October 10, 2004
David D. Smith
President and Chief Executive Officer
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.
10706 Beaver Dam Road
Hunt Valley, Maryland 21030
Dear Mr. Smith:
I'm writing to ask you to cancel plans, reported in the October 9 edition of the Los Angeles Times, to force Sinclair Broadcasting Group stations to preempt regular programming and broadcast a film attacking Senator John Kerry between now and the November 2 presidential election.
According to the Times, the film, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, "features former POWs accusing Kerry -- a decorated Navy veteran turned war protester -- of worsening their ordeal by prolonging the war." The Times reported that the maker of the film, former Washington Times reporter (and former Bush administration official) Carlton Sherwood, tells viewers on the film's website: "Intended or not, Lt. Kerry painted a depraved portrait of Vietnam veterans, literally creating the images of those who served in combat as deranged, drug-addicted psychopaths, baby killers" that has endured for 30 years.
I don't have to remind you, as the Times pointed out, that "Sinclair stations are spread throughout the country, in major markets that include Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas. ... Fourteen of the 62 stations the company either owns or programs are in the key political swing stations of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the presidential election is being closely fought."
As described by the Times, Sinclair's plan to air the film raises questions about whether Sinclair would be running afoul of federal regulations "requiring broadcasters to provide equal time to major candidates in an election campaign ..." Provisions of the McCain-Feingold law would also appear to be at issue in your decision. The reported effort by Sinclair executives to instruct station managers to classify the film as "news," thus skirting these political broadcasting regulations, would be a charade given its blatant anti-Kerry slant.
I trust that in light of these concerns, you will reconsider your company's apparent decision to air "Stolen Honor."
President and CEO
Media Matters for America