Christie: Post readers react to Sinclair, WPEC ‘fake news’ editorial

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 owned 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.)

RELATED: Ex-reporter from Sinclair-owned WPEC calls out the company

Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, including WPEC-CBS12 in West Palm Beach, have come under fire for reading a “must-run” editorial about fake news that also cast aspersions on other media. (NBC News)

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. [READ MORE]

And this one from Judith Abramson of Delray Beach:

Vigilance needed to spot fake news

Sinclair Broadcast Group is probably the most powerful company you’ve never heard of. The conservative giant owns around 170 TV stations across the country, including our local West Palm Beach CBS affiliate,WPEC. Sinclair has been pushing its right-wing agenda since the Bush administration and, like Fox, has close ties to Trump.

It’s been reported that they order their local anchors to read corporate-written editorials to push their views and criticize other new sources.

This is just another example — as with the plethora of information coming out about Cambridge Analytical, the targeting citizens on Facebook, Russian bots flooding social media every single day and their proven meddling in our elections — at mind control.

I implore my fellow citizens to be more vigilant and realize that they must scrutinize what they hear and read and try to sort out what is opinion and what is real news and not be manipulated. [READ MORE]

WPEC-CBS12 news anchor Liz Quirantes and fellow evening anchor John Discepolo (not pictured) read the “fake news” editorial on-air. (Courtesy of WPEC-CBS12)

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.

Previously, Sinclair was prohibited from serving more than 39 percent of households under a statute of the Telecommunications Act.

Last year, however, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission, under chairman Ajit Pai, brought back to life the technologically obsolete “UHF Discount” rule. The rule, from the pre-digital era when local stations were hard to tune in to, allowed local stations to be counted as a fraction of the 13 “normal” stations found on the “top dial.”

Of course, today most people get all of the old UHF channels as easily as “top dial” channels, making Trump’s resurrection of the old rule not only silly but clearly in violation of both the letter and spirit of the Telecommunications Act. Free Pass and other activist groups are currently suing to prevent the UHF “loophole” and the Sinclair-Tribune purchase from going further, but with corporate masseuse Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, don’t hold your breath.

And while Trump is green-lighting Sinclair, he’s been blocking AT&T’s purchase of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, saying “it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

That would just happen to be the same CNN that Trump repeatedly labels as “fake news,” the same sentiments that Sinclair just happened to echo in its recent collective Trump incantation.

But does Sinclair — and by extension, WPEC — really deserve all of this grief?

Take our poll and tell us what you think:

Goodman: Rubio destroyed his own argument against gun control (Does he realize it?)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky asks Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), right, if he will continue to accept money from the NRA during a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday at the BB&T Center. (Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Marco Rubio provided much of the drama at Wednesday night’s remarkable town hall on gun violence.

First, simply by showing up in blue Broward County, and to face hundreds of grieving teenage survivors of the Parkland school shooting and their traumatized friends and parents.

There was the moment when Fred Guttenberg, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Jaime in the slaughter, told him: “Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak.”

The moment when student Cameron Kasky asked Rubio to refuse accepting any more money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) — and, perhaps mentally flashing on the $3.3 million he got from NRA in 2016, Rubio said no. “The answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda.”

But to me, the most important moment came when Chris Grady, a Douglas High senior, asked Rubio, “Would you agree that there is no place in our society for large capacity magazines capable of firing off — over — from 15 to 30 rounds and if not more?”

And Rubio said that “after this and some of the details I learned about it, I’m reconsidering that position, and I’ll tell you why… Because while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack.”

With fewer bullets for the killer to fire, “three or four people might be alive today.”

“It wouldn’t have prevented the attack but it made it less lethal,” Rubio said.

Bingo! That’s exactly what people who urge banning semiautomatic weapons are saying.

Nothing is going to eliminate all gun deaths in America. And nothing is going to completely keep demented people from getting hold of firearms. But we can at least limit those guns’ lethality.

Guns like the AR-15, which fire with such force that they left victims of the Parkland school shooting “with only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet,” an emergency room radiologist tells us, via The Atlantic. “There was nothing left to repair.”

If you see the logic of making gun cartridges less lethal, then you must see the logic of  making guns themselves less lethal.

