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Sinclair's TV program on Kerry is called illegal donation to Bush

Stations in Md.-based chain told to air show on anti-war activism

Election 2004

October 12, 2004|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

After the September 2001 attacks, Sinclair executives ordered news anchors at its local stations to run editorials announcing support for the Bush administration's response. Some news staffers, such as those at Sinclair's two Baltimore stations, WBFF and WNUV, objected, saying such statements could undermine public faith in their political objectivity. The editorials were read nonetheless, with language stating the support for Bush came from station management.

In fall 2002, a company owned by Sinclair director and Vice President J. Duncan Smith - the brother of CEO David D. Smith - provided helicopter trips free of charge to Ehrlich during the gubernatorial campaign worth a total of more than $34,000. After they were disclosed in The Sun, the Ehrlich camp paid for all but $7,700 of the cost. That figure stood as a contribution from Duncan Smith's aviation company.

In April, Sinclair pulled an edition of ABC News' Nightline from seven ABC stations because it was devoted to reading the names of troops killed in Iraq. In a statement, Sinclair officials said the show was intended to hurt President Bush. "The action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq."

Hyman's nightly commentaries have consistently attacked Kerry. A former Navy intelligence analyst who worked for Ehrlich on Capitol Hill, Hyman is a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He traveled to Iraq earlier this year to document what he said were positive news stories ignored by much of the mainstream media.

Hyman's conservative views resemble those of David Smith, the Sinclair CEO, who believes that the mainstream media are overwhelmingly liberal.

But Hyman's commentaries are also part of the company's branding efforts to differentiate its news programs from those of the main network affiliates. The company adopts a brash tone for its newscasts as well as an opinionated edge.

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