- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

Staples Inc. yesterday said it does not have a policy against running ads on Sinclair Broadcasting’s television stations, disputing earlier claims that it would pull commercials to protest the stations’ broadcast of conservative commentary.

The office supply company said it had been “misrepresented by an organization with no affiliation” to it — an apparent reference to Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group leading the fight against the Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair Broadcasting.

David Brock, president of Media Matters, said yesterday that the “misrepresentation” was on the part of Staples. Mr. Brock, in a letter to Staples Chief Executive Ron Sargent, wrote: “As you may know, Staples Inc. officials reviewed, edited and approved the Media Matters press release of January 4, 2005, in both draft and final form.

“That release stated that Staples was not renewing advertising on Sinclair local news programming due in part to concerns registered by visitors to the SinclairAction.com Web site, which was launched December 14, 2004, to protest the conservative slant of Sinclair’s news programming, in particular a nightly conservative commentary called ‘The Point.’ ”

Staples officials said they regularly consider where it places advertising, but politics is not a consideration.

Earlier this week, “The Point” anchor Mark Hyman ridiculed the effort — and the “gaggle of whiney malcontents” behind it — to punish Sinclair Broadcasting for the commentary.

“They launched a campaign to pressure advertisers of this station because of this two-minute segment, ‘The Point,’ ” Mr. Hyman said. “Gasp! I’ve got opinion in my opinion segment. And not only that, but it presents only one point of view.”

He concluded the segment by saying: “The election is over. It’s time to move on.”

Last fall, Sinclair Broadcasting — with 64 stations nationwide covering a quarter of the country’s viewers — caused a media controversy when it announced — and then retracted — plans to air “Stolen Honor,” a 42-minute film harshly critical of the military service of Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Sinclair said yesterday it was pleased that Staples would continue advertising and threatened to sue “any organization or any individual” that engages in such “trade defamation.”

Sinclair said the episode “resulted in a tremendous outpouring of support for Sinclair’s right to exercise First Amendment-protected free speech. “We express our appreciation to all of our advertisers who have not been swayed by the actions of a few people who want to stifle the legal presentation of different points of views.

“We also express our appreciation to the numerous organizations, companies and individuals who have contacted us and our advertisers to express their outrage at the possibility that an advertiser might attempt to use economic leverage to silence free speech.”

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