Why Does Sinclair Broadcasting Want to Air Anti-Kerry Film?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Oct. 12, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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CHAD CLANTON, SENIOR ADVISER, KERRY-EDWARDS: It's a political smear 30 days from the election, from some of George Bush's big corporate friends. They know John Kerry's going to stands up for the middle class before their corporate interests, and they don't like it.


BRIT HUME, HOST: That was a John Kerry (search) spokesman on FOX News earlier today, complaining about Sinclair Broadcasting's plans to air a program over its 62 stations, based on a documentary critical of John Kerry's anti-war activism.

Democrats have now filed complaints with both the Federal Elections Commission (search) and the Federal Communications Commission (search), claiming abuse of the public airwaves and improper campaign contribution.

Mark Hyman (search) is vice president of corporate relations for Sinclair Broadcasting (search). He joins me from Hunt Valley, Maryland.

Mr. Hyman, thanks very much for being available. Tell me what it is that Sinclair has decided to do on its stations.

MARK HYMAN, V.P. CORP. RELATIONS, SINCLAIR BROADCASTING: We've decided to produce a 60-minute program that is going to deal with specific allegations made by these Vietnam POWs. So far, nothing is scripted. There's nothing that's been finalized. We've only invited one person to join us, that's Senator John Kerry. So far, nothing has been shot.

There is an existing documentary, which provides the basis for these allegations. This is where these allegations are made, but there's nothing else that's been done. So complaints about content about a program that doesn't even exist is like complaining about a referee's call in a game that has not yet been played. There's nothing to complain about.

HUME: Understood, though. But the documentary, which is called "Stolen Valor," which has been out there for some time, is composed — "Stolen Honor," I'm sorry, is composed of the comments of former Vietnam POWs that are quite critical of John Kerry. That is sort of the core of it. I take it from what you're telling me that you're planning on using at least part of that documentary as the basis for your program, correct?

HYMAN: Yes, there's a plan to use some of it. We have no idea how much. If, for example, Senator Kerry decides to join us for an hour, then we may only use one or two brief clips. And use the bulk of what he has to tell us as part of that program.

HUME: Right. Now, let's assume for the sake of argument, based on what the Kerry people have said so far that John Kerry says no. Do you have to have Kerry? Or will you accept a spokesman or spokesmen or women representing his side of the story?

HYMAN: Well, we really hate to discuss alternatives because we're still hopeful he'll join us. But let's assume that he doesn't. We would accept somebody who has some valid standing in this process, someone who would be representative of John Kerry and can speak knowledgeable on this topic. For example, a 25-year-old spokesman who couldn't find Vietnam on a map perhaps would not be the most appropriate person. But if someone whose got some experience in that area, the theater of operations that would make sense.

HUME: Obviously some of those vets who are critical of the senator in that documentary, at least one, I believe, is a Congressional Medal of Honor winner. These are obviously people who have some standing...

HYMAN: There are two, actually.

HUME: Two, excuse me.

HYMAN: There are two Medal of Honor winners.

HUME: Excuse me. I stand corrected. There are also, I believe, and have surfaced other former POWs from Vietnam, who had a different experience and do not believe that what John Kerry did in 1971 in his Senate testimony and in his anti-war activism, generally contributed to their further misery and the prolongation of their period in captivity.

HYMAN: Oh, I'm sure...

HUME: Would such voices be welcome?

HYMAN: Certainly we will look for all voices on this process. There were 801 Vietnam POWs who returned after 1973. I would certainly expect that not all 801 were punished as a result of what John Kerry had testified to in 1971. But there is a sizable number of POWs who came forward and said specifically his testimony is used against them in 1971, in urging them to sign false confessions about committing war crimes and atrocities that he alleged.

HUME: So what is your response to the allegation that this is basically a political smear, 30 days or less before the election?

HYMAN: Well, we can't dictate the fact that these folks were Vietnam POWs, that they finally broke 31 years of silence on the topic they feel is important to them. They recently came forward. We understand from the filmmakers that they approached the broadcast networks about a month ago, and asked to have an audience, if you will, and were turned down flatly.

So when it became available to us, we spent a few weeks vetting their stories to make sure these people were exactly who they were, make sure there were no forged documents in this process. And then we said look, the story is legitimate. They've made some allegations, and they need to be aired. Because frankly, up until two days ago, most people in America have never heard of these people because the news gatekeepers have not addressed their topics.

HUME: Right. Now, on Fox today, as you know, just after the interview that you participated in, we heard a little bit from the Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton earlier. I want to get your reaction to something else that Chad Clanton said, if we can.


CLANTON: I think they're going to regret doing this, and they better hope we don't win.


HUME: Now, Clanton went on to say when questioned, that that there wasn't a threat. However, how do you interpret that?

HYMAN: I'm at a loss for words, almost. It certainly sounded like a threat. And for a campaign official for a presidential candidate to imply that they might use something, such as the independent regulatory process of the FCC, to exact revenge against media organizations that they find to be enemies or not supportive of their cause, is just astounding. And it's something that should cause concern for every media organization in the country, if this is going to be a precedent for this campaign or any other campaign should they win.

HUME: And the two complaints that have been filed about this program that is, as you point out, a work in progress, one says, of course, that it's an improper political contribution. And the other says that it is a violation or an improper use of the public airwaves. Your reaction to that charge — those charges.

HYMAN: Well, I understand there have been some suggestions that if there's information in this program that might be unflattering toward John Kerry that it should be considered an in-kind contribution to George Bush. Using that same logic, or that same reasoning, that would suggest that every bomb from here on forward that goes off in Iraq that's reported in the news, should be considered an in-kind contribution to John Kerry. The notion is absurd.

The news is what it is. It's going to be good, it's going to be positive, it's going to be negative. It's going to have all sorts of effects on candidates always. And when the news comes out, it ought to be reported. There shouldn't be a moratorium based on legitimate news, just because it may or may not affect one candidate or the other. That's just absurd.

HUME: What do you say to the idea that because these allegations have been out there for weeks, at least, if not longer, about events 30 years ago that they aren't news?

HYMAN: Well, the concern has been — there have been some suggestions that since some of these people may have appeared in television advertising, paid television advertising, that that satisfies our obligations as television broadcasters.

HUME: Got you.

HYMAN: The network and local TV angle of broadcast television has received a black eye for not properly debating within the news issues that should be debated, instead of shuffling them of to television advertising.

HUME: Got you.

HYMAN: It's irresponsible for us to say let the advertisers handle that.

HUME: Got you. Mark Hyman, thank you very much.

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