Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. responded Friday to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) charge that its decision to pre-empt Nightline Friday night was unpatriotic by telling the senator in a letter that the decision was anything but.
Sinclair President David Smith said his ABC stations were preempting the Nightline telecast, in which anchor Ted Koppel reads the names and shows the pictures of all the U.S. military personnel killed so far in the war with Iraq, because it is an “anti-war position, which most if not all of these soldiers would not have agreed.”
Nightline strongly disagrees with Sinclair that the broadcast is anti-war. Smith said it is “Nightline’s failure to present the entire story to which Sinclair objects, and that the producers of the show and host Ted Koppel are “doing nothing more than making a political statement.”
Smith said that Koppel has acknowledged that the Friday episode was “influenced by the Life magazine article listing the names of dead soldiers in Vietnam, which article was widely credited with furthering the opposition to the Vietnam war and with creating a backlash of public opinion against the members of the U.S. military who proudly served in the conflict.”
The Smith letter also cited a quote from a U.S. war widow alleging that her husband would “not have approved of” his name being used as part of a long list of war dead that could be construed as a protest against the war.
Smith also invited McCain to participate in a special broadcast produced in-house that will replace Nightline on its ABC stations and discuss the controversy surrounding it.