More than two months after the November 2 presidential election, FOX News host Bill O'Reilly urged viewers to find a job for Steven Gardner, a member of the discredited anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth, and did not challenge Gardner's dubious claims that he was fired in retaliation for his attacks on Senator John Kerry.
Media Matters for America has previously noted the lack of evidence supporting Gardner's claims about his termination. Media Matters has also documented Gardner's various false claims about having witnessed events during the Vietnam War that led to Kerry receiving medals.
While O'Reilly urged his viewers to help Gardner find a job, he did not offer his opinion on whether Gardner was telling the truth about his firing. From the January 7 edition of FOX News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: We wanna get you a job. All right, you're 57 years old, you've got a family, you don't have any money -- we gotta get you a job. So, I've your resume here -- that you are a two-tour volunteer of Vietnam. You volunteered for two tours of duty in Vietnam, so you're a patriot, there's no question about that. You've got a Purple Heart [award]. And from 1972 until two months ago, you were employed almost all the time. You don't have a -- yeah, Conrail, general manager of a boat industry, field supervisor for Millennium.
Earlier in the segment, Gardner denied having claimed that Millennium Information Services, his former employer, had fired him because of his political activities, even as he strongly suggested it:
GARDNER: I never actually ever said that I thought it [the firing] was from John Kerry. What I did say -- that it was extremely, extremely coincidental that one day after that article [March 9, 2004, TIME article titled "The Tenth Brother," by Douglas Brinkley, which noted Gardner's opposition to Kerry's presidential bid] came out, my job was eliminated.
But as Media Matters noted, Millennium wrote in a statement that a second field manager was terminated the same day as Gardner. Millennium also noted that Gardner has declined other employment opportunities within the company. Gardner has not disputed either of these claims.
When O'Reilly pressed Gardner further on whether Millennium's decision was politically motivated, Gardner again suggested that it was, noting that the company had "heaped accolades" on his performance prior to his public criticism of Kerry. But this fact appears irrelevant, since Gardner admitted moments later that the company had told him that his termination was not the result of poor job performance but rather that, "for purely financial reasons, we had to reduce management expenses," as its statement explained.
Gardner suggested that Millennium was lying when the company said it had eliminated his position, citing "a little bird up there in the Millennium office" who allegedly told Gardner that the company was seeking to replace him. But Millennium also addressed this claim in their statement, explaining: "The advertisement placed by Millennium was for a non-supervisory position." Here's what Gardner said:
GARDNER: They had said that they had not tried to hire anybody to do my job. Well, a little bird up there in the Millennium office called me up and let me know that they had actually posted my job, and that the fellow that they had posted it to had turned it down.
As Media Matters noted at the time, Gardner's claims were first described in a November 29, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times column by Mary Laney, titled "How Kerry whistleblower suffered for truth." On the same day, the high-traffic Internet gossip website The Drudge Report linked to Laney's column under the headline "John Kerry Swiftboat 'brother' destroyed after speaking out..." FOX News managing editor and chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume repeated the allegations during the "Grapevine" segment of Special Report. On November 30, Gardner himself repeated them on FOX News' Hannity & Colmes. A December 1 Washington Times editorial, titled "A Veteran in Need," called for financial donations to Gardner, who described himself as "broke" in the Sun-Times article.