Sinclair Broadcasting

We all know by now that Sinclair Broadcasting, the same jolly fellows who a few months ago refused to air the Nightline program in which the names of our soldiers killed in Iraq were recited, will force its 62 stations to pre-empt regular programming a few days before the election to broadcast a Swift Boat-type 90-minute anti-Kerry propaganda piece produced by a major fan of Reverend Moon.

Called “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” the documentary features Vietnam veterans who say their Vietnamese captors used Mr. Kerry’s 1971 Senate testimony, in which he recounted stories of American atrocities, prolonging their torture and betraying and demoralizing them. Similar claims were made by prisoners of war in a commercial that ran during the summer from an anti-Kerry veterans group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Two of the former prisoners who appeared in the Swift Boat advertisement were interviewed for the movie, including Ken Cordier, who had to resign as a volunteer in the Bush campaign after the advertisement came out.

Sinclair’s plan to show the documentary was first made public by The Los Angeles Times on Saturday.

Mark Hyman, Sinclair’s vice president for corporate relations, who doubles as a conservative commentator on its news stations, said the film would be shown because Sinclair deemed it newsworthy.

“Clearly John Kerry has made his Vietnam service the foundation of his presidential run; this is an issue that is certainly topical,” he said. Asked what defined something as newsworthy, Mr. Hyman said, “In that it hasn’t been out in the marketplace, and the news marketplace.”

Because Sinclair is defining the documentary – which will run commercial free – as news, it is unclear if it will be required by federal regulations to provide Mr. Kerry’s campaign with equal time to respond.

But acknowledging that news standards call for fairness, Mr. Hyman said an invitation has been extended to Mr. Kerry to respond after the documentary is shown. “There are certainly serious allegations that are leveled; we would very much like to get his response,” he said.

Asked if Sinclair would consider running a documentary of similar length either lauding Mr. Kerry, responding to the charges in “Stolen Honor” or criticizing Mr. Bush, Mr. Hyman said, “We’d just have to take a look at it.”

This is, of course, just the latest example of the disintegration of politics in America, where the media can so blatantly and shamelessly take sides and actively participate in the most reckless smear campaigns. We simply never saw anything like this in US politics until the shrub dynasty. What happened?

Josh Marshall has been following this story closely and offers some keen observations.

In case you are holding out some errant hope about the accuracy or fairness of the presentation, you’ll be happy to know that the major claim-to-fame of the movie’s producer, Carlton Sherwood, is Inquisition, his 1991 expose on the US government’s alleged ‘persecution’ of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

Sherwood’s report was so ‘independent’ that he let Moon’s representatives pre-screen it and make changes to the text. They also reportedly agreed to buy 100,000 copies of the book for good measure.

Welcome to the world of Rove.

Rove? Is Marshall actually implying this is part of a Republican conspiracy? The very idea! I’m shocked.

Update: Josh Marshall again, in another must-read post. He is seething.

Unlike cable programming, local broadcast licenses aren’t ‘owned’ — courts have always been clear on this. The right to broadcast over a given slice of spectrum is public property on loan to the broadcaster in exchange for providing programming in the public interest. This move is but a paler version of the de-democratization we’re now seeing in Russia as the standing government asserts increasing control over a nominally independent media.

It’s not a ‘fairness’ or a free speech issue. It’s a massive and quite public case of election and campaign finance fraud.

It’s the sort of thing that, if it happens, will put the legitimacy of the entire election into doubt.

Welcome to the world of Rove.

The Discussion: 10 Comments

where the media can so blatantly and shamelessly take sides and actively participate in the most reckless smear campaigns.

Or maybe all the opinionated liberals I remember from my childhood have all been replaced by hawkish conservatives. There used to be a time when the media strongly cared about AIDS, the environment, and nuclear annhililation, if I remember correctly…

October 11, 2004 @ 2:22 pm | Comment

AIDS, nuclear weapons, the environment — that is so liberal, and so last week! Get with it. What really matters now is stuff like whether John Kerry was in Cambodia 32 years ago in December or January, or whether he threw medals or ribbons in 1971, or the fact that he likes to windsurf and speaks French. Poverty, the environment, the plight of the world’s oppressed — what bleeding-heart bullshit. Flightsuit boy, our feckless leader, never let’s crap like that get him down. El es muy, muy macho!

October 11, 2004 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

Kerry speaks French? Then he must be a traitor. Or he might be one-a them Canadiuns who think they know everything with their rationed healthcare and cheap medications…

October 11, 2004 @ 4:30 pm | Comment

This is, of course, just the latest example of the disintegration of politics in America, where the media can so blatantly and shamelessly take sides and actively participate in the most reckless smear campaigns.

CBS, ABC, Michael Moore? Sauce for the goose My Boy.

October 11, 2004 @ 10:24 pm | Comment

Michael Moore’s movie wasn’t broadcast over the television airwaves, so you know that’s a different topic. Therre are plenty of anti-Kerry movies and books out there and I don’t complain — free speech and all that. CBS’s story was true but they did fuck it up with the forged document. And they didn’t present it for 90 minutes, commercial-free the week before the election. Hardly a reasonable comparison.

October 12, 2004 @ 7:45 am | Comment

Sorry, Richard but, if the CBS story was true why was it based upon forged documents?

Furthermore, Sinclair claims that there story is true and, as a special added bonus, forged document free.

The First Amendment doesn’t allow for content based restrictions founded of someone’s personal view of what’s true and what isn’t. Nor does it have a time limit, i.e., 10 minutes of Free Speech is okay but 90 minutes is too much.

October 12, 2004 @ 8:40 pm | Comment

If you have ignored all the other documents and the statement by Texas’ former attorney general re. how bush got into the TANG and how he fucked off while he was there, there’s little I can do to convince you, Conrad.

As to Sinclair and its “news” about Kerry — all it is is crony capitalism, a terrible example of corporate America paying bush back for favors. Check it out — it’s a fact.

October 12, 2004 @ 9:52 pm | Comment

How about the statement regarding Sinclair by Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton “I think they’re going to regret doing this and they better hope we don’t win.”

You object to purported favors. Personally, I’m a lot more concerned by political threats against those exercising their first amendment rights.

Not that it matters. They aren’t going to win so it’s all academic.

October 12, 2004 @ 11:41 pm | Comment

It was a dumb thing to say. I agree with you.

October 13, 2004 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

Disinfopedia has the full biography for Sherwood plus several articles about his associates:

* Carlton Sherwood article
* Article on Stolen Honor – Wounds That Never Heal
* Charles Gerow – Sherwood’s publicist and RNC delegate

October 14, 2004 @ 8:57 pm | Comment

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