Will conservative media Swift Boat apologists now apologize?
Research ››› ››› NICOLE CASTA, KATIE BARGE, MICHELLE JEUNG, CAROL REICHERT & AVI ZOLLMAN
In recent weeks, conservative media figures -- such as Robert Novak, Brit Hume, Tony Blankley, and Fred Barnes -- have lauded and vouched for the credibility of the recently released Regnery book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, co-authored by anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth co-founder John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi. Due to reports by numerous credible news sources in recent days, many of the stories told in Unfit are falling apart, and the partisan ties of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are proving to run even deeper than previously known. Yet even after The Washington Post discredited a Kerry critic on August 19, The Washington Times published its third of three Unfit excerpts -- and with it allegations made by that same Kerry critic -- on August 20.
Following are recent reports that debunk and discredit claims made against Kerry in the book:
The Washington Post: "Records Counter a Critic of Kerry"
The Oregonian: Swift Boat Vet "did not witness the events in question"
The Boston Globe: Swift Boat Vet "retracts criticism of Kerry" (When the Swift Boat Vet recanted his recantation in an affidavit, the Globe stood by its report; Annenberg Political Fact Check reported that his affidavit was "misleading" and contained "an incorrect characterization of the official basis for Kerry's Silver Star.")
In the face of mounting evidence that these claims have no merit, conservatives have continued to tout the book and many of its baseless assertions. MMFA encourages them to review the totality of the evidence and to reconsider endorsements of the book and of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's efforts:
Robert Novak called Unfit "a shocking presentation of Senator Kerry's record" on CNN's Capital Gang on August 7. "I just couldn't believe some of the things in there -- very carefully documented," he said. In his August 9 nationally syndicated column, he reiterated this praise, calling the book "a passionate but meticulously researched account of how Kerry went to war, what he did in the war and how he conducted himself after the war."
Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, in his August 11 column, similarly praised Unfit:
The book appears to be meticulously researched and reported. It is replete with copious footnotes, a detailed index and two appendices. Firsthand witnesses are named and quoted verbatim to support each specific, shocking charge. Each charge of false heroics is logically presented. ... Either group of men, if we knew nothing else, would seem to be credible, reliable witnesses. ... The book has the ring of sincerity to it, and the mark of careful research and writing.
HUME: The book, Unfit for Command, is a remarkably well-done document. It is full of detail. It is full of specifics. The charges that are being made of Kerry, of irresponsible and indeed in some cases mendacious conduct in his service in Vietnam, are made by people who were there. They're making the charges in their own names. There's not a lot of -- this isn't a bunch of anonymous people whispering things. It's all out there in the open.
The book is full of footnotes. It has an appendix. It's a pretty serious piece of work.
It is entitled to at least as much attention -- and the charges are entitled to at least as much attention -- as was given the charge that President Bush went either AWOL -- [Democratic National Committee chairman] Terry McAuliffe's words -- or deserted - - those were [documentary filmmaker] Michael Moore's words -- that triggered a firestorm and a huge feeding frenzy.
Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard and a FOX News Channel host, said, during a panel discussion on the August 17 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report With Brit Hume, that the charges levied in Unfit were "substantial":
BARNES: Now, Juan [Williams, NPR senior correspondent and FOX News Channel political contributor], I hope you read the book Unfit for Command...
WILLIAMS: I am reading it.
BARNES: ... and see how substantial these charges are. That the Kerry campaign is dealing with not particularly well, so far. I think these charges on which most of them are many, many swift commanders saying one thing and only one person on the other side, John Kerry saying something else.
Sean Hannity, on the August 10 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, said Unfit was "devastating to Senator Kerry." On August 18, Hannity claimed the book was "extremely well documented. You've got 250 Swifties, over 60 of them on the record with their names, documenting their experience."
Rush Limbaugh was "wow[ed]" by Unfit on the August 11 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show (available here and here by subscription only), agreed with Blankley that it was "meticulously researched and reported" and read Blankley's column on the air:
They've [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] got details, and they've got footnotes, and they have research, and they've got a book, and they have evidence, and they've got people who back up what they say and people who have read the book go, wow.
This book is meticulously written. It is meticulously researched and reported as [Tony] Blankley says. Let me just read part of what Blankley says here.
Mark R. Levin, WABC radio host and Landmark Legal Foundation president, said on his August 16 radio show that he was convinced that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are "telling the truth about Kerry." The following day, he urged listeners to read the book, which he said was "loaded with facts":
We'll continue to look. We'll continue to question. You wanna know why? Because the way they're trashing this, these swift boat vets, the way the media is doing the Kerry camp's bidding tells me that they're telling the truth, that they're telling the truth. [8/16/04]
I urge you John, I urge everybody out there, I have nothing in this, to go read Unfit for Command. I am going to read it this weekend. I am told it is loaded with facts, with names, with dates, and very little refutation. [8/17/04]
David Limbaugh's (attorney, author and right-wing columnist) breath was taken away by Unfit, according to his August 17 column (which Levin also read on the air on August 17):
I've now read the book "Unfit for Command," and am here to tell you that its multitudinous allegations against Sen. Kerry are breathtaking. You cannot read this book without concluding that its co-authors John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi -- and the scores of Vietnam veterans they cite by name throughout the book -- are making specific indictments against Kerry that cannot be rationalized away.
Ann Coulter, right-wing pundit and author, concluded her August 11 column, titled "Brothers Band Together Against Kerry," by advertising the book: "Democrats who are doing everything in their power to prevent you from reading 'Unfit for Command.' In bookstores beginning this week."
The Washington Times published its last of three excerpts from Unfit on August 20. Included in the excerpt (more than 2,700 words in length) was anti-Kerry Swift Boat Vet Larry Thurlow's account of the events that led to Kerry receiving his third Purple Heart -- despite The Washington Post's August 19 report undermining Thurlow's credibility.
In his August 16 column, Novak noted, "The passionate debate over John Kerry's war record has become a question of credibility. Who is accurately portraying what the Democratic presidential candidate did in Vietnam 35 years ago?" And in addition to praising the book's research and reporting in his August 11 column, Blankley also noted, "If they [the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Vets] are not telling the truth, all these men have exposed themselves to financially ruinous libel actions by Mr. Kerry -- who has the private resources to prosecute such actions." Limbaugh agreed with Blankley on his August 11 program: "Tony Blankley is right, if these guys, if the Swift Boat guys are lying about this, they are finished."