PHILADELPHIA – Former U.S. prisoners of war who blamed their years of captivity in Vietnam on activists such as John Kerry (search) are the only voices in a documentary that Sinclair Broadcasting (search) has decided not to air in its entirety.
Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, was a decorated Navy lieutenant who returned from Southeast Asia disillusioned. He organized anti-war protests in Washington and testified against the conflict before the Senate.
The 42-minute film, titled "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," is a one-sided view of Kerry's anti-war activities. It consists mostly of interviews with U.S. prisoners of war who survived imprisonment and torture in Hanoi, and emerged enraged at Kerry and others for suggesting they had suffered for an unjust cause.
No one opposed to the war or supportive of Kerry is interviewed in the film.
No historians are questioned about the documentary's premise that Kerry, then a little-known activist, single-handedly extended the fighting in Vietnam by two years and delayed the return of American prisoners by telling Congress in 1971 that U.S. forces had committed human-rights violations.
Dr. Ernest Bolt, a history professor at the University of Richmond, said it was unlikely that Kerry's testimony directly affected how long the POWs were held or how long the war lasted. He said Kerry's importance in the anti-war movement has been exaggerated since he began running for president.
Kerry was the spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
After enduring a week of criticism, Sinclair said Tuesday that the special, now scheduled to be broadcast Friday on about 40 stations, would contain only segments of the film and would be part of a wider look at the use of documentaries to influence elections.
That leaves the full version of "Stolen Honor" available mostly by mail order or over the Internet.
Representatives of the Ralph Nader independent presidential campaign protested at Sinclair stations in Birmingham and other cities across the country Wednesday. They urged managers of the stations to defy orders to broadcast the program, saying it was "flagrant exploitation of the public airwaves to promote a private political agenda."
"Stolen Honor" includes interviews with more than a dozen former POWs describing their certainty that they would have been released sooner if Kerry and other activists hadn't accused the United States of committing war crimes.