Rubio, possibly without knowing it, destroyed his own longstanding argument. The day after the Parkland shooting, Rubio took to the Senate floor to say gun-control measures don’t work. “Whether it is a political assassination of one person or the mass killing of many, if one person decides to do it and they are committed to that task, it is a very difficult thing to stop,” he said, before adding, “that does not mean we should not try to prevent as many of them as we can.”

Yes, stopping a determined killer is a hard thing to do. But once you’ve allowed that the lethality of the instrument is the determining factor in whether something should or shouldn’t be lawful, then why not be consistent? Why not concede that we should be making it much harder for would-be killers to get their hands on armaments that are essentially weapons of war?

Rubio should be applauded for changing his mind on high-capacity ammo magazines. It should be a short step to changing his mind on assault weapons, period.

Take it, Senator.

Streeter: Writer’s criticism proves age is just a number, not a sign of maturity

CNN Headline News’ Asheligh Banfield came under fire for criticizing a woman who accused actor Aziz Ansari of date rape.

When my niece was about 13, her two favorite insults were “That’s old” and “Well, I’ve never heard of it.” We heard them mostly when she didn’t like whatever pre-2000-era song was playing on the car radio. It tickled us, because imagining that anything that’s escaped your seasoned and vast 13-year-old frame of reference is irrelevant is the height of hilarity. Girl, you can’t even drive or be out after dark without an adult. You’re funny.

While that attitude is hilarious when you’re 13, wishing your aunt would stop playing The Bangles in the car, it’s less cute when you’re a 22-year-old professional journalist who can’t come up with any better clapback at another journalist who disagrees with you than “Dude, you’re old.”

Because if you’re lucky, 22-year-olds, you’ll be old one day, too. And that’s a good thing.

I’m talking about Katie Way, a writer for a website called Babe.net, which I had never heard of before last week, a fact that doesn’t automatically make it irrelevant because I’m mature enough to know that I don’t know everything. Way wrote an explosive story about a sexual encounter between actor Aziz Ansari and an anonymous photographer called Grace, which has been characterized as everything from assault to a bad date. I’m not going to debate that point, because I wasn’t there, and if even the two people who were can’t decide on what happened, heck if I’m gonna try.

But CNN Headline News anchor Ashleigh Banfield had a lot to say about it, and after an impassioned on-air “open letter” in which she accused Way and “Grace” of carelessly belittling the #MeToo movement with a hap-hazard takedown. After Banfield’s clip went viral, Headline News reached out to Way, whose response was not only, as she wrote, “an unequivocal no,” but an attempt to highlight Banfield’s irrelevancy that just proves her own immaturity.

Way’s rebuttal does detail her “disgust” that Banfield never attempted to speak to her or “Grace” before blasting her on TV, and reiterates “Grace’s” bravery at speaking up and adding to the conversation. But too much of the email is a shockingly juvenile taking of umbrage with the fact that someone as old as Banfield, “someone I’m certain no one under the age of 45 has ever heard of,” would dare have an opinion. She attacks the older reporter as a “burgundy lipstick bad highlights second wave feminist has-been” and reiterated that “no one my age would ever watch your network.”

Oh, good burn, sweetie. Obviously if you wouldn’t watch it, it’s trash.

Aziz Ansari arrives at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. The publication of an account by a woman identified only as “Grace” detailing her 2017 encounter with comedian Aziz Ansari intimated that Ansari deserved inclusion in the ranks of abusive perpetrators, yet many readers _ women and men _ concluded the encounter amounted to an all-too-common instance of bad sex during a date gone awry. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

I am hoping that if Way had a moment to think about how she was responding before hitting “Send,” that she would have realized how dumb and unprofessional she sounds. See, Katie, you have a right to defend your work, and to defend “Grace.” But 50 percent of that defense is that the person criticizing you is too old to matter. And that’s petty and unhelpful. In case someone hasn’t told you yet, Ashleigh Banfield has interviewed world leaders. She is on a national network. She has almost 80,000 Twitter followers, a mark of success that perhaps someone your age might appreciate.

