John O'Neill -- co-founder of the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now Swift Vets and POWs for Truth) and co-author of the discredited book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry -- resurfaced in the April/May 2005 issue of the policy magazine of conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute. O'Neill repeated false allegations about Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and baselessly asserted that the Swift Vets were suppressed by the media establishment. In prefacing the lengthy O'Neill interview, The American Enterprise (TAE) itself repeated a number of O'Neill's false claims as fact:
TAE claim: "Many of those who joined Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had served with Kerry in Vietnam. "
Fact: As Media Matters for America has noted, only one man involved with the Swift Boat Vets or Unfit for Command -- Stephen Gardner -- served on John Kerry's boat. The group's members are veterans of the Vietnam War and may have served at the same time as Kerry or even on boats near Kerry's, but not directly with Kerry. Though Swift Vets and POWs for Truth members repeatedly claimed that Kerry is lying about his medals, none were present during the incidents leading to Kerry's receipt of any of his medals or his three Purple Hearts.
TAE claim: "John O'Neill first became aware of John Kerry's accusations that American soldiers in Vietnam acted in a 'fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan' back in 1971."
Fact: As Media Matters 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.
TAE claim: "To their great surprise, the testimony of the Swift Boat veterans was simply ignored by a hostile media establishment."
Fact: A Nexis search of print and TV sources for "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" produced 6,147 results for the six-month period between the Swift Boat Veterans' initial press conference on May 4, 2004, and Election Day. O'Neill made numerous cable news appearances -- including on the April 20 edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports two weeks before the press conference -- and several appearances on the broadcast networks: ABC's Nightline on October 14, CBS' The Early Show on August 24 and ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos on August 22.
In the interview, O'Neill credited Sean Hannity, The Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily and C-SPAN (which aired the Swift Vets' May 4 press conference) with being "the only people willing to publiciz[e] the story very early" and The Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham for contributing "to the story later in a significant way."
In the interview, O'Neill accused Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) of having "confused senatorial courtesy with the suppression of free speech" in criticizing the Swift Boat Vets ad.