Print reports on Clark's comments didn't note that McCain camp's response included Swift Boat Vet Bud Day

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

July 1 reports by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Reuters noting that John McCain's campaign organized a "conference call" of supporters to respond to Gen. Wesley Clark's recent comments about McCain did not mention that among those supporters was Bud Day, a member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose smears against Sen. John Kerry were criticized by McCain himself.

July 1 articles by The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), The New York Times, and Reuters noted that Sen. John McCain's campaign organized a "conference call" of supporters to respond to June 29 comments retired Gen. Wesley Clark made about McCain, but did not mention that among the McCain supporters on the conference call was retired Air Force Col. George E. "Bud" Day. Day was a member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization that promoted false and baseless smears about Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) military service during the 2004 presidential campaign, including in an ad that McCain himself called "dishonest and dishonorable." During the conference call, Day defended the attacks on Kerry by the Swift Boat Vets, saying "The Swift Boat 'attacks' were simply revelation of the truth." The Journal in particular did not mention Day's participation on the conference call despite noting that the McCain campaign has "dubbed" the "friends and supporters" it organized as the "McCain Truth Squad."

By contrast, a July 1 Los Angeles Times article reported that Day was among those who responded to Clark's comments on behalf of McCain, and that Kerry "noted that McCain had denounced the 2004 attacks" by the Swift Boat Vets on Kerry's military service:

On their morning conference call with reporters, McCain supporters -- calling themselves the "truth squad" -- accused the Obama campaign of denigrating McCain's service as a naval aviator.

Air Force Col. George E. "Bud" Day, a Medal of Honor recipient who was McCain's cellmate in North Vietnam, said Clark's "backhanded slap" was "one of the more surprising insults in my military history." Day was a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that led a campaign to challenge accounts of Kerry's performance in Vietnam.

Day rejected a comparison between the work of the "Swift boat" veterans and the comments by Clark.

"The Swift boat, quote, attacks were simply a revelation of the truth; the similarity does not exist here," Day said.

Weighing in, Kerry -- an Obama supporter -- said that Day's comments "only further highlight the McCain campaign's disregard for a new kind of politics." He noted that McCain had denounced the 2004 attacks on Kerry as "dishonest and dishonorable" and called on him to condemn Day's remarks.

While the Los Angeles Times article did not directly address the numerous false and baseless attacks on Kerry's military service made by the Swift Boat Vets, those smears have previously been extensively documented by Media Matters for America and by various media outlets, including The Los Angeles Times. In an August 17, 2004, article, the Times reported of the claims by the Swift Boat Vets: "The claims -- that Kerry lied about his war experiences, [and] didn't deserve his medals ... -- also have been recited in the mainstream media, along with denials of the allegations." The Times further reported that "[w]hat military documentation exists and has been made public generally supports the view put forth by Kerry and most of his crewmates -- that he acted courageously and came by his Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts honestly." The article continued: "This view of Kerry as war hero is supported by all but one of the surviving veterans who served with him on the two boats he commanded. None of the critics quoted in the ad actually served on the boats with Kerry. Some of them also have given contradictory accounts and offered conflicting recollections."

As Media Matters has noted, the July 1 New York Times article also uncritically repeated the McCain supporters' false charge that Clark "impugn[ed] Mr. McCain's heroism" in his June 29 remarks.

From the July 1 Times article, by reporter Jeff Zeleny:

As he campaigned in Pennsylvania, Mr. McCain said he thought remarks like General Clark's were "unnecessary."

In a conference call, a number of Mr. McCain's former colleagues in the military and former prisoners of war in Vietnam also stood by his record and assailed General Clark for impugning Mr. McCain's heroism.

Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, a former Navy secretary and former Armed Services Committee chairman, said he was "utterly shocked" at General Clark's comments.

Mr. Warner said it was "an exercise in poor judgment" for the Obama campaign to employ General Clark as a surrogate.

From the July 1 Wall Street Journal article, by staff writers Amy Chozick and Laura Meckler:

The McCain campaign seized on comments Sunday by an Obama supporter, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who suggested the relevance of Sen. McCain's military experience has been exaggerated.

The McCain campaign wasted little time staging a conference call with friends and supporters who served with Sen. McCain, dubbed the "McCain Truth Squad." Participants said they were outraged by Mr. Clark's comments. The campaign used the opportunity to highlight Sen. McCain's military record.

From the July 1 Reuters article, by political correspondent John Whitesides:

But McCain campaign advisers seized on the remark as evidence to support their contention that while Obama preaches a civil message, he is willing to engage in cutthroat tactics.

They organized a conference call with some of McCain's colleagues in the military to defend his honor.

"They're playing politics," said Orson Swindle, who was in the POW camp with McCain. "It's not good. Senator Obama apparently is permitting it, and that's very disappointing."

From the August 17, 2004, Los Angeles Times article (accessed from the Nexis database):

A television ad that has aired in three key battleground states and a new book have created a political furor over John F. Kerry 's Vietnam War record, calling into question his character, credibility and a central tenet of his campaign -- that his combat experience helps qualify him to be president.

The ad, the book and the people behind them have become staples of conservative talk shows and Internet sites. The claims -- that Kerry lied about his war experiences, didn't deserve his medals and betrayed soldiers everywhere by protesting the war after serving in it -- also have been recited in the mainstream media, along with denials of the allegations.

What military documentation exists and has been made public generally supports the view put forth by Kerry and most of his crewmates -- that he acted courageously and came by his Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts honestly. This view of Kerry as war hero is supported by all but one of the surviving veterans who served with him on the two boats he commanded.

None of the critics quoted in the ad actually served on the boats with Kerry. Some of them also have given contradictory accounts and offered conflicting recollections.

But what actually happened about 35 years ago along the remote southern coast of Vietnam remains murky. Some of Kerry's own recollections over the years, as presented in two biographies and many interviews, also have been inconsistent.

Most of the documents offered by critics of the Democratic candidate are signed affidavits by 13 Swift boat veterans -- notarized memories of events that they say they witnessed from a boat or two away.

Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Reuters
Person
Jeff Zeleny
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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