Novak still compliments Swift Boat Vet book -- despite facts and conflict of interest
Research ››› ››› KATIE BARGE
On the December 31, 2004, edition of CNN's Crossfire -- almost two months after the November 2 presidential election -- co-host Robert D. Novak claimed that there were not "any lies" in the "well-documented" book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry (Regnery, August 2004), which was written by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth founder John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi. Crossfire guest Bay Buchanan, president of the conservative group The American Cause, claimed "there's still an outstanding question" on whether Senator John Kerry earned the medals the Navy awarded him for his service in Vietnam. A week earlier, the right-wing website Human Events Online -- which offered a sample chapter of Unfit for Command prior to the book's public release -- named O'Neill its "Man of the Year" in an article authored by FOX News Channel host Sean Hannity.
Such praise for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now called Swift Vets and POWs for Truth) continues after the 2004 presidential campaign -- despite the fact that official Navy records and other evidence contradict the discredited group's accusations (as Media Matters repeatedly documented here and here); even the Navy's chief investigator concluded that all of Kerry's medals were "properly approved."
Media Matters has previously noted Novak's multiple conflicts of interest in writing and speaking about Unfit for Command: His son, Alex Novak, is director of marketing for its publisher, Regnery Publishing, Inc. In addition, Robert Novak is a trustee of The Phillips Foundation, along with Thomas L. Phillips and Alfred S. Regnery. Phillips is chairman of Eagle Publishing, Inc., of which Regnery is a subsidiary. Alfred Regnery is a director of Eagle Publishing and, according to Eagle's website, is "president of Regnery Publishing, Inc." Eagle publishes the Evans-Novak Political Report, which Novak edits.
From the December 31, 2004, edition of Crossfire:
NOVAK: And I brought up the fact that a group called the Swift Boat Veterans were starting ads against John Kerry's war record and his post-war record, and I think you kind of ho-hummed it as "who cares about that?" I think the Swift Boat ads and the book about him, which was a runaway bestseller, it sold, what did it sell? It sold, I think, about 800,000 copies, that -- this was a turning point in the campaign, and something that the Kerry people never reacted to. What do you think, Vic?
VIC KAMBER (Democratic consultant): I agree with you that it was a runaway book seller, about a fourth of what Bill Clinton [memoir My Life] sold. I agree with you that it helped Bush and turned the campaign somewhat around. What is deplorable is that people can lie, be dishonorable, do what they did, and get away with it, especially in the first ad.
NOVAK: Let me just respond that I don't think -- we're not going to settle this tonight, but I don't think there was any lies. I think it was a well-documented --
KAMBER: Not the first ad.
NOVAK: I think it was a well-documented book, particularly -- we can argue that. But I'm asking you as a politician. What did you think of the Kerry response to all of it?
KAMBER: It was too little too late. There is no question about that. They should have dealt with it from the very beginning.
PAUL BEGALA (co-host): It was, and it was too lame. But let's focus, as Vic does, on the first ad. The subsequent ads were about Kerry's testimony on the Vietnam war, perfectly fair to criticize him for. I couldn't argue with them. The first ad suggested he didn't earn his medals. Now isn't that outrageous and false?
BAY BUCHANAN: No, it is not.
BEGALA: You don't think John Kerry earned his medals, bleeding for our country in Vietnam?
BUCHANAN: I think there's still an outstanding question on that.
BEGALA: Oh my word. That's beyond the pale, Bay. That's disappointing
While Begala stated that Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony in opposition to the Vietnam War was a fair subject for criticism, Media Matters has repeatedly noted that the ads addressing that testimony did in fact distort Kerry's statements. While Swift Boat Vets alleged that Kerry accused his fellow Vietnam soldiers of atrocities, his actual testimony recounted the stories of other Vietnam veterans who came home and related their personal experiences in what was known as the Winter Soldier Investigation.