A TV station in Madison, Wisconsin, said it has refused to air a widely criticized message that its powerful and conservative parent company required local news anchors across the country to read to viewers.
Fox 47 tweeted Monday that it didn't air a "promotional announcement" from Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of local TV stations in the US. Instead, the station "stayed true to our commitment to provide our Madison area viewers local news, weather and sports of interest to them."
Neither the station nor Sinclair responded to BuzzFeed News' request for more information, and the circumstances and extent of the station's refusal to air the message remained unclear Monday.
However, the tweet appears to refer to a controversial message about fake news that local news anchors at numerous Sinclair-owned stations read on air in recent days. In the script, anchors around the country state that they are "concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible stories plaguing our country."
"The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media," the message continues. "More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories."
The message mirrors President Trump's oft-voiced claim that the media pushes "fake news." And last month CNN reported that some local journalists were uncomfortable with the message, which Sinclair reportedly wanted broadcast "to create maximum reach and frequency."
Over the weekend, Deadspin compiled videos showing dozens of anchors reading the message. Many prominent journalists have criticized the message, with NPR's David Folkenflik referring to it as "anti-media propaganda" and Politico's Jack Shafer describing it as "more than a little hypocritical."
On Monday, however, Trump jumped in to defend Sinclair, tweeting that the company is "far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke."
Sinclair owns and operates nearly 200 TV stations in the US, and is attempting to buy Tribune Media Company, which would give it access to dozens more in large markets. The deal still requires the approval of federal regulators. The company also has a reputation for having conservative political leanings, and according to the Washington Post exhibited "a strong tilt toward Trump" during the 2016 election.
Facing criticism Monday, Sinclair said in a statement that the message "served no political agenda, and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming from other, less reliable sources of information." Sinclair vice president Scott Livingston also called the criticism "ironic."
"We aren’t sure of the motivation for the criticism," Livingston said in the statement, "but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences."