CBS News spikes a story on the Bush administration potentially deceiving the American people about Saddam Hussein's nuclear capabilities before the war -- a story set to run in September -- because it would be, Andrew Heyward said, "inappropriate" during the presidential campaign.
But conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group is forcing its stations, which reach nearly one-quarter of the country's TV households, to pre-empt their programming days before the election to air a film that attacks John Kerry's anti-war activism.
From the Los Angeles Times:
"Sinclair's programming plan, communicated to executives in recent days and coming in the thick of a close and intense presidential race, is highly unusual even in a political season that has been marked by media controversies. Sinclair has told its stations -- many of them in political swing states such as Ohio and Florida -- to air 'Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,' sources said. The film, funded by Pennsylvania veterans and produced by a veteran and former Washington Times reporter, features former POWs accusing Kerry -- a decorated Navy veteran turned war protester -- of worsening their ordeal by prolonging the war. Sinclair will preempt regular prime-time programming from the networks to show the film, which may be classified as news programming, according to TV executives familiar with the plan."
"Sinclair stations are spread throughout the country, in major markets that include Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas; its only California station is in Sacramento. Fourteen of the 62 stations the company either owns or programs are in the key political swing states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the presidential election is being closely fought. Station and network sources said they have been told the Sinclair stations -- which include affiliates of Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, as well as WB and UPN -- will be preempting regular programming for one hour between Oct. 21 and Oct. 24, depending on the city. The airing of "Stolen Honor" will be followed by a panel discussion, which Kerry will be asked to join, thus potentially satisfying fairness regulations, the sources said. Kerry campaign officials said they had been unaware of Sinclair's plans to air the film, and said Kerry had not received an invitation to appear."
Sinclair, you may recall, ordered its seven ABC stations not to air the Nightline program that featured the names and photos of soldiers killed in Iraq -- because Sinclair officials said the program "appeared to be motivated by a political agenda."