NEW YORK (AP) — The Sinclair Broadcast Group is distancing itself from commentary by its chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn, who this week supported the Trump administration’s efforts to stop migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico and called it an “attempted invasion.”
The commentary has triggered protests, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists said it is reconsidering allowing Sinclair representatives to attend its job recruitment events.
Sinclair, which owns 191 local television stations across the country, tweeted late Wednesday that Epshteyn’s opinions “in this segment do not reflect the views of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” The tweet did not specifically say it was referring to the migrant commentary, and Sinclair representatives did not return multiple messages seeking to clarify.
In a statement on Thursday, Sinclair spokesperson Ronn Torossian said that the migrant commentary “has been drastically and intentionally mischaracterized.”
According to several published reports, commentaries by Epshteyn, a former aide to President Donald Trump, are sent to Sinclair stations with an order that they must be aired. The liberal watchdog Media Matters for America estimates that at least 100 stations aired the migrant commentary on Monday or Tuesday.
That’s led some critics to question how Sinclair can disassociate itself with commentary if it compels its stations to air it.
In the commentary, Sinclair ran video of migrants running toward the border in an incident south of California over the weekend. “Ultimately, American authorities had to use tear gas to stop the attack,” Epshteyn said.
“This is an attempted invasion of our country, period,” he said. “Our borders must remain intact.”
He said there were “many on the left who believe it is wrong to defend our country and abide by the rule of law.”
Epshteyn, who did not reply to a request for comment, urged people who have criticized him to watch the full commentary.
The Hispanic journalists’ group said it was concerned the segment would fuel misplaced hostility toward refugees seeking asylum. The group said Sinclair had actively worked with them in the past to recruit Hispanic journalists for their stations, but now was worried about sending its members to work in a hostile environment.
The group’s president, Hugo Balta, said that he had spoken on Thursday about the commentary with Scott Livingston, head of news for the Sinclair group.
Balta said they agreed that Sinclair should be judged by its total body of work and not solely on a 90-second commentary or Epshteyn’s views. But he said if Sinclair is going to distribute this commentary, it also has the responsibility to give a platform to opposing viewpoints.
“Anything less is not only unfair, but irresponsible,” Balta said.
Sinclair noted in its tweet that Epshteyn’s segments are clearly labeled as commentaries, and that it provides plenty of Washington-based news to its stations from an unbiased perspective.