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OFF-KILTER with Rebecca Vallas

Apr 5, 2018

A video produced by Deadspin’s Timothy Burke, showing dozens of local news anchors saying the exact same words, brought national attention to a series of promotional segments airing on 193 local TV affiliates owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, all warning viewers about a torrent of “fake news” promoted by “members of the media [who] use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think.’” If that message sounds familiar, it’s because it’s echoes Donald Trump’s anti-media talking points to a terrifying tee. Rebecca speaks with Judd Legum, editor in chief of ThinkProgress, about the rise of Sinclair—and its role in driving a rightward tilt of local news across the U.S.

Next, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life fighting for economic and racial justice – yet 50 years later, his call for a living wage remains a dream still to be achieved, with a staggering 40 percent of American workers earning less than $15 an hour. Racial equity remains perhaps an even more distant dream, as huge gaps in income and wealth earned by communities of color persist five decades after Dr. King’s passing. That’s what’s behind the MLK50 “Justice through Journalism” project, a yearlong reporting project on economic justice in Memphis, Tennessee. To kick off a series of conversations commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s passing, Rebecca speaks with Wendi Thomas, the project’s founder, editor, and publisher.

Later in the show, last week’s shakeup at the Department of Veterans Affairs—in which President Trump showed Secretary David Shulkin the door in favor of a Navy doctor with no known policy views—has brought renewed attention to an already heated debate around privatization of veterans’ health care, with Shulkin claiming he was removed because of his opposition to privatization. Rebecca talks with Iraq war veteran Will Fischer of, the nation’s largest progressive veterans’ organization, about what’s at stake.

And lastly, in a rare bit of good news, a $29 million gift to—a crowdfunding website that funds school and classroom projects mostly in low-income communities—funded all 35,000 teacher requests on the website. The gift made headlines amid the growing movement of teacher strikes demanding higher wages and school funding, which spread this week to Oklahoma, where teachers say they’ll “fight until hell freezes over” if need be to see their demands met. A look at the requests on the DonorsChoose site offers a timely glimpse into how the teacher strikes are about much more than wages. Rebecca talks with’s Katie Vallas, a former Oklahoma teacher herself (who also happens to be Rebecca’s sister) about the massive unmet need in classrooms across the U.S.—and how teachers are paying out of pocket for basics like pencils and textbooks.