After The New York Times reported on October 25 that "nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives" have disappeared from the Al Qaqaa military installation in Iraq, right-wing television and radio hosts were quick to adopt the false Republican talking point that Senator John Kerry blamed American troops for the missing explosives.
In fact, Kerry criticized President George W. Bush's administration, not American troops. As Kerry's October 25 "Statement on Bush's Failure to Secure Explosives in Iraq" declared: "After being warned about the danger of major stockpiles of explosives in Iraq, this administration failed to guard those stockpiles -- where nearly 380 tons of highly explosive weapons were kept."
Yet in a mass email to Bush supporters, Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie attempted to distort Kerry's criticism of the Bush administration into a denigration of the troops; the attempt was noted by Washington Monthly contributing writer Kevin Drum on October 27. In the email, Gillespie claimed that Kerry said "U.S. troops 'failed to guard those stockpiles'" and that "Senator Kerry and the New York Times leave the impression that these weapons went missing recently and U.S. troops were derilict [sic] in their duty to guard the stockpile." Vice President Dick Cheney echoed this distortion on October 27, falsely asserting that Kerry is "saying that American forces did not do enough to protect a weapons facility near Baghdad" and that Kerry "will say and do anything except give our troops the backing and the praise they deserve."
TONY SNOW (FOX News Channel and FOX News Radio host, as a guest on The O'Reilly Factor): John Kerry -- the Kerry campaign is not criticizing the president here. They're criticizing our troops because those are the people who were going into the Al Qaqaa facility -- yes, that's its real name, the Al Qaqaa facility -- and what they're saying is, ah, these guys -- you know, they were in such haste to get to Baghdad, they didn't do their job. [FOX News Channel, The O'Reilly Factor, 10/26]
RUSH LIMBAUGH (radio host): He [Kerry] called it one of the greatest blunders of Iraq. He trashed Bush for failing to guard a pile of explosives, and, by implication, he trashed our military that he so fondly supports. These are the people that support the troops, folks. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, excerpted on CNN's Paula Zahn Now, 10/26]
SEAN HANNITY (FOX News Channel co-host and ABC Radio Networks host): He's [Kerry] using a false report in The New York Times to attack the president, defame our troops as he did 33 years ago to undermine the war effort, our reputation throughout the world. ... Basically, and this what John Kerry's doing here. John Kerry is saying, basically, the troops failed. By -- by advancing this phony story, he's saying the troops failed. ... The troops that are out there in harm's way are being slandered. Their reputations are being sullied. They're being described as failures. [ABC Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 10/26]