Sinclair bureau chief slams anti-Kerry programming


Mark Follman
October 18, 2004 11:53PM (UTC)

There is now dissent in the ranks at the Bush-boosting Sinclair Broadcast Group. From the Baltimore Sun today:

"The Washington bureau chief for Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group's news division angrily denounced his employer last night for plans to air an hourlong program that is to include incendiary allegations against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for his anti-war activism three decades ago.

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"'It's biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election,' said Jon Leiberman, Sinclair's lead political reporter for more than a year. 'For me, it's not about right or left -- it's about what's right or wrong in news coverage this close to an election.'

"Leiberman spoke out yesterday after a mandatory staff meeting attended by Sinclair's corporate news division at company headquarters in Hunt Valley. 'I have nothing to gain here -- and really, I have a lot to lose,' Leiberman said. 'At the end of the day, though, all you really have is your credibility.'

"Leiberman, 29, is a Baltimore native who has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has worked at stations in Topeka, Kan., and Albuquerque, N.M., as well as Sinclair's WBFF in Baltimore."

The outspoken bureau chief may or may not be aware of a related conflict of interest that Sinclair has with regard to the White House. But he knows what's at stake for him in taking a stand against Sinclair's Bush-friendly corporate leadership -- which also takes a cue from the Bush White House in how it handles dissent.

"Leiberman said he was anguished by his decision to speak out. But, he said, the influence of commentator Mark Hyman and Chief Executive David D. Smith has been devastating. 'There is going to be a concerted effort on the part of my colleagues to make this as balanced a program as they can,' Leiberman said. 'But the selection of the material -- dumping it on the news department, and giving them four days, and running it this close to the election -- it's indefensible, in my opinion.'

"Leiberman said he told Sinclair's vice president for news, Joseph DeFeo, that he would not contribute to the program and that DeFeo suggested the reporter could lose his job."

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Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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