Sinclair Strikes Again

Sinclair Broadcasting Group – the same group which forbade its ABC affiliates from showing Ted Koppel's 40-minute tribute to fallen troops in Iraq because the programming appeared to be "motivated by a political agenda" – is ordering its stations "to preempt regular programming just days before the Nov. 2 election to air a film that attacks Sen. John F. Kerry's activism against the Vietnam War." Sinclair, the country's largest owner of TV stations, has told its stations to air "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," produced by Carlton Sherwood, former Washington Times reporter, Bush administration official and close friend to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

The film features "former POWs accusing Kerry – a decorated Navy veteran turned war protester – of worsening their ordeal by prolonging the war." Sinclair is claiming exemption from a law prohibiting corporations from spending money to influence a federal election because they say the documentary qualifies as "newsworthy."

Even before refusing to run ABC's Nightline in April, Sinclair had amassed a long record of partisan bias passed off as news. In September 2001, the group required its affiliates to air messages "conveying full support" for the Bush administration, including requiring some news, sports and even weather anchors to read messages saying they stood "100% behind our president." In July 2003, Sinclair banned a DNC advertisement that featured a clip of President Bush making the false claim, "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" in his 2003 State of the Union address. And earlier this year, Sinclair sent "a vice president who has called John F. Kerry a liar to Iraq to find good news stories that it said were being overlooked by the biased liberal press."

Sherwood claims not to be a political activist, but he has strong ties to the Bush administration. He directed Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's TV and radio operations when Ridge was governor of Pennsylvania, and he has "recently been tapped to create and manage a new Fed website – – a key Bush administration public outreach program."

Asked about the motivations behind his film on Monday, Sherwood said, "I don't want a damn apology. I want [Kerry's] feet held to the fire. I want him to answer for his lies and for his smear on us 33 years ago." But nothing Kerry said during his 1971 testimony to Congress has been proven to be a lie or a smear. Kerry related faithfully the stories of "over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans [who] testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia" during "Winter Soldier" meetings in Detroit. The testimonies of many of those soldiers are on record here. Read Kerry's entire testimony here.

Sinclair is owned by Baltimore businessman David D. Smith and his three brothers. The Smith brothers and their executives have made 97 percent of their political donations during the 2004 election cycle to Bush and the Republicans. The brothers alone have given $121,000 to the Republican Party since 1999, and each of them has contributed the maximum $2,000 to the 2004 Bush campaign.

In a highly unusual news practice, Sinclair requires many of its affiliates to feature nightly commentary by corporate Vice President Mark Hyman, entitled "The Point." In recent months, Hyman has used his time on air to gear viewers up for Sherwood's film: On 9/20/04, Hyman accused Kerry of violating his oath to the U.S. Constitution because he led a group of Vietnam veterans who had fought and been wounded for their country to "defy U.S. Park regulations" and camp on the National Mall during 1971 protests. Two days later, Hyman baselessly accused Kerry of " supporting Communist forces opposed to the U.S. in Vietnam [and] in Nicaragua." Hyman used "The Point" as a platform to denigrate Kerry's Vietnam service nine times in September alone. See a different interpretation of Kerry's post-war activities in the new film, "Going Upriver.

Asked why Sinclair decided to air the film after it was rejected for airing by the major broadcast networks, Hyman told the Washington Post, "This is a powerful story... The networks are acting like Holocaust deniers and pretending [the POWs] don't exist. It would be irresponsible to ignore them."

According to USA Today, "many believe Sinclair's provocative decision shows how much the company has riding on the election." Currently, "Sinclair is barely profitable and laden with debt." Sinclair hopes to change that by taking advantage of relaxed media ownership restrictions – for instance, it wants the FCC to ease restrictions barring a company from owning stations reaching more than 35 percent of all homes. "FCC Chairman Michael Powell, a Republican, has made media deregulation a priority... Kerry says he'll clamp down on changes that promote consolidation."

Email Sinclair President David D. Smith and tell him to stop airing partisan propaganda.

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