NEW YORK – Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign blasted a decision by the Sinclair Broadcast Group (search) to air a documentary on Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activism, but a Sinclair official vowed to move forward Tuesday.
The flap is over a one-hour program — "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal (search)" — featuring 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.
"If anybody has earned the right to speak about their experiences in Vietnam, it's these men," Sinclair Vice President Mark Hyman (search) told FOX News. "They suffered unspeakable horrors. They earned the right to be heard."
The program likely will be broadcast between Oct. 21 and Oct. 24, depending on the city. According to Sinclair's Web site, the company has some connection to 62 stations from all the broadcast networks — FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, UPN and the WB — in 39 markets and reaches 24 percent of U.S. television households.
Chad Clanton (search), a spokesman for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, described the movie as "a 90-minute political spot."
"There's nothing fair or balanced or journalistic about what they're doing," Clanton told FOX News. He described Sinclair as "George Bush's big corporate allies. ... This is a big media conglomerate strong-arming their local television stations."
The Sinclair plan led to a statement from Michael J. Copps, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, which was published Tuesday on the Drudge Report.
"This is an abuse of the public trust. And 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.
Without responding directly to Copps' point, Hyman said the documentary is a legitimate newsworthy event because it will allow former POWs to share their stories. Hyman also noted that Sinclair checked the veterans' backgrounds to ensure their stories were legitimate.
Since invoking his Vietnam service during his acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination in July, Kerry has been dogged by questions over his heroism in the war and his comments after it. When Kerry returned home, he testified before a congressional panel and said others in the military committed atrocities while in Vietnam.
A group calledSwift Boat Veterans for Truth (search) has funded and run a series of ads challenging Kerry on his Vietnam service.
Hyman said Sinclair is hoping Kerry himself will take part in a discussion after the documentary airs so they can get his side of the story. The company has invited Kerry but has not gotten a response yet, Hyman said.
"Maybe we're a little more persistent but we think this is an issue that really ought to be addressed because it's newsworthy," Hyman said. "Remember that John Kerry and John Kerry alone made his service the foundation of his presidential campaign."
Clanton said Kerry had earned the right through his time in the Navy to speak about how he felt about the war and he said Sinclair was doing nothing more than trying to influence the election in favor of Bush.
"They're trying to get a 90-minute political spot paid for, for nothing," he said. "It makes me so mad, I want to throw my boot through the TV set."
Sinclair either owns or programs content for stations in scores of markets, including Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Sacramento. Fourteen of the stations are located in such swing states as Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
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.
Meanwhile, Michael Moore (search) is in negotiations 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.