Ken Romley, a Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, won’t run political ads on Sinclair Broadcasting affiliates, he announced Tuesday.
Romley is one of three Democratic candidates in the district, which includes parts or all of Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Nash, Wake and Wilson counties. Republican George Holding holds the seat.
Sinclair, a Baltimore-based media company that leans right, is the nation’s largest owner of local television affiliates. It has come under scrutiny in recent days for making broadcasters across the county read the same script, which decried fake news and accused “some members of the media” of pushing their “own personal bias.”
President Trump voiced his support for the company in two tweets. He said Sinclair “is far superior ro CNN and even more fake NBC.”
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Sinclair owns 173 stations in 81 cities, including seven stations in North Carolina. Sinclair has NBC, CBS and ABC affiliates among its holdings.
Sinclair owns WLFL (CW) and WRDC (MyTV) in the Raleigh market. Neither station has its own news broadcast, however WLFL airs WTVD’s news at 10 p.m. — and candidates, including Holding, aired campaign ads on the network throughout the 2016 election season.
“We’ve decided not to support a corporate media giant that bullies its employees into reading propaganda,” said Romley, a Wake County resident and high-tech businessman. “That’s a serious breach of journalistic independence.”
Holding and Rep. Richard Hudson aired ads on WLFL during the 2016 campaign, as did Sen. Richard Burr and his Democratic challenger Deborah Ross. Presidential candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz also advertised on the station, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Holding campaign consultant Carter Wrenn said the campaign had no objection to advertising on Sinclair-owned stations, noting that if didn’t advertise on outlets he disagreed with “we won’t be doing a lot of advertising.”
Linda Coleman, a former Wake County commissioner and N.C. House legislator, will not run ads on Sinclair, her campaign said Wednesday morning. “We have no intention of advertising on any of the Sinclair-owned affiliates in North Carolina,” said Ryan Schott, a campaign spokesman.
Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath announced Monday that she would not advertise on a Sinclair-owned station in her district.
In November, the FCC approved two regulatory changes that cleared the way for Sinclair to grow bigger, moves that were opposed by Democrats including Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill. Sinclair, considered Trump-friendly, made a “deal” with the Trump campaign during the election for fair coverage and makes it affiliates run commentary by former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn.
“It seems Sinclair is seeking to become yet another propaganda tool of the Trump administration," Romley said in a statement. “The only way we can stop this biased intervention into broadcast news is to hit them where it hurts — in their corporate pocketbooks.”
Sinclair’s executive chairman David Smith wrote in emails to New York Magazine that “the print media is so left wing as to be meaningless dribble which accounts for why the industry is and will fade away. Just no credibility.”
Wendy Ella May, a progressive Democrat from Johnston County who is also running in the district, said she would not advertise at all on television or radio, citing the expense.
The primary will be held May 8. Holding faces Allen Chesser in the Republican primary. Libertarian Jeff Matemu is also running for the seat.