tweeted. “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

In Boise, some tweeted of their respect for Hurst and Hunsaker. One user said they were, “glad to see KBOI acknowledging that there may be 2 sides to every story ... only getting the liberal side from other local stations. Thanks!”

LA Times journalist Matt Pearce said some Sinclair journalists are sticking with the station despite the backlash because of provisions in their contracts that would hold them responsible to pay the broadcasting company a percentage of their base pay if they quit.

Sinclair has not issued a statement on the backlash. The Statesman has reached out to KBOI for comment.

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