Tuesday, October 19, 2004

sinclair out your desk, you're fired!

reader and contributor rose sends us this washpost piece that tells us sinclair broadcasting fired its washington bureau chief for speaking out against their plans to force it's affiliates to air the anti-kerry film "stolen honor":

jon leiberman, who also was the lead political reporter for the 62-station television chain, told cnn last night that he was terminated for his criticism, which was quoted in yesterday's baltimore sun. he spoke out, he said, because "i feel so strongly that our credibility is at issue here. . . . i feel our company is trying to sway this election”…

sinclair vice president mark hyman said in a statement: "everyone is entitled to their personal opinion, including jon leiberman. we are disappointed that jon's political views caused him to speak to the press about company business." the statement called him a "disgruntled employee."

leiberman, 29, called that characterization "completely unfair," telling cnn's paula zahn that sinclair had promoted him twice and treated him well until he criticized plans to have the news division handle the upcoming hour-long special at a meeting sunday.

he told the sun's david folkenflik that the program -- which is to include the anti-kerry film "stolen honor: wounds that never heal" -- is "biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election. for me, it's not about right or left -- it's about what's right or wrong in news coverage this close to an election."

the movie, which a kerry spokesman has called "a 42-minute attack ad" in demanding equal time for the democratic campaign, features 17 former prisoners of war accusing kerry of betraying his country -- and in some cases extending their captivity -- by testifying in 1971 about u.s. atrocities in vietnam. "those were point-blank lies," one ex-pow, tom mcnish, says in the film.

leiberman called it a "slanted documentary" and said there was no way for sinclair, which owns the nation's largest collection of network affiliates, to verify the allegations. "call it commentary, call it an editorial . . . but don't call it news," leiberman said. he added: "viewers aren't going to trust us if we call it news. . . . i couldn't be part of this special and call it news when what it is is political propaganda."

leiberman acknowledged that he was violating sinclair policy by giving an unauthorized interview and revealing part of what happened at a company meeting, but said he felt he had no choice but to speak out. "i knew i had nothing to gain by doing it and everything to lose," he said. "i need to be able to sleep at night."
so do we, jon. good move!

addendum: joe gandelman at the moderate voice gives his views on this firing.

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