Sinclair dispels ‘liberal media’

When fact and opinion meet a partisan agenda, it becomes hard to tell news from campaign commercials. Many point to the “liberal media” as an example of this bias. The thought is that the media

When fact and opinion meet a partisan agenda, it becomes hard to tell news from campaign commercials. Many point to the “liberal media” as an example of this bias.

The thought is that the media is liberal, slants toward democratic candidates, and if news from Iraq is bad it’s only because the liberal media is reporting it that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that all news reporting can have a bias. We can be aware that both Al Franken and Rush Limbaugh, even if we agree with them, are promoting a certain point of view. We know that they are expressing their opinions, and we can judge their opinions based on information provided. The key is accurate information and that is where the trouble lies. When fact and opinion meet a partisan agenda, lines begin to blur.

That line is soon going to be crossed by the Sinclair Broadcasting Company, owners of 62 television stations. Sinclair was in the news in April when the company refused to allow its eight ABC affiliates to air a segment on Nightline. The show was going to feature a list consisting of the names and pictures of Americans who had died in the Iraq war up to that point.

Why did Sinclair do this?

“Our decision was based on a desire to stop the misuse of their sacrifice to support an anti-war position with which most, if not all, of these soldiers would not have agreed,” said Sinclair CEO David Smith.

Sinclair felt that they were justified in making this decision because Ted Koppel and ABC News were playing their own game for political reasons.

Sinclair and others felt that focusing on the dead, as ABC did, was the equivalent of an attack on the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

Reasonable people can, I suppose, argue that Nightline’s decision to show the names and faces of the dead could affect public opinion. However, I do not think reasonable people can view Sinclair’s decision as anything but political.

Here is a broadcast organization making a decision on information that might lessen support for the war in Iraq, and subsequently was not going to air it on their stations. They made a decision that directly supported the Bush administration and their conduct of foreign policy. Sinclair executives have donated as much as $136,000 to the Bush administration. Their bias is evident, yet it is justified because they are merely countering the alleged liberal media.

Why revisit this month-old incident? Sinclair Broadcasting is at it again. Two weeks before the election, all Sinclair stations in the country will be required to run a documentary called Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal dealing with John Kerry and his 1971 senate testimony regarding Vietnam war atrocities.

The film is being broadcast as a news feature, and apparently shows former POWs making the claim that Kerry’s testimony resulted in their captivity being extended.

Sinclair spokesman Mark Hyman said, “It’s the news. It is what it is. We’re reporting the news.” Hyman also mentioned, “Would they suggest that our reporting a car bomb in Iraq is an in-kind contribution to the Kerry campaign?”

Yes, I think “they” would, if “they” used the same logic Sinclair used to kill the Nightline episode.

Carlton Sherwood, Vietnam veteran, former journalist, friend and longtime aide to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, said he made the film because he felt that Kerry’s immediate postwar behavior had not attracted enough attention.

I don’t know where Mr. Sherwood was when we were debating what Kerry threw over the Pentagon fence, but Kerry’s actions were covered, even if the outcome is not what Sherwood desired.

Let’s review what we know. A Bush administration aide has created a film attacking John Kerry, and financial backers of the Bush administration are demanding that the 62 television stations they own air it two weeks before the Nov. 2 election date. Sinclair claims this is OK, because the film is “news.”

But I do not know how Sinclair’s actions can be viewed as anything but a partisan attempt to boost the election chances of President Bush.

Sinclair’s actions prove that the media, far from being a liberal monolith, is just the opposite.

William Lodge can be reached at

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