Skip to comments.Republican-funded Group Attacks Kerry's War Record
Posted on 08/07/2004 7:42:37 AM PDT by syriacus
Ad features vets who claim Kerry "lied" to get Vietnam medals. But one accuser quickly recants, and other witnesses disagree. August 6, 2004 Modified: August 6, 2004
A group funded by the biggest Republican campaign donor in Texas began running an attack ad Aug. 5 in which former Swift Boat veterans claim Kerry lied to get one of his two decorations for bravery and two of his three purple hearts. However, one of the veterans who appears in the ad has already recanted his principal accusation against Kerry, in an interview with the Boston Globe
Some other veterans who accuse Kerry are contradicted by Kerry's former crewmen. One of the accusers says he was on another boat "a few yards" away during the incident which won Kerry the Bronze Star, but the former Army lieutenant whom Kerry plucked from the water that day backs Kerry's account.
"Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" is a group formed March 23 after Kerry wrapped up the Democratic nomination. It held a news conference May 4 denigrating Kerry's military record and his later anti-war pronouncements during the 1970's. The group began running an attack ad Aug. 5 in which 13 veterans variously say Kerry is "not being honest" and "is lying about his record."
SBVT Ad "Any Questions?"
John Edwards: "If you have any questions about what John Kerry is made of, just spend 3 minutes with the men who served with him."
(On screen: Here's what those men this of John Kerry)
Al French: I served with John Kerry.
Bob Elder : I served with John Kerry.
George Elliott: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.
Al French: He is lying about his record.
Louis Letson: I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury.
Van O'Dell: John Kerry lied to get his bronze star...I know, I was there, I saw what happened.
Jack Chenoweth: His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day.
Admiral Hoffman: John Kerry has not been honest.
Adrian Lonsdale: And he lacks the capacity to lead.
Larry Thurlow: When he chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry.
Bob Elder: John Kerry is no war hero.
Grant Hibbard: He betrayed all his shipmates...he lied before the Senate.
Shelton White: John Kerry betrayed the men and women he served with in Vietnam.
Joe Ponder: He dishonored his country...he most certainly did.
Bob Hildreth: I served with John Kerry...
Bob Hildreth (off camera) : John Kerry cannot be trusted.
There is reason to doubt the ad . For one thing, one of the men who appears in it, George Elliott, told the Boston Globe he had made a "terrible mistake" by accusing Kerry of not deserving one of his awards. Elliott appears in the ad saying "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam." Another reason for doubt is that the group's financing is strongly partisan.
Where the Money Comes From
The source of the Swift Boat group's financing wasn't known when it first surfaced, but a report filed July 15 with the Internal Revenue Services now shows its initial funding came mainly from a Houston home builder, Bob R. Perry, who has also given millions to the Republican party and Republican candidates, mostly in Texas, including President Bush and Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whose district is near Houston.
Perry gave $100,000 of the $158,750 received by the Swift Boat group through the end of June, according to its disclosure report .
Perry and his wife Doylene also gave more than $3 million to Texas Republicans during the 2002 elections, according to a database maintained by the Institute on Money in State Politics . The Perrys also were among the largest Republican donors in neighboring Louisiana, where they gave $200,000, and New Mexico, where they gave $183,000, according to the database
At the federal level the Perrys have given $359,825 since 1999, including $6,000 to Bush's campaigns and $27,325 to DeLay and his political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, according the a database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics .
"A Terrible Mistake"
Several of those who appear in the ad have signed brief affidavits, and we have posted some of them in the "supporting documents" section to the right for our visitors to evaluate for themselves. However, one of those affidavits already has been recanted by the man who signed it, Lieutenant Commander George Elliott, who had been Kerry's commanding officer. Elliott was quoted by the Boston Globe Aug 6 as saying he had made a "terrible mistake" in signing the affidavit against Kerry.
George Elliott: It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here. . . . I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake.
