NY POST MUM ON "DOC" DOCSMay 6, 2004 11:04 PM EDT ››› SHANT MESROBIAN
On May 6, New York Post Washington bureau chief Deborah Orin repeated Dr. Louis Letson's claims that Senator John Kerry got his first Purple Heart for a non-combat wound -- despite reports in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times one day earlier that, according to the Kerry campaign, Letson was not the medical official who signed Kerry's medical records for the wound.
Orin wrote, "Dr. Letson said the wound was minor 'like a splinter'. Kerry's crew members said they thought it was caused when he fired a mortar at close range at some rocks and a fragment ricocheted back from the mortar round and hit him." But Orin did not include a response from the Kerry campaign. The day before, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times did, reporting that Kerry campaign spokesperson Michael Meehan noted that a medical official other than Letson signed the "sick call sheet" summarizing treatment of Kerry's wound; Letson claims to remember treating Kerry's wound.
Also on May 6, the New York Post reprinted a May 4 National Review Online report by National Review White House correspondent Byron York that presented Letson's wholly unverified account.
Neither the New York Post nor York reported the fact that Letson is a member of the newly formed group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; the group held a press conference on May 4 to discredit Kerry's record during and after his service in Vietnam.
When it appeared in its second iteration on the "Post Opinion" page of the New York Post, York's piece differed from his original in only one instance. In the original version, the first sentence of the second paragraph reads, "Kerry was treated for the wound at a medical facility in Cam Ranh Bay." In the version printed by the New York Post, the sentence reads, "Kerry was treated at a medical facility in Cam Ranh Bay." The New York Post left out the phrase "for the wound."
The New York Post followed other conservative news sources in picking up York's report, beginning with DrudgeReport.com on May 4. On May 5, WorldNetDaily.com cited York's National Review Online piece; OpinionJournal.com's James Taranto republished Letson's account; and The New York Sun's article on the Swift Boat Vets quoted Letson's recollections of Kerry's wound at length but did not cite York.
Also on May 5, radio host Rush Limbaugh quoted "mainstream Washington reporter" Byron York:
Let me get this story out. The National Review Online, Byron York, who is mainstream Washington reporter, "Kerry was treated for the wound," he writes. This is the doctor -- the doctor has stopped talking here about this, but -- at any rate, he went to the doctor apparently. He [Kerry] made up a story about enemy fire. He wasn't going to waste a perfectly good superficial wound.
None of these news sources mentioned Kerry spokesman Meehan's assertion that a different medical official's signature appeared on records of treatment for Kerry's wound.