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Sheehan Ad Creates Controversy


A Salt Lake City television station is refusing to air an ad featuring anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. The station KTVX says the ad is inappropriate, but critics say the station can't take the political heat. NPR's Eric Niiler has more.

ERIC NIILER reporting:

The advertisement features the face of Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother who led a protest this summer outside President Bush's vacation home in Crawford, Texas. In the ad, Sheehan challenges the president and said he lied about the war in Iraq.

(Soundbite of ad)

Ms. CINDY SHEEHAN (Gold Star Mothers for Peace): And because of your lies, my son died. You said he died for a noble cause. What cause? Mr. President, I want to tell you face to face how much this hurts.

NIILER: Sheehan's group, Gold Star Mothers for Peace, has paid to have the ad run on several Salt Lake City stations this week. Celeste Zappala, co-founder of the mothers group, says the goal is to provoke a reaction from President Bush.

Ms. CELESTE ZAPPALA (Gold Star Mothers for Peace): And it was an ad to kind of, you know, challenge the president to talk about what the noble cause is that people are dying for in Iraq and to ask him to come and talk to her and to talk to all of us.

NIILER: President Bush is scheduled to speak to a veterans group tomorrow in Salt Lake City. Three local stations are airing the ad, but KTVX, an ABC affiliate, refused. In an e-mail to the mothers group, station officials said they deemed the ad inappropriate for their viewers. Celeste Zappala of the Gold Star Mothers disagrees.

Ms. ZAPPALA: I read their letter, and they said they thought it was inappropriate for their Salt Lake audience. And, honestly, I found that astonishing. And I'm thinking, like, `How is it inappropriate that a mom should ask why her son was killed?'

NIILER: Officials at KTVX, which is owned by Clear Channel Communications, could not be reached for comment. Matthew Felling of the non-partisan Center for Media and Public Affairs said the station doesn't have to air anything it finds objectionable.

Mr. MATTHEW FELLING (Center for Media and Public Affairs): There is not a regulation that says that all political messages or all content must be put in if the people are willing to pay. The station just dug its heels in the ground and said, `No, thanks.'

NIILER: Across town rival NBC affiliate KSL is running the ad. The station manager told The Associated Press that there are several viewpoints about the war, and they should be aired. Salt Lake City's Democratic mayor, Rocky Anderson, said that he's asking anti-war activists and fellow Democrats to protest the president's visit. Eric Niiler, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Niiler
Eric Niiler reports for NPR's national desk. His work can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and other NPR newsmagazines. Before moving to his current post, Niiler was a reporter for NPR's Day to Day program, and also filed pieces for NPR's national and science desks.