She may be someone you’ve never heard of, but a lot of other people have. And the fact that you think that she’s nobody because you don’t know her is rich, since a lot of people never heard of you or Babe.net before this Ansari story, either. Of course you disagree with her take. So do that. Talk about what you think is a lack of ethics. Talk about her professionalism. Talk about how you think “Grace” has been disrespected. Talking about her highlights and her lipstick means you’ve run out of argument.

Here’s the thing — being 22 and having a public platform is great. Having that sort of energy and passion at any age is something to be proud of. But if you are lucky, Katie, and all the other Katies out there who throw out “old” as a pejorative, you will one day be 30. And 40. And, as Banfield is, 50. And you will have made mistakes, and gotten a few wrinkles, and stopped recognizing half the names on the MTV VMA Awards. And hopefully you will have become accomplished in whatever field you chose, and have gained some wisdom.

Aging, if you’re lucky enough to actually not die before your time, is not a sin. It’s not bad. It’s just the natural order of things. There are many foolish 45-year-olds, and many wise 22-year-olds. All age says is how many birthdays you’ve had. It doesn’t automatically define how smart you are, how cool you are, or your worth as a person. Your ability to take criticism and not lash out at people? That’s another matter.

Because you know who was 22 years old once? Ashleigh Banfield. And you know who’s not gonna be 22 years old next year? You. Youth is not forever. But immaturity can be if you won’t listen. Don’t let that be you.

Christie: Moore sex controversy throws moral test for political candidates out the window

NEW YORK — Beverly Young Nelson (L) speaks to the media with her lawyer Gloria Allred, at a news conference where she has accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually abusing her when she was 16 on Monday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

There is no more moral test for political candidates. There is only hypocrisy.

That’s about the only conclusion you can come to in the wake of the sexual assault allegations against former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Republican candidate to fill an Alabama seat in the U.S. Senate.

For those of you who’ve been too busy binge-watching “Stranger Things 2” on Netflix or traveling overseas like President Donald J. Trump, The Washington Post published an explosive report last week in which four women say Moore pursued them sexually or romantically when they were in their teens — allegations corroborated by more than two dozens witnesses. The youngest accuser, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 and Moore was 32 when he sexually touched her.

Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Roy Moore.

Moore has repeatedly denied the allegations made by Corfman, and is staying in the race.

But as expected, this news touched off an avalanche of condemnation from Democrats. And more importantly, dozens of Republicans — including Marco Rubio of Florida — have also offered more tepid calls for Moore to drop out of the Senate race, “If the allegations turn out to be true.”

Well, at least in Corfman’s case, her stepfather has corroborated her story. And Mike Ortiz, an ex-boyfriend of Corfman told CNN she relayed the story to him when they dated for about two years around 2009. Corfman’s description to the Post fits what she told him to a tee, he said.

“But I believed her when she told me and I still believe her,” he said on CNN. “She wouldn’t lie about something like that.”

What’s been eye-opening for many observers is hearing Bible-thumping, morality preaching evangelicals in Alabama imply just the opposite. Yep… these same evangelicals who castigate liberals and progressives for the slightest moral failing are willing to set aside the word of four women accusing the former judge of sexual assault. A fifth woman, Beverly Young Nelson, came forward on Monday with a detailed and particularly creepy encounter with Moore when she was 16 years old.

Conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity asked Moore Friday on his show whether Moore would have dated teenagers when he was in his 30s.

“No, not generally,” said Moore, who also said he always asked the permission of a girl’s mother before dating her.

Uh… “not generally”?

Small wonder Republicans are scrambling ahead of the Dec. 12 special Senate election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, with the deadline for replacing a candidate on the ballot well past. The polls now have them virtually tied at about 46 percent; putting the GOP’s already tenuous 52-48 Senate majority in further jeopardy on big votes like tax reform.

Dozens of Republicans — including Marco Rubio of Florida — have offered tepid calls for Moore to drop out of the Senate race, “If the allegations turn out to be true.” (Editorial cartoon by Ken Siers)

On Monday, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell had enough. The Kentucky conservative  came around to calling for Moore to drop out of the race, after saying “I “believe the women.” Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Daines of M0ntana publicly rescinded their endorsements after the Hannity interview. And the Republican’s senatorial campaign committee has pulled its funding.

Even those recriminations, however, smack more of political calculus than moral turpitude.

