Sen. John Kerry’s campaign has written a legal brief to the president of a broadcast chain that plans to air a film by his opponents, asking that the Democratic presidential nominee be given equal time.
The Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group has ordered its 62 stations to air during prime time a documentary critical of Kerry, “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” contending it is a news program of importance to viewers.
As WorldNetDaily first reported, the 42-minute documentary presents former POWs who tell how Kerry’s 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was used as propaganda against them by their North Vietnamese captors, intensifying their persecution and possibly prolonging imprisonment.
Sinclair has invited Kerry to appear on the program after the film is shown, but his campaign has declined.
The letter, complaining that the planned program constitutes an attack on the Democratic presidential nominee, points out that its legality already has been questioned by the Democratic National Committee, which filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell has said none of its agency’s rules prevent Sinclair from airing the program.
The DNC argues the “broadcast does not qualify for the exemption afforded to news stories under federal campaign finance law and thus would constitute an illegal corporate expenditure.”
The Kerry campaign brief, written by attorney Marc E. Elias, contends that while the Fairness Doctrine has been repealed, “a broadcasting station that permits supporters of a candidate to use its facilities to advance that candidate’s campaign must provide supporters of the opposing candidate ‘quasi-equal opportunities.’”
“The documentary is clearly intended to advance the campaign of President Bush by attacking Senator Kerry’s record,” the Democratic candidate’s team asserts.
The program does not meet exemption requirements, the brief says, arguing it is not regularly scheduled on Sinclair’s stations and will not be shown when news programming is regularly aired.
It cannot qualify as a bona fide news program or news interview, the campaign says, as the “content of the program will not be controlled by Sinclair or an independent journalistic organization.”
“The program instead is intended to be an attack on Senator Kerry and thus is not the result of decisions made on the basis of newsworthiness rather than to advance or retard a particular candidate,” the letter says.
The campaign also argues the film cannot be viewed as an exempt documentary because the FCC has ruled that “exemption explicitly applies only if the appearance of the candidate is ‘incidental to the presentation of the subject or subjects covered by the news documentary.’”
“If Sinclair does air this program in which supporters of President Bush attack Senator Kerry, it must provide a similar opportunity for Senator Kerry’s supporters,” the letter says.
“Please consider this a request that each Sinclair station that airs the documentary provide supporters of the Kerry-Edwards campaign with a similar amount of time on that station before the election at a time where an audience of similar size can be expected to be viewing the station.”
The producers of a pro-Kerry documentary about the candidate’s time in Vietnam already has challenged Sinclair to air their film, “Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry.”
“We will provide any media representative with a copy of ‘Going Upriver’ and challenge any reporter to compare the two films for historical accuracy and journalistic standards,” said Bill Samuels, an executive producer of the film, in a statement.