John E. O'Neill, co-founder of the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and co-author of Unfit for Command: Vietnam Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, appeared on the August 23 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show and did more of what he does best: issue false attacks against Senator John Kerry's service in Vietnam.
O'Neill falsely claimed that Kerry was "just horsing around" when he was injured blowing up Viet Cong rice supply in Vietnam
On The Rush Limbaugh Show, O'Neill claimed that when Kerry blew up a cache of rice that was a source of food for the Viet Cong, "[h]e simply was playing around. He threw a grenade into some rice and got a tiny amount of rice and shrapnel in his fanny." Limbaugh asked, "Is there a strategic reason, like blowing up food stocks, to blow up rice, or was is just -- is it just a thing to pass time?" To which O'Neill responded, "I think it was just horsing around. Nobody would ever throw a grenade into rice to try and destroy it. It doesn't destroy it, Rush, as far as I can tell."
However, Annenberg Political Fact Check has noted that "[a]ll agree that rice was being destroyed that day on the assumption that it otherwise might feed Viet Cong fighters." Even O'Neill's fellow Swift Boat Veterans for Truth member Larry Thurlow stated in his signed affidavit that Kerry was wounded by throwing a grenade "to destroy a rice supply." On August 22, The Washington Post reported the incident: "As they were heading back to the boat, Kerry and [fellow crewmate Jim] Rassmann decided to blow up a five-ton rice bin to deny food to the Vietcong."
O'Neill claimed Kerry "admits" that rice incident injury was "fabricated"
O'Neill falsely asserted on Limbaugh's program that Kerry "admits that the wound [resulting from the rice incident] was fabricated on the -- you know, this hip shrapnel wound," O'Neill said. Kerry has said no such thing, and there is no evidence to support this claim. According to FactCheck.org, in Douglas Brinkley's book Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (William Morrow, 2004), Kerry remarked of the incident: "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice-bin explosions." And the "personnel casualty report" (pdf) -- though mistakenly attributing the rice explosion injury to a combat incident later that day -- states that he "suffered shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks." The initials on the report are KJW. Kerry's initials are JFK (John Forbes Kerry). O'Neill has claimed the "KJW" initials appearing on the report prove that Kerry wrote it, according to the August 22 Washington Post article. But as the Post noted, "It is unclear why this should be so, as Kerry's initials are JFK. A review of other Swift boat after-action reports at the Naval Historical Center here reveals several that include the initials 'KJW' but describe incidents at which Kerry was not present."
O'Neill claimed Kerry "admits he fled" before Rassmann rescue
Of the incident in which Kerry rescued Jim Rassmann from the Bay Hap River in Vietnam on March 13, 1969 -- which led to Kerry receiving the Bronze Star -- O'Neill falsely claimed on Limbaugh's show that Kerry "admits that he fled and everybody else stayed." As Media Matters for America has noted, O'Neill's claim that Kerry's boat fled while the other boats remained is inconsistent not only with Rassmann's firsthand account but also with the account of Kerry's actions in his Bronze Star citation. As Rassmann noted, "[A]ll the swift boats had left, and I was alone taking fire from both banks," before Kerry returned to rescue him from the water.
O'Neill claimed that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was "set up with our own money"
In order to claim that "[t]he one group of all of them [the 527s] that has an independent right to speak is ours," O'Neill lied on Limbaugh's show by asserting, "We were set up with our own money." However, as MMFA has reported, FactCheck.org noted that $100,000 of the $158,750 the group had raised as of June came from prominent Texas Republican and Bush-Cheney '04 campaign contributor Bob Perry. The New York Times reported on August 20 that Perry has now given $200,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.