FACT: Swift Boat Campaign Was Based On Lies, Factual Distortions
Now, 35 years after the fact, some Republican-financed Swift Boat Veterans for Bush are suddenly lying about John Kerry's service in Vietnam; they are calling him a traitor because he spoke out against the Nixon administration's failed policies in Vietnam. Some of these Republican sponsored veterans are the same ones who spoke out against John at the behest of the Nixon administration in 1971. But this time their attacks are more vicious, their lies cut deep and are directed not just at John Kerry, but at me and each of his crewmates as well. This hate-filled ad asserts that I was not under fire; it questions my words and Navy records. This smear campaign has been launched by people without decency, people who don't understand the bond of those who serve in combat. [The Wall Street Journal, 8/10/04]
Swift Boat Allegations Were Replete With Inconsistencies And Outright Lies.
Allegations leveled against Kerry in 2004 by members of the Swift Boat Veterans were replete with inconsistencies and factual discrepancies:
- George Elliott: Elliott, Kerry's commanding officer in Vietnam, told conflicting stories in 2004 about Kerry's service. He first said in early 2004 that he had no qualms about Kerry's actions that earned him the Silver Star in Vietnam, affirming that they were "exemplary." But in the group's Swift Boat ad, Elliott stated: "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam." After the first Swift Boat ad aired, Elliott changed his story again, saying that his Kerry attack was "a terrible mistake." He added: "I'm the one in trouble here. ... I knew it was wrong. ... In a hurry I signed [an affidavit] and faxed it back. That was a mistake." But in yet another flip-flop, days later, Elliott announced that he stood by claims that Kerry "had not been honest" about Vietnam. [Media Matters, 11/9/07]
- Dr. Louis Letson: Letson, who claimed he treated Kerry in Vietnam, disputed Kerry's account of how Kerry received his first Purple Heart, saying, "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart, because I treated him for that injury." Letson later claimed Kerry's wound was too small to justify the medal. In fact, according to Kerry's medical records, Letson was not the doctor who signed off as having treated Kerry the night of the injury. Moreover, Navy guidelines during the Vietnam War for Purple Hearts did not take into account the size of the wound when awarding the honor, which invalidated Letson's wound claim. [Media Matters, 11/9/07]
- Cmdr. Adrian Lonsdale: In 2004, retired Cmdr. Adrian Lonsdale claimed that Kerry "lack[ed] the capacity to lead," which was at odds with what he reportedly said about Kerry during his 1996 Senate race. According to reports from ABC News and Air Force Times, Lonsdale stated: "It was because of the bravery and the courage of the young officers that ran boats ... the swift boats and the Coast Guard cutters, and Senator Kerry was no exception." In 1996, Lonsdale explained that Vietnam War medals could only be awarded if battle events were corroborated by others -- this explanation contradicted Swift Boat Veterans' 2004 claims that Kerry won his awards only because he was able to write up false reports and fool his commanders. [Media Matters, 11/9/07]
- Navy Lt. Larry Thurlow: Thurlow, who commanded a Navy Swift boat alongside Kerry's in Vietnam -- which resulted in Kerry earning a Bronze Star -- affirmed as late as April 2004 that Kerry "was extremely brave, and I wouldn't argue that point." Four months later, Thurlow publicly disputed Kerry's medal, claiming it was a fraud. Thurlow maintained that Kerry was "not under fire" that day and that the claims that units involved came under "small arms and automatic weapons fire" were "totally fabricated." In fact, according to The Washington Post, the citation for a Bronze Star Thurlow also received that same day for actions on a swift boat alongside Kerry's, detailed how both his and Kerry's boats sustained "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire." [Media Matters, 11/9/07]
- Stephen Gardner: Gardner, who served as a gunner under Kerry's command, was repeatedly cited as an eyewitness to key Kerry events in Vietnam. Gardner later admitted however that "he was not on the boat with Kerry during the incidents for which Kerry got his medals." [The Columbus Dispatch, 8/6/04, via Media Matters]
- Alfred J. French: French, a veteran featured in the Swift Boat ads, claimed: "I served with John Kerry. ... He is lying about his record." French also agreed that that Kerry had received his Purple Heart "from negligently self-inflicted wounds in the absence of hostile fire." But in an interview with The Oregonian, French admitted he had no firsthand knowledge of the events surrounding Kerry's medals and that his information came secondhand from "friends." [Media Matters, 11/9/07]
Factcheck.Org: Swift Boat Group Funded By Major Bush Donor Bob Perry.
Factcheck.org noted that the Swift Boat group's "financing is highly partisan" and is "funded by the biggest Republican campaign donor in Texas" who has given "millions" to President Bush and other Republican candidates:
[T]he group's financing is highly partisan. The source of the Swift Boat group's money wasn't known when it first surfaced, but a report filed July 15 with the Internal Revenue Services now shows its initial funding came mainly from a Houston home builder, Bob J. Perry, who has also given millions to the Republican party and Republican candidates, mostly in Texas, including President Bush and Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whose district is near Houston.
Perry gave $100,000 of the $158,750 received by the Swift Boat group through the end of June, according to its disclosure report.
Perry and his wife Doylene also gave more than $3 million to Texas Republicans during the 2002 elections, according to a database maintained by the Institute on Money in State Politics. The Perrys also were among the largest Republican donors in neighboring Louisiana, where they gave $200,000, and New Mexico, where they gave $183,000, according to the database
At the federal level the Perrys have given $359,825 since 1999, including $6,000 to Bush's campaigns and $27,325 to DeLay and his political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, according to a database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics. [Factcheck.org, 10/22/04]
Longtime GOP Donor T. Boone Pickens Helped Bankroll Swift Boats Campaign With $2 million.
In an article about how Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has reinvented himself as a nonpartisan donor, Politico reported that Pickens had been one of the primary financiers of Swift Boat Veterans, donating $2 million in 2004:
In an effort to build support for the climate change legislation he's crafting with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kerry last month met quietly in his Washington office with the two lawmakers and T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oilman behind the Swift Boat attack ads that helped sink Kerry's 2004 presidential bid.
Pickens, who has contributed more than $6.6 million to Republican candidates and committees since the 1980s, has reinvented himself in recent years as a leading champion of clean energy. He has spent some $62 million and counting on television ads urging Congress to encourage development of wind and natural gas, in which he has business interests.
At 81 years old, his new crusade has landed him improbable audiences - if not alliances - with leading environmentalists, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - who once called Pickens a "mortal enemy," but more recently referred to him as "my political friend" - and dozens of rank and file lawmakers who have signed onto a natural gas bill he's pushing in Congress.
But until the private meeting last month, Pickens - who in 2004 donated $2 million to the group that aired the brutal Swift Boats ads challenging Kerry's decorated military service in Vietnam - had done little to mend fences with Kerry. [Politico, 3/3/10]