Partisan programming a Democratic art

October 23, 2004|By GREGORY KANE

SO THE FINAL version of the Sinclair Broadcast Group's documentary ran last night, and it was about the impact documentaries have on elections, not about allegations of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry's disloyalty.

The original plan called for a program that would have shown portions of a documentary called Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal - in which former American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam claim Kerry's 1971 anti-war comments back in the states led to their enduring even more torture from their captors. That was when the howls and yelps erupted from critics, many of them Democrats, who accused Sinclair of airing propaganda, trying to influence the outcome of an election and biased reporting that fell several light-years short of being balanced.

But fairness to Sinclair requires mentioning that the company did offer Kerry an opportunity to appear on the show and refute any allegations made against him. The offer was rejected out of hand by the Kerry camp, whose spokeswoman, Devona Dolliole, explained why with a quote full of pithiness and wit.

"It's hard to take an offer seriously," Dolliole said, "from a powerful corporate interest that's more interested in doing President Bush's dirty work than telling the truth."

Touche. Some might consider part of that dirty work Sinclair's decision to order some of its stations not to air the Nightline segment that ran a list of our soldiers killed in Iraq. But because the Kerry camp has brought up the issue of dirty work, it might be time to note who's doing the dirty work for Democrats.

That would be the television network known as UPN, which airs a two-hour block of shows Monday nights targeting black audiences. One of those shows is a sitcom called Girlfriends, which runs on Channel 24 in Baltimore. In a recent episode one "Rev." Al Sharpton was a guest. He didn't play a fictional character. He appeared as some guy named "Rev. Al Sharpton." In one scene Sharpton tells one of the characters, "They stole the last election. We don't want them to steal this one."

The "they" were clearly Republicans. The producers and writers of Girlfriends - and UPN executives - know that Sharpton is hachetman-in-chief of the Democratic Party. And they know what went on in that episode was blatant electioneering and propaganda of the sort of which Sinclair has been accused.

On the same network a show called Second Time Around - which follows Girlfriends - portrayed Republicans as staid, uptight atavists who want to keep women pregnant, barefoot, in the kitchen and silent. Never mind that it was a Republican president, Richard Nixon, who signed into law Title IX - only the most revolutionary piece of legislation outlawing discrimination against women ever to exist in this country.

The Second Time Around episode was electioneering and propaganda designed to get as many black bodies as possible to vote for Kerry in 12 days. When it comes to unfairness, lack of balance and untruths, Democrats pointing the finger at Republicans is akin to a crack addict accusing a heroin addict of being a junkie. Democrats have been guilty of some pretty egregious stretchers in the last two presidential elections. Let's look at the two most flagrant ones.

In 2000 the NAACP Voter Education Fund ran an ad just before the election criticizing then-Republican candidate George W. Bush for opposing hate crimes legislation when he was governor of Texas. The ad featured the daughter of lynching victim James Byrd making the preposterous claim that Bush's opposition was like having her father killed all over again.

The NAACP Voter Education Fund is, like its parent organization, the NAACP, a wing of the Democratic Party cynically masquerading as "nonpartisan." The NAACP's board chairman, Julian Bond, frequently duels with Sharpton for the lead position of hatchetman-in-chief for the Democrats. Four years later, we can't find the Democrat willing to condemn the Voter Education Fund ad for the blatant propaganda and partisan politicking it was.

Sharpton, at the Democratic National Convention this summer, implied Bush was a segregationist. About a month before, Bond tried the same thing, accusing Bush of having a hankering to repeal the 14th Amendment. Party leaders pulled a Harry Houdini when the time came to challenge and correct that canard.

Then the producers and writers of some shows at UPN - obviously Democratic Party apparatchiks - used a couple of sitcoms close to the election to further the party's agenda. When it came time to demand that the Federal Communications Commission give equal time for Republicans to respond, Democrats are, on this one, exactly where they accused Bush of being during his National Guard days during the Vietnam War: AWOL, absent without leave.

Now Democrats are, in essence, complaining that Republicans are cheating better than they are. They also find themselves in a position described by a refrain from the Temptations song "No More Water In The Well."

"This is the day you never planned on. You don't have a leg to stand on."

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