The top news executive of the broadcast company that aired election eve anti-Obama specials in several swing states defended the programs in an interview published on Thursday by a TV trade press website.
“No doubt it was hard-hitting, but it was fair,” Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Vice President of News Scott Livingston told TVNewsCheck. “No one is disputing the facts of the stories that aired in the special.”
As TPM reported earlier this week, the half-hour specials that aired Monday night featured segments and scripts produced by Sinclair but presented by local news teams. While not entirely dismissive of Obama, the programs included some of the most partisan criticisms of the current administration, and little, if any, criticism of Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
The programs aired in six markets in four states: Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, and Florida. Livingston said the specials’ focus on the economy, healthcare reform, and foreign policy — “including the attacks in Libya” — were part of Sinclair’s “continuation of the engagement of the audience and the process of educating them about the topics.”
Livingston said no partisan agenda was at play in producing the show — nor in choosing the markets in which it was played.
Livingston said Sinclair chose the six markets in which the specials aired because “there is a higher news value there — and we always make decisions based on the news value. These are the markets where those issues resonate.”
He also said the election specials were in keeping with Sinclair stations’ election season coverage, which included 13 town hall meetings on issues “that impacted the race.”
After TPM’s initial report, one journalist who participated the specials responded to critics on Twitter. Yolanda Harris, an anchor at ABC affiliate WSYX in Columbus, tweeted several times on Tuesday that she “had no choice in the matter.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com