Scott D. Pierce: No, there’s no conspiracy involving Sinclair, KUTV and Trump hats

(Elise Amendola | AP file photo) President Donald Trump holds a "Keep America Great" hat as he speaks at a campaign rally on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Manchester, N.H.

KUTV and its Sinclair overlords have come under fire for running a story about the Trump campaign selling “Keep America Great” hats. And it’s sort of stupid.

The Daily Beast wrote that local stations “affiliated with the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group ran stories … that explicitly promoted a Trump reelection campaign fundraising effort.” HuffPost sounded positively conspiratorial, writing that “strikingly similar stories” appeared on the websites of Sinclair stations.

Those somewhat similar stories were prompted by a tweet from the Trump Fundraising Emails account, which claims it is “not affiliated with any political or news” organizations. And it’s all much ado about very little.

The original tweet proclaimed that “Sinclair stations across the country promoted ‘news’ stories about the Trump campaign selling new Keep America Great hats” — with the obvious implication that it wasn’t actual “news.”

Guess what? It was.

Do a quick online search on “Make America Great Again” hats and you’ll find umpteen stories. The shift to “Keep America Great” isn’t a big story, but it is news.

Look, I’m not a fan of Sinclair, which I have severely criticized again and again and again for its long history of one-sided news coverage to promote its right-wing agenda. I have major problems with the propaganda that it mandates Channel 2 include in its newscasts. I’m consistently disappointed when KUTV airs reports by “national correspondents” without identifying them as working directly for Sinclair.

But in this case, the outrage is misplaced and selective.

A number of ABC-owned stations ran similar Trump hat stories, prompting no such outrage. Because ABC doesn’t carry the same baggage as Sinclair.

As for the big conspiracy behind all those similar stories, here’s the reality: WRBG in Albany posted the original story, and Sinclair stations share news. That’s standard practice for TV stations, radio stations and newspapers that have the same owner.

It’s like a wire story from the Associated Press that appears word-for-word in hundreds of outlets across the story — a fact that you’d think anyone who works in the media would understand.

KUTV is not blameless in this. When it posted the Trump hat story, it posted a link to the campaign’s merchandise website. And that crossed the line between a legitimate news story and helping sell the hats and finance the Trump campaign.

Privately, KUTV management acknowledged the mistake and removed the link. But it was a mistake, not a sign of a conspiracy. And if you try to tell me you’ve never made a mistake on the job ... well, I won’t believe you.

There are certainly a lot of legitimate reasons to criticize Sinclair. But bogus conspiracy theories about Trump hats that are easily disproven don’t add to the narrative; they detract from it — and provide ammunition for Sinclair to fire back, claiming it has been wrongfully criticized.

FAVORITE DANCER, NOT BEST • There’s a reason “So You Think You Can Dance” calls its winner “America’s favorite dancer” and not the “best” dancer — because the competition isn’t fair.

Despite rave reviews from the show’s judges, Utah siblings Stephanie and Ezra Sosa were both among the bottom vote getters this past week. The judges chose to “save” Ezra to compete again; Stephanie was eliminated.

Maybe it didn’t help that they were both in the finals, the way multiple Emmy nominees from the same show split the vote. And maybe the vote was further split by the presence of Eddie Hoyt, who’s from New Hampshire but has been working at Center Stage Studio in Orem for the past few months. (Hoyt — who did not get good reviews from the judges — was eliminated along with Stephanie Sosa.)

Truth be told, there have also been times when the judges’ evaluations have seemed, well, strange. So that’s not a perfect answer, either.

Contestants and fans have to remember that “SYTYDC” (Mondays, 8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is about entertainment. Nobody ever said it’s fair.