The Associated Press' Bob Lewis advanced FactCheck.org's misleading analysis of a recent ad criticizing Sen. George Allen on his 2003 vote against an amendment that would have increased National Guard funding for modern body armor. Lewis cast doubt over the ad's veracity by repeating the misleading claim that body armor was "never mentioned" in the floor speech introducing the measure.
In a September 21 article on several television advertisements being run in the Virginia Senate race, Associated Press political writer Bob Lewis advanced FactCheck.org's misleading analysis of a recent ad criticizing Sen. George F. Allen (R-VA). FactCheck argued that the ad's central assertion -- that Allen voted against an April 2003 Democratic amendment that would have increased U.S. National Guard funding for modern body armor -- was "false" because the amendment's sponsor, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), did not specifically cite "body armor" as a priority in her floor statement on the legislation. But FactCheck ignored the fact that Landrieu repeatedly stated on the floor that the bill would ensure that National Guard soldiers had "helmets" and other "force protection" equipment intended to "minimize causalities," as Media Matters for America noted. While Lewis did not join FactCheck in asserting that the ad was false, he did cast doubt over its veracity by repeating the misleading claim that Landrieu "never mentioned body armor" on the Senate floor. Moreover, Lewis -- like FactCheck -- entirely left out any mention of Allen's opposition to an October 2003 amendment offered by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), which would have provided additional funding explicitly for body armor.
From the September 21 AP article, which ran on the website of the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia:
The VoteVets.org ad bases its allegation that Allen denied troops lifesaving body armor on an April 2, 2003, vote Allen cast to defeat Sen. Mary Landreiu's [sic] amendment to boost funding for unspecified National Guard and Reserve equipment. In her floor speech, she never mentioned body armor. The amendment died on a party-line vote, with Allen and Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., both voting against it.
Lewis's assertions that Landrieu "never mentioned body armor" in her floor statements and that her amendment simply concerned funding for "unspecified National Guard and Reserve equipment" appear to have been taken from FactCheck's September 20 post -- which Lewis cited elsewhere in the article -- criticizing the Vote Vets ad. But these claims ignore Landrieu's press release stating that the $1 billion measure included funding for bulletproof vests and her statements on the Senate floor that the bill would provide Guard troops with "helmets" and "force protection" equipment:
- In her March 20, 2003, floor statement introducing the amendment, Landrieu repeatedly emphasized that the U.S. government was "underfunding our Guard and Reserve" and expressed shock at "the lack of equipment, the lack of money in this budget to fund their current operations." She added: "For too long, the Guard and Reserve have received hand-me-downs from the Active component. ... Let's give them their rifles, their helmets, and their tactical equipment so we can, as we know we will, win this war."
- In a March 26, 2003, press release, Landrieu further explained that the bill "targets shortfalls identified by the National Guard and Reserve in their Unfunded Requirement lists," including the "shortage of helmets, tents, bullet-proof inserts, and tactical vests."
- In her April 2, 2003, floor statement on the amendment, Landrieu said: "When we talk about force protection and minimizing casualties, you don't have to be an expert in warfare to understand one of the ways you can minimize casualties is to give your Guard and Reserve the best training and the best equipment."
Lewis went on to dismiss a Vote Vets press release noting that Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, had in September 2003 expressed the need for the body armor funding included in the $87 billion emergency supplemental bill before Congress. Lewis wrote that while Abizaid's testimony "verifies the need, it came months after Allen cast his vote." But Lewis ignored the fact that several weeks after Abizaid's remarks, Allen voted against Dodd's amendment to further boost funding for body armor, as Media Matters noted in response to FactCheck's false assertion that Allen never opposed body armor for the troops:
Beyond its claims about the Landrieu amendment, FactCheck's broad assertion that "Allen did not vote against giving troops modern body armor" is simply false. Indeed, on October 2, 2003, Allen voted against a Democratic amendment to the $87 billion emergency supplemental bill to increase the amount of funding devoted to body armor and battlefield clearance to ensure that both needs were met. The Dodd amendment would have added $322 million to the $300 million the Senate Appropriations Committee had already attached to the underlying bill for small arms protection inserts (SAPI) body armor and battlefield cleanup. Dodd repeatedly made clear in his October 2, 2003, floor statement that his intent in offering the amendment was to make certain that U.S. forces in Iraq were provided adequate body armor, which he described as a "top priorit[y]."