Washington (CNSNews.com) - Nearly 50 protesters gathered near the White House on Friday to protest Sinclair Broadcast Group's decision to air interviews with prisoners of war who blame Sen. John Kerry for their captivity during the Vietnam War.
"It's a pit of blatant, partisan swinishness," said Mark Mellon of Washington, who took time from his lunch to join the demonstration. "Are they POWs? They don't look like POWs. They look like elderly white men to me."
Mellon was among the most vocal activists at the protest, which was organized by a 12-day-old group called Stop Sinclair. In less than two weeks, Stop Sinclair has raised $160,000, which it is spending on newspaper ads and a 30-second television commercial.
Forty of Sinclair's 62 stations will air the program, "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media," at 8 p.m. EDT Friday. The show will include segments from an anti-Kerry film, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," which has set off a fury of protests from the left.
"This is not news. This is purposeful disinformation," said Caroline Timbers of Washington. "Things were taken out of context to create a lie."
The anti-Kerry film includes interviews with 13 former prisoners of war who claim Kerry's 1971 congressional anti-war testimony was used to torture them in Vietnamese prisons. Sinclair's vice president of corporate relations, Mark Hyman, has said the company never planned to air the film in its entirety, as some media outlets reported.
"It's another lie they're telling," Mellon asserted. "Do you believe everything they tell you? Do you think the world's flat? Do you think up is down?"
Anti-Sinclair activists claimed the airing of Friday's program amounted to a political contribution to President Bush's re-election campaign. The protesters carried a giant phony check for $9.9 million, which they claim is the cost of buying airtime on the 40 Sinclair stations.
"It's simply propaganda and an in-kind contribution," said Kim Jonas of Chesapeake Beach, Md. "I've looked at the regulations and it seems to be a pretty clear case. Besides, I thought I'd show up and keep my fellow Kerry supporters company."
Sinclair has defended the program despite the controversy it has generated for the company. Hyman said the company decided to air the program because other media outlets have ignored the anti-Kerry prisoners of war.
"These people here are concerned about the voices of the POWs, who were harmed by John Kerry's testimony and actions. This is what they're trying to stop," said Kristinn Taylor, a counter-protester who leads the local Free Republic chapter. "It's not about Sinclair. It's about shutting down the truth about what John Kerry did and how it affected our prisoners of war."
Protesters, however, dismissed the free-speech argument. Jacob Kramer-Duffield of Cabin John, Md., helped organize the rally as operations director for Run Against Bush, a sister organization to Stop Sinclair.
"This isn't a question of their First Amendment rights," Kramer-Duffield said. "That's not what's at issue. What's at issue is that they're breaking the law. These are illegal campaign contributions. There's a body of law that governs what is speech and what is acceptable. This clearly falls outside of that."
Another activist likened the broadcast to something out of George Orwell's famous book, "1984," about government control over people's lives.
"We are not getting the airing of really objective news anymore because of consolidation of control. People are manipulating the news for political purposes," said Cathy Schneider of Washington. "There's nothing that they are doing that is real news. I think that is '1984' at large. Orwell postponed 20 years."
See Earlier Story:
Poll Shows Majority Support Airing of Anti-Kerry Film (Oct. 22, 2004)
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