LOS ANGELES – The Sinclair Broadcast Group (search) is ordering its TV stations across the country to air a documentary on the eve of the presidential election that attacks Sen. John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activism, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
The one-hour program, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," features former prisoners of war accusing Kerry, a decorated veteran who took up the anti-war cause upon returning from Vietnam, of prolonging the war and worsening their plight.
The newspaper said the program is to be followed by a panel discussion to which Kerry will be invited, which could satisfy fairness regulations.
It is expected to be broadcast between Oct. 21 and Oct. 24, depending on the city, the Times said, citing sources it didn't identify.
A call by The Associated Press on Saturday to Sinclair's headquarters in Maryland was not immediately returned.
Sinclair either owns or programs content for stations in 62 markets around the country, including Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Sacramento. Fourteen of the stations are located in such swing states as Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Kerry campaign officials criticized the plan and said the candidate had not been invited to take part in any discussion.
"It's not the American way for powerful corporations to strong-arm local broadcasters to air lies promoting a political agenda," said Kerry spokesman David Wade.
The Times said Sinclair is ordering its stations to pre-empt local program in favor of the report.
Sinclair gained attention in April when it refused to air a "Nightline" segment on seven ABC stations it owns. The company said the segment, during which anchor Ted Koppel read the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, was a political statement disguised as news.
"I can't think of a precedent of holding up programming to show a political documentary at a point where it would have the maximum effect on the vote," said Jay Rosen, chairman of New York University's (search) journalism department.
Michael Moore (search) is in negotiations, however, to make his anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" available as a pay-per-view show the night before the election, and the Sundance Channel plans to air clips on Monday from an anti-Bush "Vote for Change" rock concert.