Over the weekend, a former prosecutor who once worked alongside Moore in the early 1980s told CNN it was “common knowledge” at the time that Moore dated high school girls.

“It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird,” former deputy district attorney Teresa Jones told CNN in comments aired Saturday. “We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall … but you really wouldn’t say anything to someone like that.”

Still, Moore remains defiant.

“To think grown women would wait 40 years before a general election to bring charges is unbelievable,” he said at an event in Alabama over the weekend. He later added, “Isn’t it strange after 40 years of constant investigation, that people have waited four weeks before a general election to bring their complaint? That’s not a coincidence.”

I agree. This is the kind of stuff that doesn’t usually come out unless someone is running for office. The bigger the office, the more stuff that will typically come out.

The Rev. Tom Brown, pastor at First Baptist Church of Gallant, speaks to the media before the church service Sunday, Nov. 12, in Gallant, Ala. The First Baptist Church of Gallant is the church the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore attends. “He’s always been a man of character, of integrity, of honor, and there’s nothing in those 25 years that I’ve seen that would challenge that,” Brown said. “That’s all I can go by.” (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Again, that hasn’t much weakened Moore’s support among the evangelical Christian voters of Alabama who write the whole thing off as a Washington establishment plot.

That would be a bit easier to accept if these same good people hadn’t bought, hook line and sinker, the false allegations that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. These same voters, with regard to Moore, now ask: “Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

Here’ another couple questions: Whatever happened to their morality test? Does anyone really believe these same Moore supporters would give Democratic rival Jones the benefit of the doubt if such allegations were made?

Moore says he will sue The Washington Post over the story.

No, he won’t.

He says that he will come forward this week with evidence that some of the women have been paid to make the accusations.

No, he won’t.

But will that matter to the moral hypocrites who still support Moore despite these awful allegations?

No, it won’t.

Do you have EAD (Election Anxiety Disorder)? … You’re not alone

It’s my theory that more and more voters are suffering from something called Election Anxiety Disorder, or EAD.

Why?

The other night, I was attending a dinner party at the home of some friends.

The food was good. The drink was good. And so was the conversation … That is, until the movie playing in the background ended and our host began flipping channels on his 65-inch screen TV to find something else for us to watch.

He stopped on CNN. It wasn’t long before he and I both realized that he may as well have thrown a grenade into the middle of the room.

You could feel the blood pressure rise as the show’s talking heads went back and forth on that evening’s subject: FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress by letter that his agency intended to review emails on the laptop Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin shared with her infamous husband Anthony Weiner.

Should he have done it? What was he thinking? Was he thinking? …

FBI Director James Comey, seen here testifying on Capitol Hill last July, sparked controversy on Friday when he informed Congress the agency is investigating whether there is classified information in new emails that have emerged in its probe of Hillary Clinton's private server. The FBI said in July its investigation was finished. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FBI Director James Comey, seen here testifying on Capitol Hill last July, sparked controversy on Friday when he informed Congress the agency is investigating whether there is classified information in new emails that have emerged in its probe of Hillary Clinton’s private server. The FBI said in July its investigation was finished. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The largely pro-Hillary crowd was none too pleased with Comey’s decision. But there were also some Independents — no big fans of Hillary — who copped to being even less pleased with her inability to put “this email thing” to bed.

The debate (and I’m being kind here) got so animated, some folks literally had to sit down and catch their breath while others just simply left the room. (Both symptoms of EAD, by the way.)

They all agreed on one thing, however: Nov. 9 — the day after Election Day — couldn’t get here fast enough.

When you think about it, this election cycle has been going on for nearly two years; ever since the political reporting fraternity began speculating about a Hillary Clinton run for the presidency (and arguably anointing her in the process).

Fast-forward to today and things feel like they’re in hyper-drive. The cable news channels have become 24-hour election networks. And why not? There’s money in them there campaigns. CNN, for one, is reporting record profits because of its early decision to cover eventual Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s every move and tweet like his campaign is the second coming of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But between seemingly non-stop TV campaign ads, mailers in their mailboxes every day when they come home from a 10-hour work day, a half-dozen robocalls every evening and the candidates’ own daily shenanigans, the American electorate is just plain tired.

As a result, the symptoms of EAD are becoming easier to spot.

Do you have EAD?