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Utah TV Station Refuses to Air Anti-War Ad Days Before Bush Visit
Published on Sunday, August 21, 2005 by the Associated Press
By Jennifer Dobner
SALT LAKE CITY - A Utah television station is refusing to air an anti-war ad featuring Cindy Sheehan, whose son's death in Iraq prompted a vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch.
The ad began airing on other area stations Saturday, two days before Bush was scheduled to speak in Salt Lake City to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
However, a national sales representative for KTVX, a local ABC affiliate, rejected the ad in an e-mail to media buyers, writing that it was an "inappropriate commercial advertisement for Salt Lake City."
In the ad, Sheehan pleads with Bush for a meeting and accuses him of lying to the American people about Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction and its connection to al-Qaida.
"I love my country. But how many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?" a weary-looking Sheehan asks in the ad. "I know you can't bring Casey back. But it's time to admit mistakes and bring our troops home now."
Salt Lake City affiliates of NBC, CBS and Fox began running the ad Saturday.
The ads were bought by Gold Star Families for Peace. Washington, D.C.-based Fenton Communications, a public relations firm working for the group, provided a copy of the e-mail received from station sales representative Jemina Keller to The Associated Press.
In a statement Saturday evening explaining its decision, KTVX said that after viewing the ad, local managers found the content "could very well be offensive to our community in Utah, which has contributed more than its fair share of fighting soldiers and suffered significant loss of life in this Iraq war."
Station General Manager David D'Antuono said the decision was not influenced by the station's owner, Clear Channel Communications Inc.
Celeste Zappala, who with Sheehan co-founded Gold Star Families for Peace, said she was puzzled by the decision.
"What stunned me was that it was inappropriate to hear this message," she said. "How is it that Salt Lake City should hear no questions about the war?"
The e-mail read: "The viewpoints reflected in the spot are incompatible with our marketplace and will not be well received by our viewers." It added that the spot didn't qualify as an issue advertisement.
For the ad to have been considered an "issue" advertisement a ballot measure would have had to be at stake, D'Antuono said.
Mark Wiest, vice president of sales for NBC-affiliated KSL television, said that in the interest of freedom of speech, his station didn't hesitate to run the ad. KSL is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"The bigger picture is, by suppressing the message are we doing what is right under the First Amendment and in an open democratic society?" Wiest said.
Bush received nearly 70 percent of the vote last fall in Utah, one of the most conservative states north of the Bible Belt.