Sinclair Broadcast fired its Washington bureau chief, saying he revealed company business when he discussed its upcoming program on a documentary critical of John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activities.
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said in a statement late Monday that it fired reporter Jon Leiberman and that "we are disappointed that Jon's political views caused him to violate company policy and speak to the press about company business." In his initial remarks, published Monday by The (Baltimore) Sun, Leiberman called the Sinclair show "biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election."
Leiberman said he was fired Monday by Joseph DeFeo, Sinclair's vice president for news, and escorted out of the company's headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md. "I was told I violated company policy by divulging information from a staff meeting" to The Sun, Leiberman said late Monday.
The staff meeting took place Sunday at Sinclair's headquarters, Leiberman said. He said staffers were told that the news division would handle the hourlong show, based on the documentary "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal." The 42-minute documentary features former prisoners of war accusing Kerry, a decorated veteran who took up the anti-war cause upon returning from Vietnam, of prolonging the war and worsening their plight. Sinclair said last week it hadn't been decided how much of the documentary would appear in the completed show. The Democratic National Committee has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission contending that airing the film should be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush campaign. Leiberman, 29, said he told DeFeo he would not participate in preparing the program about the film and that he objected to it being labeled news rather than commentary.
"We have no further comment on the actions of a disgruntled employee or an ongoing personnel matter," the Sinclair statement said. "Viewers can grade Leiberman's opinion versus the reality when the finished product is aired." Leiberman said he was not disgruntled and that the company had largely treated him well before now. "I love what I do, but I love doing news. ... And I just felt like nobody was listening." Earlier this month, Sinclair ordered its 62 TV stations across the country to pre-empt regular programming to air the show. In Baltimore, the show airs on Friday; at least some other stations were planning to show it Saturday. Leiberman was chosen by Sinclair last year to start the company's four-person Washington bureau. He said Sinclair told him that he was fired for cause and would receive no severance. "I know I stood up for the principles of objectivity," he said. "In journalism, all we have is credibility and objectivity."
This is yellow journalism at its finest. Stop Sinclair's Anti-Kerry Smears. Visit the Boycott Sinclair Broadcast Group website to learn more about how you can stop this smear. Learn more about the DNC's Federal Election Commission complaint against Sinclair Broadcasting. The Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a conservative broadcasting company that runs television stations in dozens of major television markets nationwide, has ordered its stations to preempt other programming and air an anti-Kerry program days before Election Day. The so-called "documentary," called "Stolen Honor," was written, produced, and funded by extreme right-wing activists. Sinclair is using its reach to broadcast a blatantly political -- and false -- message while disguising it as "news."
And this isn't the first time the Sinclair corporate office has compromised the journalistic integrity of its stations. It ordered ABC affiliates not to air a nonpartisan tribute to our fallen U.S. soldiers, fearing the consequences for George W. Bush. It has refused to run a DNC ad that challenged Bush for citing faulty intelligence about Iraq. And Sinclair and its executives have contributed thousands of dollars to Republican causes -- and the CEO has given the maximum donation to Bush-Cheney 04.
Sinclair Broadcasting is using its television stations to disguise right-wing smears against John Kerry as news. The Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission to protest this illegal corporate contribution to the Bush campaign.
But we need your help to stop this right-wing attack on John Kerry. An overwhelming outcry from the public may be the only way to stop Sinclair from forcing these smears onto the airwaves. There are two ways that we need to take action immediately:
Call Sinclair's affiliates to state your opinon. Our voice must be heard!
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