The statement Elliott now says was wrong had suggested that Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star -- his highest decoration -- which was awarded for an incident in which Kerry beached his boat and then pursued and killed an enemy soldier on the shore. Elliott had previously defended Kerry on that score when his record was questioned during his 1996 Senate campaign. At that time Elliott came to Boston and said Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star.
It was Elliott who recommended Kerry both for the Silver Star and for the Bronze Star, his other decoration for valor. Despite recanting his affidavit regarding the Silver Star, Elliott told the Globe he has come to believe Kerry didn't deserve the second award, based on what the other anti-Kerry veterans have told him.
Elliott: I have chosen to believe the other men. I absolutely do not know first hand.
The Bronze Star & Third Purple Heart
The most serious allegation in the ad is that Kerry received both the Bronze Star, his second-highest decoration, and his third purple heart, which allowed him to be sent home early, under false pretenses.
Van O'Dell, a former Navy enlisted man who says he was the gunner on another Swift Boat, states in his affidavit that he was "a few yards away" from Kerry's boat on March 13, 1969 when Kerry pulled one of his crewmen from the water. According to the official medal citations, Kerry's boat was under enemy fire at the time, and Kerry had been wounded when an enemy mine exploded near his own boat. O'Dell insists "there was no fire" at the time, adding: "I did not hear any shots, nor did any hostile fire hit any boats" other than his own, PCF-3.
Others in the ad back up that account. Jack Chenoweth, who was a Lieutenant (junior grade) commanding PCF-3, said Kerry's boat "fled the scene" after a mine blast disabled PCF-3, and returned only later "when it was apparent that there was no return fire." And Larry Thurlow, who says he commanded a third Swift Boat that day, says "Kerry fled while we stayed to fight," and returned only later "after no return fire occurred."
Kerry Ad "Heart"
John Kerry: I was born in Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Colorado, my dad was serving in the Army air corps. Both of my parents taught me about public service. I enlisted because I believed in service to country. I thought it was important, if you had a lot of privileges as I had had, to go to a great university like Yale, that you give something back to your country.
Del Sandusky: The decisions that he made saved our lives.
Jim Rassmann: When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine.
Narrator: For more than 30 years John Kerry has served America.
Vanessa Kerry: If you look at my father's time and service to this country, whether it has been a veteran, prosecutor, or Senator, he has shown an ability to fight for things that matter.
Teresa Kerry: John is the face of someone who is hopeful, who is generous of spirit, and of heart.
John Kerry : We're a country of optimists...we're the can-do people, and we just need to believe in ourselves again.
Narrator: A lifetime of service and strength: John Kerry for President.
None of those in the attack ad by the Swift Boat group actually served on Kerry's boat. And their statements are contrary to the accounts of Kerry and those who served under him.
Jim Rassmann was the Army Special Forces lieutenant whom Kerry plucked from the water. Rassmann has said all along that he was under sniper fire from both banks of the river when Kerry, wounded, helped him aboard. Rassmann is featured in an earlier Kerry ad, in fact, (see script at left) saying "he (Kerry) risked his life to save mine."
The Kerry campaign put Rassmann and some of Kerry's former crewmen on a conference call with reporters to rebut the new ad.Gene Thorson told reporters, "These assertions are garbage; these people weren't there with John Kerry."
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth further says Kerry didn't deserve his third purple heart, which was received for shrapnel wounds in left buttocks and contusions on right forearm. The affidavits state that the wound in Kerry's backside happened earlier that day in an accident. "Kerry inadvertently wounded himself in the fanny," Thurlow said in his affidavit, "by throwing a grenade too close (to destroy a rice supply) and suffered minor shrapnel wounds."
The grenade incident is actually supported by Kerry's own account, but the shrapnel wound was only part of the basis for Kerry's third purple heart according to official documents. The evidence here is contradictory.
