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Inside Politics

Programming protest

From Wolf Blitzer

Wolf Blitzer Reports
John F. Kerry
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Democratic National Committee has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission over Sinclair Broadcast Group's plans to air a program in prime time accusing John Kerry of betraying American POWs during the Vietnam War.

Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe says it's "extraordinary that someone can go out there and pre-empt regular television.

"If people want to pay -- pay-per-view -- [to] watch [a] documentary, that is their right. To go out and pre-empt regular broadcasting to put out a 90-minute attack against a presidential candidate is absolutely outrageous and it's illegal," says McAuliffe.

Sinclair Broadcast Group plans to have its stations air the show commercial-free. The Democrats charge that the broadcast group's plan amounts to an "illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush-Cheney campaign." McAuliffe says this is the first time the DNC has ever filed an FEC complaint against a media organization.

Sinclair Broadcast Group operates 62 local stations around the country, including stations in battleground states such as Ohio, Florida, Iowa and Wisconsin. It insists there's nothing wrong with airing the program, "Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal."

"This is definitely a newsworthy event. These Vietnam prisoners of war suffered horrific abuse and unspeakable torture for many years. Most of them maintained silence for 31 years and felt a need to respond to claims made by John Kerry," Sinclair Broadcast Group Vice President Mark Hyman told CNN Tuesday.

The group has offered Kerry an opportunity to appear on its stations to respond to the program.

The Kerry campaign says it's not taking the offer seriously. McAuliffe says the DNC would be interested only if Kerry also got 90 minutes in prime time.

In April, Sinclair Broadcast Group made news when it ordered its seven ABC affiliates not to air a "Nightline" segment that featured Ted Koppel reading the names of U.S. troops killed in Iraq. At the time, a Sinclair executive called the broadcast "contrary to the public interest."

The Bush-Cheney campaign didn't file a complaint with the FEC after what it says were unfair allegations that were widely broadcast against President Bush -- including a CBS "60 Minutes" report, the Michael Moore film "Fahrenheit 9/11," and the Kitty Kelly best-selling book about the Bush family.

Ken Mehlman, manager of the Bush-Cheney campaign, said Tuesday, "Each campaign has to decide how they want to deal with a broadcast they don't like. In our case, we try to tell the truth. In this case, they apparently filed a legal complaint."

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