WHNT rejects bias charge in "60 Minutes" blackout

The owner of the Alabama station that failed to air news critical of Karl Rove supported John Kerry, not George Bush, in 2004.

Published February 29, 2008 10:14PM (EST)

Earlier this week in another corner of Salon I discussed how WHNT, the CBS affiliate that covers much of northern Alabama, failed to broadcast a "60 Minutes" segment that accused Karl Rove of engineering a campaign to bring down Don Siegelman, the former Democratic governor of Alabama.

Siegelman was convicted of bribery in 2006 and is now serving a seven-year sentence, but "60 Minutes" reported that even some Republicans believe that his prosecution was politically motivated.

WHNT initially blamed "a technical problem with CBS out of New York" for the "60 Minutes" blackout. When CBS officials denied any such problem, the station fingered a faulty receiver on its end, and it rebroadcast the segment later Sunday night.

In an interview with the New York Times today, Stan Pylant, the station's general manager, insisted that WHNT had never intended to block the show. A review, he said, had turned up a technical problem in the receivers.

A representative for one of the station's owners also defended against charges of political bias. WHNT is owned by an investment firm called Oak Hill Capital, which is led by Robert Bass, who belongs to an influential Alabama family with long ties to Republicans.

But a spokesman for Robert Bass said that while Bass' brothers had donated money to George W. Bush, Bass himself had mainly supported Democrats -- including John Kerry in 2004 and Bill Richardson this year.

The Times reports that Bass has occasionally supported some Republicans, including "including Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona."

By Farhad Manjoo

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

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