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'POINT' BREAK Say bye-bye to Sinclair's politically charged nightly commentary segment called "The Point" and its contentious talking head, Mark Hyman. The former vice president and right-wing commentator for the Sinclair Broadcast Group's TV empire—which includes local ABC affiliate WEAR—says he's giving up his televised two-minute rants because he's exhausted and wants to spend more time with his four children.
After more than five years and some 2,000 daily commentaries, Hyman is officially calling it quits on Thursday, Nov. 30.
While the 48-year-old tells the Baltimore Sun that he's not being pushed out by Sinclair's execs, critics say Hyman's departure has something to do with the fact that federal election records show the company's been making campaign contributions to the Republican National Committee.
Hyman is no stranger to criticism.
The military veteran and his colleagues at publicly held Sinclair were initially attacked in 2004 when they admitted that commentator Armstrong Williams, who had a syndicated broadcast on 51 Sinclair stations, was paid about $240,000 by the Bush administration to praise administration programs.
In April 2004, Sinclair ordered seven of its ABC-affiliated stations—including WEAR in Pensacola—not to air a "Nightline" segment that featured a reading of the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Sinclair execs said the nightly news program was "contrary to the public interest."
In December of 2004, the left-leaning advocacy group, Media Matters, fingered Hyman for his "steady stream of one-sided anti-progressive and pro-Bush rhetoric" and spent weeks dissecting the Sinclair commentator's aggressive on-air attack on what he calls "The Angry Left."
"These are public airwaves Sinclair is using," Media Matters spokesperson, Sally Aman, told Loaded Gun in 2005. "Although we do have issues with FOX, the difference between FOX and Sinclair, is that 'The Point' is aired on public airwaves and not on cable. When news is aired on public airwaves, there is a responsibility to inform in a more balanced manner. Bottom line."
For example, during his "news and commentary" coverage of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he labeled the critics of the Iraq war as "whack-jobs," the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" and progressives as the "loony left."
Hyman, who has no prior journalism experience or training, began toning down his mudslinging in 2005. Once his one-sided, hate-fueled words were removed from his segment, there really was no point to "The Point."
Now, he's exhausted. As MSNBC's Keith Olbermann pointed out earlier this week, it must be hard work carrying around so much guilt.
'CAMP' DETAIL There was more bark than bite coming from the rumored backlash surrounding a few of the featured films at last weekend's Pensacola International Film Festival.
Heidi Ewing, co-director of the controversial "Jesus Camp" who was in town with her fiancé for the Pensacola premiere, stopped by our invite-only VIP party held at the Independent News on Friday, Nov. 3.
"I was hoping for some protestors," she muses, standing outside our office. As she was talking, a duo of young evangelists handed the NYC-based filmmaker a "Road to Heaven" Bible tract.
When asked about the male prostitute controversy surrounding Rev. Ted Haggard—a featured player in "Jesus Camp" and former head of New Life Church—Ewing didn't seem surprised. "Out of all of the people I had in front of my camera for an entire year, he was the most combative," she adds.
As far as reports that Pastor Becky Fischer, director of the "Kids On Fire" retreat chronicled in "Jesus Camp," is closing her doors after recent acts of vandalism directed at the church, Ewing seemed shocked.
"I recently talked to Becky," says Ewing, expressing obvious concern for Fischer. "I haven't heard about that."
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EXPLOSIVE DOC There was some behind-the-scenes chatter surrounding the private party for the filmmaker of "Lillie & Leander: A Legacy of Violence, " a feature-length documentary film that examines the case of a black man suspected of raping and murdering a white woman at the turn of the 20th century in Pensacola.
While investigating the rape and murder of great-great aunt Lillie Davis, Alice Brewton Hurwitz stumbles upon an explosive family secret. While newspaper accounts of the time reported the vigilante lynching of Lillie's suspected assailant Leander Shaw in fascinating detail, Hurwitz discovers that the men in her family exacted their own 25-year-long system of revenge.
The film, featuring interviews with Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar and local African-American historian Ora Wills, has been submitted to the Sundance Film Festival.
According to Loaded Gun's sources, Hurwitz ended up pulling the explosive trailer for "Lillie & Leander" off her website, www.sandyhollowproductions.com, after receiving threatening e-mails.
Loaded Gun will keep you posted.