MSNBC host and former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough (R-FL) devoted nearly half of the November 14 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country to lauding the achievements and rehashing the false claims of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now Swift Vets and POWs for Truth). Media Matters for America documented the group's vicious smear campaign against Senator John Kerry throughout the presidential campaign.
The discussion featured four conservatives -- Scarborough, MSNBC political analyst and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, author and Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist John Fund, and Republican strategist Jack Burkman -- opposite a lone liberal, radio host Leslie Marshall. Scarborough, Buchanan, Fund, and Burkman heaped praise on Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and repeated the group's most frequently heard lies and distortions. Throughout the discussion, no one noted that official Navy records and other evidence contradict all of the accusations made by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about Kerry's combat decorations, as MMFA documented here and elsewhere. MMFA has also documented the group's lies about Kerry's subsequent antiwar activity.
- Scarborough's opening monologue lionized "these swift vets, who elitists so randomly passed off as lying right-wing cranks and Texas tools of the Bush attack machine" as "bona fide American heroes."
- Fund observed that Kerry "paid a very, very, very heavy price, because he underestimated what old soldiers are capable of doing if they're fighting in a cause that they believe in."
- Buchanan said: "These guys are A-authentic, genuine. They're not political phonies." Later, he added that "these swift boat ads were the most effective attack ads I have ever seen in my life. And one the reasons ... is, they are rooted first in truth."
Buchanan also congratulated Scarborough and himself for hyping Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in early August, before mainstream journalists had focused on them:
BUCHANAN: [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] began not with millions of dollars, but a couple hundred thousand dollars and with us, you [Scarborough] and I and a few others, running these ads on our own show, arguing it, debating it, with Kerry sitting over there refusing to answer, as this thing percolated up from the bottom, all the way up to where the big media had to cover it.
Indeed, MMFA documented numerous instances of Scarborough and Buchanan echoing the group's demonstrably false charges or, in Scarborough's case, giving group members a forum for their lies and distortions about Kerry.
- Fund insisted that Kerry chose not to address Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's accusations because Kerry "ultimately could not defend his post-Vietnam record, in which he trashed the American troops and accused them of atrocities." But as MMFA repeatedly noted, Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony never "accused" American troops of anything; he simply repeated firsthand accounts he had heard at the Winter Soldier Investigation earlier that year.
- Fund claimed that "60 percent of the people who served on swift boats in Vietnam ... signed up with them [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth], not with John Kerry." An MMFA search found no evidence to corroborate this assertion, and it seems unlikely that such a statistic has been or could be calculated.
- Fund falsely claimed that "the testimony that John Kerry relied upon, the Winter Soldier testimony, was largely discredited. A lot of those people hadn't been in Vietnam." In fact, none of the witnesses at the Winter Soldier Investigation have been discredited (though one witness, Steven J. Pitkin, has since claimed that he lied in his own testimony), as MMFA noted on September 13 and September 16.
- Buchanan praised the Swift Boat Veterans' truthfulness: "They came out, 20 of them, signed sworn affidavits about what Kerry did and did not do. And, dramatically, they proved Kerry did not tell the truth when he said he was in Cambodia." However, the "affidavits" were never filed in court, so the documents have no legal significance. By contrast, all available military documentation contradicts the claims the veterans made in these affidavits about the combat incidents for which Kerry received his various military decorations, as MMFA explained.
- Swift Boat Veterans for Truth never proved that Kerry wasn't in Cambodia, as MMFA has noted. By contrast, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth co-founder John E. O'Neill lied about his own activities in Cambodia. As MMFA documented, O'Neill claimed publicly that swift boats never crossed the Cambodian border, but a recording of a brief conversation between O'Neill and former President Richard Nixon reveals O'Neill telling Nixon, "I was in Cambodia, sir."
Kerry invited smear campaign
Burkman echoed a frequently heard conservative talking point that Kerry brought Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's attacks on himself by highlighting his Vietnam service during the campaign. "[N]one of this from Kerry's perspective ever had to be. Remember, at his convention, he opened the door, first by putting national security, international affairs on the stage, and then by basing, I think absurdly so, his entire campaign on his Vietnam service. He opened the door. He deserved this." As MMFA has noted, the group's attacks were orchestrated before Kerry had even become the Democratic presidential nominee.