BALTIMORE - Under mounting political, legal and financial pressure, Sinclair Broadcast Group on Tuesday backed away from its plan to carry a film attacking Sen. John F. Kerry's Vietnam record, saying it would air only portions of the movie in an hourlong special.
It is scheduled to air in the bay area Thursday at 9 p.m. on WTTA-Ch. 38.
"The experience of preparing to air this news special has been trying for many of those involved," Sinclair chief executive David Smith said. "The company and many of its executives have endured personal attacks of the vilest nature, as well as calls on our advertisers and our viewers to boycott our stations and on our shareholders to sell their stock."
Chad Clanton, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, which had demanded equal time to respond to the planned airing of the 42-minute film Stolen Honor, said Sinclair "has been all over the map on this issue. One thing that's certain is that they have a partisan agenda."
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the nonprofit Media Access Project, called the Sinclair move "a surprising cave-in."
Democrats have complained to three federal agencies about the Sinclair special, noting that Smith and his three brothers, who run the Baltimore-area company, have contributed heavily to President Bush and the Republican Party.
Sinclair said it will produce A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media using footage from Stolen Honor and other political documentaries while also examining allegations of media bias. The company now maintains it never intended to air Stolen Honor in its entirety, although Sinclair commentator and vice president Mark Hyman had told the Washington Post that the movie would air unless Kerry agreed to an interview, in which case only portions might run.
Sinclair's stock has dropped more than 15 percent since the controversy began 10 days ago.
Judge rules for Democrats on ballots
WASHINGTON - A federal judge rejected arguments from the Bush administration Tuesday and ruled for Democrats in a dispute over how to count provisional ballots.
The Department of Justice argued that battleground Michigan should be free to adopt strict rules to count the backup ballots.
The department said Democrats had no right to sue to ease restrictions on voters whose names are missing from registrars' rolls on Election Day.
The ruling from the Democratic-appointed judge in Michigan deepened the split among states and courts over standards for counting provisional ballots.