Kerry's account is in the book Tour of Duty by Douglas Brinkley, who based it largely on Kerry's own Vietnam diaries and 12 hours of interviews with Kerry. "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice-bin explosions and then we started to move back to the boats," Kerry is quoted as saying on page 313. In that account, Kerry says his arm was hurt later, after the mine blast that disabled PCF-3, when a second explosion rocked his own boat. "The concussion threw me violently against the bulkhead on the door and I smashed my arm," Kerry says on page 314.
And according to a Navy casualty report released by the Kerry campaign, the third purple heart was received for "shrapnel wounds in left buttocks and contusions on his right forearm when a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94," Kerry's boat. As a matter of strict grammar, the report doesn't state that both injuries were received as a result of the mine explosion, only the arm injury.
The official citation for Kerry's Bronze Star refers only to his arm injury, not to the shrapnel wound to his rear. It says he performed the rescue "from an exposed position on the bow, his arm bleeding and in pain." The description of Kerry's arm "bleeding" isn't consistent with the description of a "contusion," or bruise.
In any case, even a "friendly fire" injury can qualify for a purple heart "as long as the 'friendly' projectile or agent was released with the full intent of inflicting damage or destroying enemy troops or equipment," according to the website of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. All agree that rice was being destroyed that day on the assumption that it otherwise might feed Viet Cong fighters.
Another major discrepancy raises a question of how close Kerry's accusers actually were to the rescue of Rassmann. Tour of Duty describes Rassmann's rescue (and the sniper fire) as happening "several hundred yards back" from where the crippled PCF-3 was lying, not "a few yards away," the distance from which the anti-Kerry veterans claim to have witnessed the incident.
First Purple Heart
Two who appear in the ad say Kerry didn't deserve his first purple heart. Louis Letson, a medical officer and Lieutenant Commander, says in the ad that he knows Kerry is lying about his first purple heart because “I treated him for that.” However, medical records provided by the Kerry campaign to FactCheck.org do not list Letson as the “person administering treatment” for Kerry’s injury on December 3, 1968 . The medical officer who signed this sick call report is J.C. Carreon, who is listed as treating Kerry for shrapnel to the left arm.
In his affidavit, Letson says Kerry's wound was self-inflicted and does not merit a purple heart. But that's based on hearsay, and disputed hearsay at that. Letson says “the crewman with Kerry told me there was no hostile fire, and that Kerry had inadvertently wounded himself with an M-79 grenade.” But the Kerry campaign says the two crewmen with Kerry that day deny ever talking to Letson.
Also appearing in the ad is Grant Hibbard, Kerry’s commanding officer at the time. Hibbard’s affidavit says that he “turned down the Purple Heart request,” and recalled Kerry's injury as a "tiny scratch less than from a rose thorn."
That doesn't quite square with Letson's affidavit, which describes shrapnel "lodged in Kerry's arm" (though "barely.")
Hibbard also told the Boston Globe in an interview in April 2004 that he eventually acquiesced about granting Kerry the purple heart.
Hibbard: I do remember some questions on it. . .I finally said, OK if that's what happened. . . do whatever you want
Kerry got the first purple heart after Hibbard left to return to the US .
McCain Speaks Up
Sen. John McCain -- who has publicly endorsed Bush and even appealed for donations to the President's campaign -- came to Kerry's defense on this. McCain didn't witness the events in question, of course. But he told the Associated Press in an August 5 interview:
McCain : I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crewmates have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam.
At this point, 35 years later and half a world away, we see no way to resolve which of these versions of reality is closer to the truth.
Michael Kranish,“Veteran Retracts Criticism of Kerry ,” The Boston Globe, 6 August 2004 .
Jodi Wilgoren, "Vietnam Veterans Buy Ads to Attack Kerry," The New York Times, 5 August 2004.
Douglas Brinkley, Tour of Duty, (NY, HarperCollins, 2004).
