Local television stations owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group are set to air a conspiracy theory over the weekend that suggests Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, was responsible for the creation of the coronavirus.
The baseless conspiracy theory is set to air on stations across the country in a segment during the program “America This Week” hosted by Eric Bolling. The show, which is posted online before it is broadcast over the weekend, is distributed to Sinclair Broadcast Group’s network of local television stations, one of the largest in the country. A survey by Pew Research Group earlier this year showed that local news was a vital source of information on the coronavirus for many Americans, and more trusted than the media overall.
In this week’s episode of the show, Bolling spoke with Judy Mikovits, the medical researcher featured in the discredited “Plandemic” video that went viral earlier this year and which was banned from platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Throughout the segment, the on-screen graphic read, “DID DR. FAUCI CREATE COVID-19?”
Bolling also spoke with Mikovits’ attorney, Larry Klayman, a right-wing lawyer who also has a history of pushing misinformation and representing conspiracy theorists.
During the interview Mikovits told Bolling that Fauci had over the past decade “manufactured” and shipped coronaviruses to Wuhan, China, which became the original epicenter of the current outbreak. Bolling noted that this was a “hefty claim,” but did not meaningfully challenge Mikovits and allowed her to continue making her case.
Klayman, who did not respond to a request for comment, also pushed conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. He said the “origins” of the virus were in the United States. Bolling didn’t meaningfully challenge Klayman either.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (SBG) is a publicly traded American telecommunications conglomerate which is controlled by the family of company founder Julian Sinclair Smith. Headquartered in the Baltimore suburb of Hunt Valley, Maryland, the company is the second-largest television station operator in the United States by number of stations (after Nexstar Media Group), owning or operating a total of 193 stations across the country in over 100 markets (covering 40% of American households), many of which are located in the South and Midwest, and is the largest owner of stations affiliated with Fox, ABC, and The CW.
Sinclair has faced scrutiny from some media critics, as well as some of its station employees, for the conservative slant of their stations’ news reporting and other programming decisions, and how the company’s rapid growth has aided the airing of content that supports these views. Sinclair has also faced criticism over business practices that circumvent concentration of media ownership regulations, particularly the use of local marketing agreements, accusations that the company had been currying favor with the Trump administration in order to loosen these rules and about its management lacking diversity and being totally controlled by a single family. Critics including former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather have described Sinclair’s practices as being “an assault on our democracy” by disseminating what they perceive to be Orwellian-like propaganda to its local stations.