A More Perfect Union investigation found that local NBC and ABC affiliates have been airing fake “interview” segments that look like news, but are actually corporate propaganda paid for by America’s largest business lobby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The segments, which aired in at least three states during the past week, all feature the U.S. Chamber’s president and CEO Suzanne Clark attacking the PRO Act, a bill that would make it easier for American workers to form unions. If passed, the PRO Act will be the first major U.S. law expanding worker power since 1935. The U.S. Chamber is fighting it tooth and nail. One of the networks that aired a segment was Arizona ABC affiliate KGUN9 “On Your Side.” The only way a viewer would know the segment was paid lobbyist propaganda was a chyron that flashed on the screen for a total of 4 seconds.
The KGUN interviewer describes herself on social media as a “news anchor.”But in the segment, she makes factually false assertions about the bill and asks leading questions, including, “What can people watching do to help stop this legislation that will hurt local workers?”In an interview with More Perfect Union, KGUN’s general manager Tregg White defended the segment because it aired on what he said was the station’s “pay-for-play program” called The Morning Blend. We asked him if his station would willingly air factual inaccuracies during such sponsored segments. After a pause, he said, “I’m not sure how you want that question answered.”On Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA, the segment aired without a single mention that it was paid content until after it ended.The WXIA anchor thanked the Chamber CEO for “enlightening us” about the legislation and echoed the Chamber’s talking points about the bill’s supposed complexity and mysteriousness.
On Virginia NBC affiliate WSLS, a “paid segment” chyron ran during the full segment. But the “interview” was not merely sponsored—it was staged and scripted. And the “anchor” was actually an actor (whose bio describes her as a “proud” member of two theater unions).
The segments we found aired in 3 states—Arizona, Virginia, and Georgia.Arizona & Virginia are home to 3 of the 5 Democratic Senators who have not yet co-sponsored the PRO Act (Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, Mark Kelly, and Mark Warner).In Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock, a PRO Act co-sponsor, faces re-election in 2022.We asked all of the stations whether they enforce any editorial or accuracy standards during such segments, and whether it’s appropriate for local TV stations to air public policy propaganda scripted by a registered lobbying organization.Two stations declined to answer, one didn’t respond.If you’ve seen any similar segments, or have other information to share, email us at [email protected].