Ron Fournier, "McCain Condemns Anti-Kerry Ad," Associated Press, 5 August 2004.
Michael Kranish, "Kerry Faces Questions Over Purple Heart," The Boston Globe, 14 April 2004: A1.
Researcher, Annenberg Political Fact CheckSeveral months before he was hired by Annenberg, Goldman showed he likes to control public discourse when he wrote this letter to the GWU Hatchet
Seth Goldman earned his B.A. in political communication at George Washington University. He joined the Annenberg Public Policy Center in June, 2004 with previous experience as journalist, press relations assistant, and media researcher. He has worked at the Committee for a Democratic Majority and at Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's campaign committee. At GWU he founded and edited Sticks & Stones, an independent, student-run progressive newsmagazine.
I find personal and professional offense at the use of the phrase "alternative lifestyles" in the Feb. 17 article "Jews Discuss Alternative Lifestyles" (Web Extra).
First, nowhere is a member of the participating organizations cited using that phrase. In fact, journalistic norms require using the identification of the speaker and not imposing the prejudicial title of the writer. If The Hatchet was unsure of which phrase to use, it should have asked a spokesperson.
Second, the phrase violates the tenets of the official Associated Press Stylebook, which The Hatchet abides by - at least it did when I was a staff writer there two years ago. The AP states, "Avoid references to gay, homosexual or alternative 'lifestyle.'" Moreover, the AP recommends using the terms "gay" and "lesbian" and not "homosexual," which was also used in the article.
Liberal hacks furthering Kerrys lies.
Oh the article written by Kerry's paid biographer. Hmmm, the one that lied about the retraction. Someone needs to fact check the fact checkers.
Yet multi billionaires like George Soros are OK. Just plain pathetic.
Looks like an organized attempt to discredit the Swifties.
Not sure how effective they will be. We all need to help the Swifties.
Your biased "fact checking" doesnt connect the funding to the Republican Party, nor the RNC. Nor does it provide an explanation for why Kerry refuses to open his Military records (like Bush did) or how someone who was 4 months in country, can amass three purple hearts, a silver star, and a bronze star, all without stepping foot in a hospital.
From the Swift Boat Vet FAQ:
4. Arent you nothing more than Republican loyalists who happen to be veterans?
No. Among us are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We are acting solely as Vietnam veterans who served in Swift Boats.
Brinkley is a lefty as well.
FNC has jumped the shark over this.
Only Hannity and Gibson showed any real stones over the ad.
At this point, 35 years later and half a world away, we see no way to resolve which of these versions of reality is closer to the truth.
But...but...isn't it their mission to dig out the truth????
"We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics."
They are well suited to be mouthpieces for Kerry....They give up when the going gets rough.
very few foundation started by rich Pubs do not end up captured by professional do-nothing lefties.....just look at the Fords and Rockefellers and Heinz.
It certainly looks like the swift boat guys have struck a nerve since the DemocRATs seem to be all over themselves trying to discredit them.
Added an official response to Senator John McCain's remarks about "Any Questions?" from Admiral Roy Hoffmann.
Which turns out to be a bit of clever obfuscation by Democratically funded Boston Globe "reporter" Michael Kranish. Click here for an analysis of how he used selective quoting to create a completely deceptive story. Interesting how the Annenberg people seem to have missed this part of the controversy entirely. Guess some facts are too good to check.
I woke up in the middle of the night just totally pissed about this. Does John Kerry have the sole right to be labelled a war hero just because he went into public office? What about these men? They performed the same duties as JFK but aren't trumpeting it around on their shoulder saying, "look at me, I'm a war hero!" This is total BS and the elites in the media should be ashamed. These vets are getting the same treatment they received upon returning home. It is so disgustingly shameful that all these media goons are gushing over Kerry and his war heroism and then when these men come forward they are called Republican shills. Talk about a double standard. THE MEDIA MAKES ME SICK!
The Marxist liars are worried.