Wall Street Journal Joins Fox's "Swift Boat" Campaign Against John Kerry

Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

A Wall Street Journal op-ed pushed discredit smears to claim that Senator John Kerry is anti-military and not fit for a possible cabinet post.

President Obama is reportedly considering Kerry to be Secretary of State or Defense. In response, former Journal editorial board member Seth Lipsky asked in his op-ed "why in the world" the president would consider Kerry for either position. Lipsky claimed nobody did more than Kerry to "besmirch the name of the GIs who fought in Vietnam." As evidence, Lipsky cited 1971 testimony by Kerry that members of the military had committed war crimes in Vietnam. Lipsky suggested this claim was unfounded aside from the massacre at My Lai. But as FactCheck.org stated in 2004, "ample evidence of other atrocities has come to light" since Kerry's 1971 testimony.

Lipsky wrote:

In 1971 Mr. Kerry related to the Senate accusations that he said had been made by veterans testifying before an antiwar group called the Winter Soldier Investigation.


The conviction of Lt. William Calley for his role in the massacre at My Lai is a reminder that our side did commit some war crimes in Vietnam. But they were, as Mr. Obama suggested, the misdeeds of a few. According to the website wintersoldier.com, which is sympathetic to Mr. O'Neill and the Swift Vets, the allegations raised by the Winter Soldier investigation were examined by the Defense Department and either did not hold up or could not be proved and no one was ever prosecuted for the allegations made by Mr. Kerry's group. Allies of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, sponsor of the antiwar hearings at which veterans testified, dispute critics of the investigation.

But Factcheck.org debunked the claim that Kerry was making unfounded charges, pointing out that Kerry was relating stories he had heard from fellow members of the armed forces and that stories of wartime atrocities by U.S. troops have been documented in a book by Marine Corps veteran Gary D. Solis, a Pulitzer Prize winning series by the Toledo Blade, and by a Columbia University doctoral student who said she found evidence of hundreds of atrocities in government archives.

Lipsky also relied on quotes from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth founder John O'Neill to smear Kerry's possible nomination. Lipsky quoted O'Neill as saying Kerry "is well qualified to be the Secretary of Defense ... of Cuba or Venezuela":

For all the controversy over Ambassador Susan Rice -- National Journal reports that the president is "genuinely conflicted" over the choice between Ms. Rice and Mr. Kerry -- the prospect that Mr. Kerry might head state or defense is more shocking. Mr. Kerry "is well qualified to be the Secretary of Defense . . . of Cuba or Venezuela" is how the leader of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, John O'Neill, reacted in an email last week. "He [is] certainly an expert on surrender and can run up a white flag with the best of them."

Mr. O'Neill and fellow officers who served on Swift Boats in the war in Vietnam's Mekong Delta torpedoed Mr. Kerry's campaign for president in 2004. The Swift Vets exposed his libels against American GIs and debunked his claims to heroism in the Mekong Delta. They recalled how, when the war in Vietnam was still being fought, Mr. Kerry met in Paris with Madame Binh of the Viet Cong and later endorsed the Viet Cong's peace proposal.

But O'Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have no credibility. Their anti-Kerry campaign was so full of dishonest political smears that the term "swift-boating" has become synonymous with such unfair attacks. The Swift Boaters claims were "contradicted by Kerry's former crewman, and by Navy records," according to FactCheck.org. A Washington Post investigation into the group's allegations concluded that "they have failed to come up with sufficient evidence to prove him a liar." A 2008 New York Times article stated that "[e]xtensive news media accounts undermined the Swift boat charges in 2004." Allegations made by members of the Swift Boat organization were inconsistent and had factual errors. The organization and its leader, O'Neill, also had significant ties to the GOP and major GOP donors.

Lipsky's piece comes weeks after Fox News, which is owned by the same corporate parent as the Journal, also used the Swift Boat campaign's smears to attack Kerry's possible nomination to a Cabinet post.

On November 14, reacting to initial reporting of a possible Kerry nomination as defense secretary, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly cited the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's challenge to "Senator Kerry's record as a war hero." On November 15, Fox's Sean Hannity hosted O'Neill and praised his organization's 2004 ads as "very effective" and "powerful."

Posted In
Government, Cabinet & Agencies, Nominations & Appointments
Wall Street Journal
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
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