SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A television station here has rejected an anti-war advertisement featuring Cindy Sheehan, the California mother whose son's death in Iraq prompted her August vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch.
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 about that country's connection to al Qaeda.
"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."
A national sales representative for KTVX, the local ABC affiliate, rejected the 60-second spot in an e-mail to media buyers, calling it an "inappropriate commercial advertisement for Salt Lake City."
Three other local stations, KSL (NBC), KSTU (Fox) and KUTV (CBS) began running the same advertisement on Saturday, two days before Bush is scheduled to speak to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars here.
That the ad is running anywhere in Utah, where Bush carried nearly 70 percent of the vote last fall, is remarkable. The state is one of the most conservative north of the Bible Belt and public criticism of the president and the war are uncommon.
The ads were bought for Gold Star Families for Peace by the Washington, D.C.-based company, Fenton Communications, which provided a copy of the e-mail received from station sales representative Jemina Keller to The Associated Press.
"The viewpoints reflected in the spot are incompatible with our marketplace and will not be well received by our viewers," the e-mail said. "In addition, we feel that the spot does not qualify as an issue advertisement (no reference is made to ballot issues or voter referenda.)"
KTVX issued a statement explaining its decision Saturday evening, saying 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 the this Iraq war."
Station General Manager David D'Antuono said the decision was in no way influenced by the station's ownership, San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications Inc.
"No, absolutely not," D'Antuono said. "We make local decisions."
Clear Channel's CEO Lowry Mays and his wife gave $65,000 to the Republican National Committee during the last election cycle, according to information from the Center for Responsive Politics. Two-thirds of the company's overall federal donations went to Republicans, the center said.
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 KSL television, said that in the interest of freedom of speech, KSL -- owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- didn't hesitate to run the Gold Star ad.
"There's programing and ads that we would not run because of our ownership and our position in the marketplace, however in this case, we felt this is one person's opinion and that there are others who express this same opinion," Wiest said. "The bigger picture is by suppressing the message are we doing what is right under the First Amendment and in an open democratic society?"
Gold Star Families wanted the ads to appear on Salt Lake City television stations over the next few days because Bush will be here Monday to address a convention of the 15,000-member VFW, said Celeste Zappala, a Gold Star co-founder along with Sheehan.
Zappala, who will be in Salt Lake on Monday to speak at a protest rally, said she was puzzled by the television station's decision.
"What stunned me was that it was inappropriate to hear this message," she said Saturday from her home in Philadelphia. "How is it that Salt Lake City should hear no questions about the war?"
Sheehan's son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, 24, died last year, just five days after arriving in Iraq. She started her war protest Aug. 6 off the road leading to Bush's ranch and had vowed to remain there until Bush granted her a meeting or until he returned to Washington on Sept. 3.
Sheehan was forced to leave Texas on Thursday after her mother suffered a stroke in California, but about 100 participants who had joined her remained there Saturday in her absence.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)