Robert E. Smith, a director of Sinclair since 1986, donated $5,400 to Gianforte’s campaign last month, and the same amount last year, according to The Guardian, whose reporter, Ben Jacobs, was attacked by Gianforte.
Smith, who described himself in a federal campaign filing as self-employed in real estate, also donated to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Smith’s brother, Sinclair vice president Frederick Smith, donated $1,000 to Gianforte the day after the May 2017 attack on the reporter.
Gianforte was charged with assault after he body-slammed Jacobs and broke his glasses when the reporter asked a question about health care during a campaign office interview. Gianforte initially lied to police, blaming the reporter for the violence, but won the election anyway. He pleaded guilty and was given a six-month deferred sentence, with requirements for community service and anger-management counseling.
Sinclair, the largest U.S. owner of local TV stations by number of outlets, has been accused by its journalists of right-leaning bias. The company has demanded local anchors record statements bashing mainstream media. One former Sinclair reporter complained about the company’s “culture of misogyny and xenophobia” in an interview with CNN this month.
Sinclair did not respond to a request for comment.