Sinclair Broadcast's program featuring material from a documentary critical of John Kerry (search) aired Friday night, devoting as much coverage to the controversy as the film that sparked the uproar.
The program contained a few minutes from the documentary, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal (search)," as well as excerpts from a pro-Kerry documentary, interviews with veterans who support and oppose Kerry, and a segment on the impact of new media such as the Internet on politics.
A history of the controversy that erupted following reports of the upcoming program was also given, including assessments such as "before anything had been decided, spin alley had become a superhighway."
On Tuesday, Sinclair Broadcast Group (search) — whose executives are Republican contributors — announced the program would appear on 40 stations and would feature parts, but not all, of "Stolen Honor," which consists of interviews with U.S. prisoners of war who survived imprisonment in Hanoi and remain enraged at Kerry for joining the anti-war movement after he completed his Vietnam service.
The announcement came after critics and shareholders protested following reports that the program would air on all 62 of Sinclair's stations.
Kerry did not appear in the program, but comments he made on the issue on the campaign trail were presented. The Kerry campaign issued a statement afterward saying Sinclair executives have given more than $100,000 to George W. Bush (search) and the Republican Party.
"Tonight they supported him with millions of dollars of air time devoted to an anti-Kerry smear aimed at influencing the election," a Kerry spokesman said.
"Sinclair's shameful actions can't obscure the plain truth — John Kerry was a war hero who was decorated for bravery," the statement said.
At the end of the program, a statement was scrolled on the screen asking viewers to let the Federal Communications Commission know if they agree with Sinclair's decision to broadcast the show.
The advance attention did not attract advertisers.
On Baltimore's WBFF, the program had only two sponsors, a local furniture store and a group dedicated to "personal responsibility and protecting consumer choice."
In Richmond, Va., a car dealer and the same group were the only advertisers, with the rest of the spots filled by promos for network shows and news programs.
Protests continued up to air time.
In Washington, about 60 protesters gathered in front of the White House. They carried a mock check for $9.9 million, the estimated value of the airtime being used for the program, said Andrea Lehman, a spokeswoman for the group.
In Charleston, W.Va., about 100 people gathered in the parking lot of Sinclair-affiliate WCHS-TV, carrying banners bearing the names of soldiers killed in Iraq, Kerry campaign material and an inflatable 13-foot rat with a "Sinclair Broadcast" sign tied around its neck.