Trump Tweets his Support For Sinclair as Group Awaits U.S. Approval to Become Largest Broadcaster in History

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday morning to defend Sinclair Broadcast Group's controversial fake news warning, which dozens of local news anchors across the country repeated last month.

"So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased," Trump tweeted. "Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke."

The tweeted support comes as Sinclair awaits governmental approval to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The deal would give Sinclair 215 stations covering over 72 percent of households.

Trump's tweet was referring specifically to a recent controversy where Sinclair, the country's largest broadcaster with 193 owned or operated TV stations, required some of its anchors to read a script warning of biased news.

"We're concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media," some anchors were required to say. "More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories...stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first."

The promotional script assured viewers that "we work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual.... We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day."

Some anchors were uncomfortable with the script, which they thought closely parroted Trump's messaging and rhetoric. "At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it," one anchor told CNN. "I felt like a POW recording a message," another said.

Local stations were instructed to run the messages during news programs.

Sinclair's critics have accused the media company of propagating a right-leaning, pro-Trump agenda to its viewers. In 2016, Jared Kushner told business executives that his father-in-law's campaign had struck a deal with the group to secure better media coverage. The agreement gave Sinclair greater access to Trump and his campaign in exchange for running interviews without commentary, according to Politico.

"It was a standard package, but an extended package, extended story where you'd hear more directly from candidate on the issue instead of hearing all the spin and all the rhetoric," Sinclair spokesman Scott Livingston told Politico.

The group regularly sends "must-run" content to its affiliate stations, including a package on March 21 featuring former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka discussing the existence of the so-called deep state, a term for unelected government officials who supposedly run the nation through a shadow government.

Multiple analyses by critics show that Sinclair leans to the right and tends to bolster Republican candidates while criticizing Democratic ones.

Livingston told The New York Times last year that they "work very hard to be objective and fair and be in the middle."

"Moving forward, our news organization is committed to tracking the truth and holding accountable other media organizations that publish misleading, biased and fake news stories," Livingston wrote in a statement last year,

On Monday morning, MSNBC's Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough called Sinclair's fake news PSA "something we would mock the Russians for in the days of Pravda."

Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Monday that the requirement is "moving America one step closer to its own version of state-run media."

In December, Sinclair was fined $13.4 million by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for running more than 1,700 paid commercials for the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which were meant to look like news broadcasts.

Sinclair's attempt to purchase Tribune has faced a number of setbacks from the FCC and Justice Department because of antitrust and public interest issues. The initial merger would have given Sinclair more than 39 percent of the market, which is against national television ownership rules. As a result, Sinclair has been in constant dialogue with the Justice Department about selling certain stations to allow the deal to go through, and Sinclair most recently submitted the fourth version of its plan for approval.

Sinclair did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Newsweek.

Trump Tweets his Support For Sinclair as Group Awaits U.S. Approval to Become Largest Broadcaster in History | U.S.