The Baltimore State Attorney’s office is asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate and possibly sanction or censor a news station that publicized what the Democrat office labeled as “extremely dangerous coverage” of the state attorney.
In the complaint filed last week, the Baltimore State Attorney’s communications director Zy Richardson claimed that Sinclair’s Fox-affiliated WBFF’s press time devoted to Marilyn Mosby, the top prosecutor in Baltimore, was “blatantly slanted, dishonest, misleading, racist, and extremely dangerous.”
In addition to creating what the complaint alleged was an “intentional crusade against State’s Attorney Mosby, which given today’s politically charged and divisive environment, is extremely dangerous,” Mosby’s office said that WBFF has exhibited a “dangerous pattern” of “slanted, rigged, misleading or inflammatory headlines … followed by a conspiracy theory . . . and supported with guest commentary from disgruntled ex-employees or political opponents that lend false credibility to the biased coverage or omission of facts.”
This type of coverage, the complaint continued, is limited to WBFF which ran 248 stories in 2020 about Mosby versus the 46, 26, and 10 stories run by other local networks during that time period and deserves the attention of the FCC.
While Mosby’s office complained that these nearly 250 stories attributed to death threats and other dangers to the state attorney, the allegations were widely condemned by multiple people and organizations including WBFF.
“WBFF is committed to journalism in the public interest with its award-winning investigative unit being a key part of delivering on that commitment,” said Billy Robbins, vice president and general manager of WBFF. “While we understand that it’s not always popular with the individuals and institutions upon which we are shining a light, we stand by our reporting.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s office also denounced the complaint as “frivolous.”
“Add frivolous FCC complaints to the list of things the State’s Attorney is doing instead of prosecuting crimes,” Mike Ricci, communications director for Hogan’s Office said in a statement.
Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the allegations lobbed by Mosby’s office appear to be more of a censorship attempt than an evidenced objection.
“This is a chilling and direct assault on the First Amendment and on a free press,” Carr told The Federalist. “The State’s Attorney wants the FCC to censor a newsroom because the government official does not like the coverage she is getting. Invoking the power of the state to silence journalists for unfavorable coverage crosses a line drawn by the First Amendment.”
“It’s also disturbing that the State’s Attorney would launch this unconstitutional broadside against investigative journalists at a time when she is already under federal criminal investigation for financial dealings,” Carr added.
As noted by the FCC, the government agency is strictly “prohibited by law from engaging in censorship or infringing on First Amendment rights of the press.” While the FCC could potentially investigate, fine, and “strip a station of its broadcast license,” experts say the Baltimore state attorney’s office may not have a case.
Not only has the state attorney received positive press from corporate media outlets such as MSNBC and CNN, Mosby and her office would have to provide evidence for some of her claims that WBFF targeted her.