In debate over Kerry's military records, LA Times, Sun-Times lent credence to John O'Neill, ignored Navy

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

After Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) authorized the release of his military records to the Boston Globe by reportedly signing the Navy's Standard Form (SF) 180, the Los Angeles Times and an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times cited claims by long-discredited Kerry character assassins that the records are incomplete. But these papers ignored the Navy's unequivocal assertion that all records have been released.

In a June 8 report, the Los Angeles Times reported that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth co-founder John E. O'Neill "expressed doubt that Kerry's latest document release included material from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis." But rather than cite the source that could have resolved the question -- the Navy itself -- the Times cited only Kerry spokesman David Wade disputing O'Neill's claim.

But a June 9 New York Sun article did consult a Navy spokesman, who refuted O'Neill's claim: "[T]he Navy spokesman, Commander [Daniel] Hernandez, said the latest release does include the papers from St. Louis. 'It's the whole record,' he said.'"

A Chicago Sun-Times column by Annenberg Center for the Digital Future senior fellow Thomas H. Lipscomb trumpeted O'Neill's baseless claim that Kerry has still not fully released his records. Jerome R. Corsi, co-author with O'Neill of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry (Regnery, August 2004) went further in an interview with right-wing news website WorldNetDaily.com, claiming Kerry didn't actually sign the form in the first place.

WorldNetDaily cited neither Wade nor the Navy when it backed O'Neill's allegation by asserting that "Kerry allowed Globe reporter Michael Kranish to obtain documents only from the Navy Department [Navy Personnel Command], which previously indicated its records were not complete." Similarly, Lipscomb, who has previously defended President Bush from claims he skirted his National Guard duty and written on Kerry's connections to an anti-war group that allegedly "plot[ted] to assassinate politicians who supported the Vietnam War," promoted O'Neill's claim that Kerry excluded the NPRC records in a June 9 Chicago Sun-Times column by questioning "where it [the SF 180] was sent."

WorldNetDaily also cited Corsi's claim that Kerry couldn't have actually signed the SF 180 because his records were made available only to the Globe. Signing the form would amount to "a blanket release of documents to the American public," Corsi alleged.

In fact, an SF 180 grants access to the records only to whomever the veteran in question specifically designates on the form (though a veteran may choose to grant access to all who request it). As the Sun noted, "the waiver applied only to the Boston Globe and did not authorize release of Mr. Kerry's records to the public," according to Hernandez.

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