CNN senior White House correspondent John King failed to confront President George W. Bush's chief political aide, Karl Rove, when he stated that Senator John Kerry "called" those who served in Vietnam "war criminals" during his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This distortion was first leveled by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in its second TV ad.
King failed to point out how both Rove and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have grossly distorted Kerry's actual testimony. As Media Matters for America has repeatedly explained (most recently on September 1), Kerry was simply relating the personal experiences of other Vietnam veterans who had come forward and told their stories. As FactCheck.org has noted: "The [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's second] ad does indeed fail to mention that Kerry was quoting stories he had heard from others at an anti-war event in Detroit, and not claiming first-hand knowledge." It is also important to note that Kerry did not blame the soldiers for the acts they claimed to have committed; rather, his criticism focused on the leaders of the time.
From the portion of the interview that aired on the August 31 edition of CNN's Inside Politics:
ROVE: You know, I don't think of my uncle [who served in Vietnam] ... as having been raping and pillaging and acting like Genghis Khan. I don't think he and the men under his command should be so quickly tarnished as being war criminals, as Senator Kerry did in his testimony in 1971.
KING: And so then in your view the Swift Boat ads are fine? That if the men who served want to make that case --
ROVE: I'm against all the 527 ads and activities. I don't think they're fair. I don't think it's appropriate. They're misusing the law. They all ought to stop. But I understand why some people who were in Vietnam feel very strongly about what Senator Kerry did and said when he came back. I mean, it is frankly an insult to them to suggest that they were routinely war criminals, which is what he [Kerry] called them.
In describing the interview later on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, King did report that "top Bush political adviser Karl Rove embraced the central theme" of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. Rove's acceptance of the ads' distortions follows similar acceptances from (1) First Lady Laura Bush (who stated in an interview with TIME magazine that she didn't think the ads were unfair to Kerry); and (2) from the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, in a letter written by the campaign and signed by eight veterans -- including Texas state land commissioner and Bush campaign representative Jerry Patterson, who delivered the letter. Laura Bush's comments and the Patterson letter came despite the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's claims that it has no ties to the Swift Boat Vets.