On September 14, Internet gossip Matt Drudge linked to Sinclair Broadcast Group vice president Mark Hyman's September 13 televised commentary, in which Hyman rehashed attacks on Senator John Kerry's Vietnam service. New York Post Washington bureau chief Deborah Orin followed suit in a September 15 article.
In his September 13 commentary, entitled "Kerry and the Killing," Hyman leveled false accusations relating to Kerry's receipt of the Silver Star in an attempt to cast new doubt on Kerry's Vietnam service record:
False Accusation #1: John Kerry was awarded the Silver Star "for killing a Vietnamese man"
Hyman stated that Kerry was awarded the Silver Star "for killing a Vietnamese man," but as Media Matters for America previously noted, and FactCheck.org reported, Kerry in fact earned the award for "extraordinary daring and personal courage ... in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire." This is according to Kerry's Silver Star citation (pdf), which, as FactCheck.org explained, "shows Kerry was not awarded the Silver Star 'for simply pursuing and dispatching' the Viet Cong." FactCheck.org also noted that Kerry's former commanding officer, George Elliott (a retired Lieutenant Commander and a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) "as recently as June, 2003 ... called Kerry's Silver Star 'well deserved' and his action 'courageous' for beaching his boat in the face of an ambush." Despite this, Elliot recently signed and then recanted an affidavit in which he said Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star. He subsequently recanted his recantation, reaffirming the first affidavit by signing a second, in which he admitted having no firsthand knowledge of the incident but reiterated his statement that Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star.
Fellow swift boat commander William B. Rood, who was present for the events leading to Kerry's Silver Star, backs Kerry's account of the events. In an August 22 commentary, Rood, now an editor on the Chicago Tribune's metropolitan desk, stated that Kerry's accusers weren't present during the fight and that their stories are untrue.
False Accusation #2: The after-action report Hyman posted contradicts Kerry's version of events
Hyman claimed that the official after-action report for the Silver Star incident was "conspicuous by its absence" from the documents posted on the Kerry-Edwards '04 campaign website and said that the version of events contained in this report contradicts "the John Wayne Kerry version the Massachusetts liberal has been telling." But the document's absence is not "conspicuous," as there is little difference between the document Hyman cited and the account on the Kerry-Edwards '04 website.
From the U.S. Navy document (page two), which Hyman posted on the Sinclair Broadcast Group website along with the text version of his September 13 commentary:
PCF 94 beached in center of ambush in front of small path when Viet Cong sprung up from bunker 10 feet from unit. Man ran with weapon towards hootch. Forward M-60 machine gunner wounded man in leg. [Officer-in-charge, LTjg Kerry], jumped ashore and gave pursuit while other units saturated area with fire and beached placing assault parties ashore. [Kerry] chased VC inland behind hootch and shot him while he fled -- capturing one B-40 rocket launcher with round in chamber.
Kerry's account from his campaign website:
PCF 94 landed in the center of ambush and a man jumped up holding a B-40 rocket launcher and started to run. The forward M-60 gunner on PCF94 wounded him in the leg as Kerry jumped off the boat and chased him inland behind a hooch and shot him.
Mark Hyman is vice president for corporate relations for Sinclair Broadcast Group, which operates the largest number of local television stations in the United States. He is the host of The Point, televised commentaries that are broadcast on Sinclair-owned TV stations. As Media Matters for America previously noted, Sinclair's top executives are major contributors to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign. The company has a history of offering a one-sided view political debate, as the Center for American Progress has documented. In July 2003, one Sinclair station refused to air an ad that criticized President George W. Bush; the company has also produced in-house conservative content for its stations. In September 2001, Sinclair required affiliates to convey "full support" for Bush and, most recently, refused to allow its ABC-affiliated stations to air a May 9 broadcast of ABC's Nightline in which the names of those troops who had died in combat in Iraq were read.
On September 1, the right-wing news website NewsMax.com called Mark Hyman Sinclair's "top conservative." On August 31, a Baltimore Sun article noted that, according to Sinclair's figures, "roughly 1.8 million American adults" watch Hyman's The Point daily. According to the Sun, "that puts him in the company of far-better known pundits", including FOX News Channel hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. The Sun states that an "audience [of 1.8 million] would make Hyman ... one of the most widely watched conservative television commentators in the country."