(CNSNews.com) - The Democratic National Committee on Monday announced its plan to file a Federal Election Commission complaint against the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which plans to air an anti-John Kerry documentary in the days before the presidential election.
When asked in a conference call with reporters if the DNC would respond in a similar way if Michael Moore's anti-Bush film "Fahrenheit 9/11" were to be shown on a network in the same way as the anti-Kerry film, DNC Legal Counsel Joe Sandler said: "It depends on the, um, you know, on the circumstances."
Sandler later added that the DNC "might well have a similar view" if every circumstance was exactly the same.
Sinclair management has ordered its stations to preempt regular programming and show "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" within two weeks of the Nov. 2 election. It will not air commercials during the movie.
In a statement on its website, Sinclair addressed the controversy.
"We welcome your comments regarding the upcoming special news event featuring the topic of Americans held as prisoners of war in Vietnam. The program has not been videotaped, and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized," Sinclair said.
"Characterizations regarding the content are premature and are based on ill-informed sources," Sinclair said, adding that Sen. John Kerry was invited to participate. "You can urge him to appear by calling his Washington, D.C., campaign headquarters."
Democrats have alleged that the "Sinclair Broadcasting Group is run by major donors to the Bush-Cheney campaign," according to DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe called the film "garbage" and said it is "extremely concerning and raises serious legal questions."
Sandler defended any possible plans to air Moore's controversial film by arguing that "Michael Moore is an established, legitimate, documentary filmmaker."
Sandler called "Stolen Honor" producer Carlton Sherwood "a disgraced former reporter" and argued that because he is not an established documentary filmmaker, his movie should not be shown.
The DNC plans to file its complaint with the FEC when it reopens Tuesday after Monday's observance of Columbus Day, Sandler told reporters.
Sandler said the use of air time to broadcast the films constitutes "an illegal corporate in-kind contribution" that is prohibited by campaign finance laws. He added that it was the first time the DNC has filed such a complaint against a media outlet.
"It's not clear who's paying whom to air this film," Sandler said, implying that the Bush-Cheney campaign or the Republican National Committee might be behind it.
"In these circumstances, we believe that Sinclair's not acting as a press entity," Sandler said, "but it's really using its corporate resources simply as a donor to the Bush-Cheney campaign in this blatant effort to influence the election for Bush-Cheney."
Christine Iverson of the Republican National Committee responded to Sandler's allegations by stating that airing the movie is Sinclair's decision, and "we [the RNC] don't have anything to do with their programming decisions."
Iverson laughed when asked what she thought of the DNC not objecting to a possible airing of a pro-Kerry documentary. "As always with any DNC press conference," she said, "there are more questions left unanswered than answered, so it's not surprising."
According to the website for "Stolen Honor," its producer is an award-winning journalist. The site also says he served in the Marines during Vietnam and was wounded three times.
Sandler's reference to Sherwood as "a disgraced former reporter" was a reference to his investigation of the controversial Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church. Sherwood reported that Moon and his followers are victims of religious persecution.
Detractors pointed out that Sherwood once worked for the Washington Times newspaper, which is owned by members of the Unification Church.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.