Bush-friendly station blocks "60 Minutes" Rove report

Was it just a technical snafu?

By Farhad Manjoo
Published February 25, 2008 10:01PM (EST)

The above video is from last night's "60 Minutes," in which a Republican lawyer charged Bush operative Karl Rove with planning a campaign to ruin Don Siegelman, the former Democratic governor of Alabama, who was convicted in 2006 of federal bribery charges, and is now serving a seven-year sentence.

Among other nefarious things, the lawyer, Jill Simpson, says Rove asked her to try to get pictures of Siegelman cheating on his wife.

Grant Woods, another Republican attorney -- he's Arizona's former attorney general and a co-chair of the John McCain campaign -- tells "60 Minutes," "I personally believe that what happened here is that they targeted Don Siegelman because they could not beat him fair and square. This was a Republican state and he was the one Democrat they could never get rid of."

It's a damning charge, one that must have folks in Alabama wondering if their former governor was given a fair shake. Except for one thing: As Scott Horton of Harper's reports, WHNT, the CBS affiliate that broadcasts "60 Minutes" to Northern Alabama, did not run the segment.

Instead of the airing the report, the station ran, instead, this notice:

We apologize that you missed the first segment of "60 Minutes" tonight featuring "The Prosecution of Don Siegelman." It was a technical problem with CBS out of New York.

Really? Well, not quite. WHNT, which Horton notes has harbored a long hostility to Siegelman, is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners, which is run by the Bass brothers, who have been major funders of George W. Bush.

When Horton called CBS to ask if there really was a "technical problem out of New York," the network told him:

There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.

Oh really? Faced with this denial from CBS, WHNT put out another explanation:

Sunday night at approximately 6pm, WHNT lost the network feed of "60 Minutes" for twelve minutes at the beginning of a segment on former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Upon investigation, WHNT learned that our station's CBS receiver that allows us to receive programming from the CBS network's feed failed. WHNT engineers responded as quickly as possible to diagnose the problem and were able to restore the feed at 6:12pm. WHNT aired the segment in its entirety last night at 10:15pm during our late news and it is currently posted on WHNT.com as well.

We apologize to all of our Tennessee Valley viewers for the interruption and we can assure you there was no intent whatsoever to keep anyone from seeing the broadcast.

Today has been censorship day at Machinist -- first we discussed Pakistan's attack on YouTube, then Comcast's attack on BitTorrent.

Here again we've got the same story: A "technical problem" separates people from content they want to see. Northern Alabamans can still watch the show on the Web -- at least until some kind of technical problem shuts that door too.

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

MORE FROM Farhad Manjoo

Related Topics ------------------------------------------