On the August 18 edition of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, L. Brent Bozell III -- founder and president of the conservative Media Research Center -- claimed that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth "were completely ignored by the media" after their May 4 press conference, "with the exception of FOX that covered and CBS that absolutely slammed them." In fact, as Media Matters for America noted at the time, the anti-Kerry group received substantial coverage on cable news on May 4.
Bozell also defended the group's credibility in criticizing Senator John Kerry (D-MA), claiming: "Look, these are people, many of them, who were with him. These were people who treated him. These are people who have the right to speak out." In fact, eleven of the twelve veterans who served under Kerry's command support him, and Navy documents suggest that Dr. Louis Letson, the anti-Kerry veteran who claims to remember treating Kerry for injury that led to his first Purple Heart, actually did not actually do so.
When Bozell's fellow O'Reilly guest, Paul Waldman, editor of the progressive Internet magazine Gadflyer.com, noted that "a LexisNexis search produced over 500 newspaper and television stories about" the Swift Boat Veterans, Bozell insisted that this coverage started after the group announced in early August that it was planning to run an anti-Kerry television ad in three swing states. FOX News Channel host John Gibson, who was filling in for regular host Bill O'Reilly, agreed with Bozell.
But a Nexis search of print and TV sources for "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" produced 157 results for the three-month period between Swift Boat Veterans' May 4 press conference and the August 4 ad release. As MMFA noted on May 4, Swift Boat Veterans founder John E. O'Neill appeared on the April 20 edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports -- two weeks before the press conference. CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News all devoted significant coverage to the group's May 4 press conference, as MMFA noted.
The group also received substantial nationwide newspaper coverage before and after the press conference, with articles appearing in The New York Times (5/5), The Washington Post(5/5), the Los Angeles Times (5/4), The Wall Street Journal (5/4 -- op-ed by O'Neill), and The Boston Globe (5/4), among others.
When Waldman pointed out that the Swift Boat Veterans TV ad falsely suggests that the veterans appearing in it served alongside Kerry in Vietnam, Bozell responded: "Look, these are people, many of them who were with him. These were people who treated him. These are people who have the right to speak out." But Letson, who appears in the ad, is not named in the medical records as the "person administering treatment." An August 17 Los Angeles Times article further undermined Letson's credibility; it noted that though Letson has claimed that Kerry's wound was self-inflicted and that
"[t]here was not a firefight," he did not witness the incident. Rather, he heard about it thirdhand from subordinates who, in turn, had heard about it from crewmen who probably were not on Kerry's boat.