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Silencing Honor By: Roberta Leguizamon
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 14, 2004

After months of being forced to pay advertising prices to air a legitimate news story, Vietnam POWs are finally being taken seriously – and the Democrats are outraged. Two days after rumors made the airwaves that the Sinclair Broadcast Group was planning to run “Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal,” uninterrupted on its 62 television stations around the United States, the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Committee against Sinclair. The documentary features first-person accounts relating how POWs were tortured by the Viet Cong with John Kerry’s 1971 senate testimony.

The DNC claims that running the documentary amounts to an illegal, in-kind contribution to the Republican Party, and as such they should not be allowed to run it. In addition, 18 senators, including notable Bush-bashers Ted Kennedy, D-MA, Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and Dick Durbin, D-IL, have sent a letter asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether this is improper use of public airwaves. Several of Sinclair’s stations are in key battleground states, including Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

In addition to the FEC complaint, a number of Democratic spokespersons and “anyone-but-Bush” activists began leveling accusations and threats against Sinclair for daring to air the documentary.


Kate Benner of CNN/Money quoted MoveOn.org founder Wes Boyd as saying, “If they do air a partisan film, we'll challenge the FCC and the licenses of the local stations that broadcast the film because local stations have a responsibility to the community to air real news, not partisan messages.”


Benner also cites a letter written to Sinclair by the leftist group Media Matters for America, which is headed by former conservative-turned-liberal-propagandist David Brock, that “warned Sinclair that its plan could constitute a violation of broadcast regulations requiring equal time for political candidates, as well as the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, the group said.”


And perhaps the most blatant threat came from Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton. During an appearance on Fox News’s “Dayside with Linda Vester,” Clanton derided Sinclair’s decision to air the documentary, and explained that plans were underway to protest Sinclair stations and boycott their advertisers. He claimed thousands of people are “Jack balled up” about Sinclair’s decision, and added, “I think they are going to regret doing this, and they had better hope we don’t win.”


Even FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat, claimed the Sinclair’s plan to air the documentary was an “abuse of public trust.”


It is proof positive of media consolidation run amok when one owner can use the public airwaves to blanket the country with its political ideology -- whether liberal or conservative,” Copps said in a statement Tuesday.


The media coverage of Sinclair’s decision has since focused on the political affiliations and contributions made by Sinclair executives. Once again, big media – most of whom have refused to invite anyone from the Swift Boat Veterans and POW’s for the Truth to discuss their views on their news programs, while giving major airtime to anti-Bush propagandists like Michael Moore, Joe Wilson, Richard Clarke and Kitty Kelly – have resorted to smearing the messenger rather than challenging the message.


Sinclair Broadcast Group Vice President Mark Hyman told CNN on Tuesday, “This is definitely a newsworthy event. These Vietnam prisoners of war suffered horrific abuse and unspeakable torture for many years. Most of them maintained silence for 31 years and felt a need to respond to claims made by John Kerry.”


Hyman added that the format of the show has not been completely decided yet, and that in fact, the documentary will be part of a commercial-free news project. During an interview with Fox News’s Brit Hume on Tuesday, Hyman said Kerry had been invited to participate in the program to answer or even debunk the charges aimed at him by the documentary. The amount of time devoted to the documentary would depend on how much time Kerry – or a reasonable proxy chosen by the Kerry camp –  was willing to spend discussing it. Clanton has acknowledged the invitation, but said, “Everything is on the table but it's hard to take an offer seriously from a group with such a fierce partisan agenda, a group that's clearly not interested in the truth.”

But “the truth” is a difficult concept for the documentary’s detractors, who call it anti-Kerry tripe created by partisan Republican activists and campaign contributors. They ignore the fact that the men and women featured in “Stolen Honor” are highly decorated Vietnam POW’s and their wives, who through blood and tears have earned the right to speak to and be heard by the American public.

But if the Democrats and their media gatekeepers had their way, the documentary would be buried on a shelf somewhere, gathering dust, while anti-Bush screeds like “Fahrenheit 9/11” and pro-Kerry programs like “Going Upriver” would dominate the media. While they criticize the Sinclair group, Kerry backers take pages from Michael Moore’s playbook and criticize Disney for refusing to disseminate his pro-Saddam screed. They have no qualms with cable’s Sundance Channel, which has to date aired several hours of anti-Bush material, including Robert Greenwald’s scathing 2003 documentary “Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War.” Sundance is planning to broadcast excerpts from Bruce Springsteen and company’s pro-Kerry “Vote for Change” tour and has also started airing Al Franken’s radio show. It’s been reported that plans are underway, as well, to broadcast Fahrenheit 9/11 on In-Demand pay-per-view the night before the election.

Kerry supporters, those 18 democrats and Commissioner Copps didn’t stand up and fight against “in-kind campaign contributions” going from Sundance to the Kerry campaign. Indeed, these people who scream Conservative bias against Sinclair see no bias in a memo sent by ABC News Director Mark Halperin to his staff, encouraging them to be more critical of President George W. Bush than John Kerry. The memo read:

the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.


Leftist hysteria aside, Hyman told Fox News, "If anybody has earned the right to speak about their experiences in Vietnam, it's these men. They suffered unspeakable horrors. They earned the right to be heard." He also told Hume that Sinclair has taken its time to verify the identities of those men and women featured in the documentary, and made sure there were “no forged documents” involved in the making of the film – a veiled slam against CBS and anchorman Dan Rather, who based a “60 Minutes” report on fraudulent documents provided to them by widely discredited Bush-detractor Bill Burket. He also countered Chapman’s threat, and stated that every media outlet should worry when a political party threatens to use the FCC to stifle their ability to report the news.


As for the charges that running the documentary is some kind of violation of campaign laws, Hyman told Fox News the allegations are “absolutely absurd” and asked, “Would they suggest that our reporting a car bomb in Iraq is an in-kind contribution to the Kerry campaign? Would they suggest that our reporting on job losses is an in-kind contribution to the Kerry campaign?" he said. "It's the news. It is what it is. We're reporting the news.”


As for the timing of the article, Hyman told Hume the networks had been given the opportunity to cover the documentary a month ago, but the “gatekeepers” refused to do so. And on Monday, the Hyman told the Washington Post, “The networks are acting like Holocaust deniers and pretending [the POWs] don't exist. It would be irresponsible to ignore them.”

Yet the networks and mainstream media have ignored them, or dismissed their claims with such descriptives as "unsubstantiated" or "discredited," as if just saying such makes it true. However, many of the Swift Vets claims have been proven correct. Kerry did not spend Christmas of 1968 in Cambodia. He has yet to answer why there are several different citations for his one Silver Star.  And, finally, it's unlikely that he will ever say more than he "may have gone too far" in his senate testimony- despite the fact that those stories he told have been proven false.

In the end, Carlton Sherwood, the Vietnam veteran and award-winning journalist who created the film, told World Net Daily it's unlikely he and the rest of the POWs and veterans will get what they want from Kerry. "I want him to stand up there and say, 'We lied for two-and-a-half hours to the Senate [in 1971]; I was an agent for the Viet Cong; I didn't care who I slandered, living and dead; it's all about me. This is the way I launched my political career," he said.

He's probably right.

Roberta Leguizamon earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Ohio University and is a Contributing Editor to Frontpage Magazine.

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