It is a rare week indeed when disparate opinion pieces help to cut through the fog of a national debate.
However, such is the current nature of our polarized society that separate issues raised in two Opinion Zone blog posts managed to combine in one reprehensible story.
You may have missed the story last week (and count yourself lucky if you did) about a conservative commentator at a Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned ABC affiliate in St. Louis, Mo.
Jamie Allman, who is also a morning FM radio show host, resigned after tweeting that he planned to sexually assault Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg with “a hot poker.”
Allman lost advertisers after the threat — including Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. His TV show was “canceled,” and he was “off the air immediately,” according to a Sinclair spokesman. His radio show was also off the air, a station spokesman confirmed.
A good move by Sinclair, but kind of a no-brainer given his childish, indelicate comments. On March 26, Allman tweeted of Hogg: “When we kick their ass they all like to claim we’re drunk. I’ve been hanging out getting ready to ram a hot poker up David Hogg’s ass tomorrow. Busy working. Preparing.”
Real classy. And noteworthy for two reasons: Hogg, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High, has become an object of derision among some conservatives because of his aggressive arguments for gun control; and Sinclair is under fire for requiring anchors to read a script bashing the news media and echoing talking points from President Trump, making itself the target of a #SinclairStrike movement calling for a one-day walkout on May 15.
Allman’s vulgar remark came two days before conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham posted a tweet accusing Hogg of “whining” about not getting into colleges he applied to — prompting the first blog post. The second post came six days later, questioning Sinclair’s “must-run” editorial, prompted in large part by Sinclair’s ownership of WPEC-CBS12.
Following are abridged versions of the blog posts:
It’s been a month and half since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and school personnel dead at the hands of 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz.
Thanks to the outspokenness and energy of surviving students like Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, the tragic shooting has sparked a movement against gun violence and for common-sense gun control laws. The constant rhetoric, rallies and TV appearances of Parkland shooting survivors moved a previously immovable Florida Legislature to enact in three weeks what it had refused to do in nearly three decades: stricter gun controls.
Though state lawmakers still have more work to do, long-time Tallahassee political observers marveled at what these well-spoken, impatient teens have already been able to accomplish.
But those efforts, and the teens’ further demands for more stricter gun controls, have put them squarely in the sights of the powerful gun lobby led by the influential National Rifle Association.
As a result, they’ve been attacked repeatedly by regular folks, politicians, celebrities and even law-enforcement officers on radio, TV and in social media.
Pro-gun supporters and others argue that the teens stepped into a serious grown-up issue and thus relinquished the right to be treated with kid gloves. If you dance to the music, you’ve got to pay the piper, they say.
But what do you think?
Do you agree with the criticisms being leveled against the student survivors of the Douglas High School shooting by right wing and NRA supporters? Or should there be a hands-off approach to these outspoken teens who suffered an unimaginable tragedy?
If you’d never heard of Sinclair Broadcast Group — the nation’s largest owner of local television stations — before this week, don’t fret about it.
And don’t worry if you didn’t know that they own Palm Beach County’s WPEC-Channel 12.
You were in good company. But that’s all changed now.
Sign up for The Palm Beach Post weekly Opinion newsletter: Pbpo.st/opinionsignup
Sinclair Broadcast, which is pretty tight with President Donald Trump’s White House and pushes a conservative political agenda through its stations, gained infamy earlier this week when word got out that it forced news anchors at its 170-plus stations to read a “must-run” statement/editorial about “fake news” which also cast aspersions on its media brethren.
And yes, that on-air diatribe included respected WPEC news anchors Liz Quirantes and John Discepolo.
Needless to say, a number of WPEC viewers didn’t take the news very well, hammering the station on social media — Facebook and Twitter — as well as its own website. (It apparently had to shut down comments on the latter, at least temporarily.)
The Post has been getting some angry letters to the editor about the Sinclair controversy — which its chairman is unapologetic for, by the way.
For example, there was this letter from James Taffuri, of Jupiter:
Dump Channel 12 for unbiased TV news
Thank you to Frank Cerabino for finally exposing the cloak and dagger airing of editorial content by Boris Epshteyn, mandated by a biased corporate parent but fraudulently disguised as a local cut-in. (“Setting the record straight on Channel 12’s fake-news editorial,” Monday)
The clearly ethical conduct needed would be to either clearly label the content for what it is, via disclaimer, or allow for a rebuttal afterward, i.e. a point/counterpoint.
I, for one, discovered these shenanigans a while back and quickly dumped Channel 12 as my local news provider after many years as a viewer. I have found Channel 5 or Channel 25 do the job quite nicely.
We all know the “ones to turn to ” (MSNBC or Fox) to receive our national or international news coverage with whatever slant we choose. Can’t we please leave our local stations as a sacred source for unbiased news and investigative reporting affecting our community?
Truly sad and sickening.
So here’s what makes all the Sinclair must-run editorial so concerning to many readers and viewers.
The company is trying to get even bigger. By owning and operating a total of 193 stations nationwide, Sinclair already covers far more than any other station owner.
It is currently trying get Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to buy Tribune Media’s 42 local stations, allowing Sinclair to reach 72 percent of U.S. households.
But does Sinclair — and by extension, WPEC — really deserve all of this grief?
The answers in this debate should be a lot more clear today.
Allman’s vulgar remark came two days before conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham posted a tweet accusing Hogg of “whining” about not getting into colleges he applied to — prompting the first blog post.