On the August 10 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity falsely claimed that President George W. Bush has denounced and disassociated himself from a recently released TV ad by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Hannity's guest, Jeh Johnson (attorney, former general counsel of the Department of the Air Force and Kerry adviser), pointed out that "editorial pages in the newspapers have denounced ... and have called upon President Bush to disassociate himself" from the discredited claims in the ad; Hannity responded, "The president has, by the way. The president has, and through his office."
While Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has condemned the Swift Boat Veterans' ad as "dishonest and dishonorable," as Johnson noted, Bush has never publicly denounced it. As The Washington Post reported on August 11 (following a similar Associated Press report), after McCain asked Bush to join him in denouncing the ad, "White House spokesman Scott McClellan declined to do so then and again yesterday [August 10] when pressed by reporters about the attacks from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."
Hannity's claim that Bush and his office have denounced the ad echoed comments by Jennifer Millerwise, Bush-Cheney '04 deputy communications director for regional media, during an August 9 appearance on CNN's Live From...; Millerwise said that McClellan "called it [the Swift Boat Veterans' ad] deplorable." But that is not what McClellan actually said. McClellan refused to specifically comment on the Swift Boat Veterans' ad during an August 5 "press gaggle," despite repeated questions on the subject, stating only that "[t]he president deplores all the unregulated soft money activity," a reference to so-called 527 groups (the independent political fund-raising and advocacy organizations known by the section of the tax code that defines them).