Look at who Steven Bannon contacted immediately after his White House ouster as he moved to create a narrative. It wasn't Fox News.
In another sign of the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s burgeoning influence within the Republican Party, Steven Brannon touched base with company’s online news site, Circa, immediately after getting canned as Donald Trump’s chief strategist Friday.
From Circa’s Sarah Carter, who has become a favorite among Republicans eager to spin the news:
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) August 18, 2017
The narrative that Bannon hopes to create — that he resigned two weeks ago — is likely intended to blunt suggestions that he was jettisoned in the wake of the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. Bannon, who is synonymous with the racist “alt-right” thanks to his previous work at Breitbart, is considered to be among the hard-line cultural warriors inside the White House who pushes Trump to embrace divisive, race-baiting rhetoric.
That Bannon turned to Sinclair to try to tell his story is telling. The Trump administration has done everything possible in terms of bending federal regulations in order to help the local TV giant Sinclair be able to purchase Tribune Media, which would give the behemoth more than 200 stations nationwide. Cheering Trump has become Sinclair signature as the company tries to out-Fox Fox News in terms of airing pure GOP propaganda.
Online, Sinclair is turning its general news site into another GOP source. That trend is dangerous because the misinformation Circa often peddles comes from a site that poses as a neutral outlet, which likely makes it easier to disseminate false claims more broadly.
Specifically, Circa’s Carter, a national security reporter, has become a go-to reporter for Republican sources trying to derail the Russian investigation into the Trump administration.
Last month, Carter made headlines when unfurled an exclusive claiming that “FBI General Counsel James A. Baker is purportedly under a Department of Justice criminal investigation for allegedly leaking classified national security information to the media.” The salacious story, built entirely on anonymous sources, fit nicely into the Trump White House narrative about nefarious leakers, and was quickly passed around by right-wing conspiratorial sites.
As Rachel Maddow noted at the time, Baker is one of a handful of people FBI Director James Comey confided in, real time, about Donald Trump’s inappropriate behavior and comments about ongoing investigations. That means undermining Baker’s reputation would be a goal of Trump supporters going forward, and Circa was happy to help.
No other legitimate news outlets were willing to pick up the flimsy story. But because Sinclair owns so many local television stations, the unconfirmed, pro-Trump conspiracy aired in markets across the country.
No wonder Steve Bannon’s such a big fan.