Dan Rather has torn into the Sinclair Broadcasting Group for forcing its news anchors to read a promotional message that warns of "fake stories" in other media outlets that some believe sounds like a script supporting President Donald Trump.
"Let's be clear, news anchors looking into camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord, a script meant to obscure the truth not elucidate it, isn't journalism," the veteran journalist and former CBS News anchor wrote on his Facebook page.
"It's propaganda. It's Orwellian. And it is on a slippery slope towards some of history's most destructive forces. These are the means by which despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses."
Sinclair, a conservative media giant which owns nearly 200 local TV stations, came under fire this week when company brass ordered its anchors to read a statement expressing concern about "the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing the country."
Some outlets publish these "fake stories" without checking facts first and some people in the media push their own biases, the prepared statement said.
President Donald Trump has twice tweeted his support of Sinclair's actions, saying other media companies that criticized the pre-fab announcement did so because they are worried about the competition:
In his Facebook post, Rather said: "To those who say this rhetoric is hyperbolic, I submit that attacking the press as honest brokers of information has been one of the constants of this administration and all those who normalize it.
"But this is not normal. This is not how the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, that beloved First Amendment, is supposed to operate."
He also said the "faces of the men and women" journalists delivering Sinclair's message "are befitting those of a hostage video."
"Maybe some of these local anchors took to it with gusto, but I believe that number is few. That's not why people are drawn to journalism," wrote Rather, who now hosts a weekly newscast on The Young Turks network.
"I suspect that the vast majority of the journalists you see in this video want to be in an environment where they can do their jobs, reporting the news fairly, without favor or bias. They need our support.
"That is why it is incumbent for Americans of all political persuasions to say this is intolerable. Congress should hold hearings and call the executives of Sinclair to account, but one suspects that is highly unlikely in the current political environment."
On Monday, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, tweeted:
Sinclair has defended the force feeding of promos to its on-air news talent.
In an internal memo obtained by CNNMoney, Sinclair senior vice president of news Scott Livingston called the promos a "well-researched journalistic initiative focused on fair and objective reporting."
Currently, Sinclair is seeking to merge with Tribune Media for a reported $3.9 billion dollars. It is awaiting a decision from federal regulators.
In February, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay warned Sinclair's proposed acquisition would result in a "mega conglomerate" that would compromise free-market competition — and the nation's political dialogue.
"Normally I'd be supporting the free market in competition," DeLay said on Newsmax TV's "Newsmax Now."
"But the problem here is the competition is limited because the spectrum is limited," he said. "So it requires some sort of regulation in order to make sure that the best are in the industry, and the best are competing with each other."
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