On August 13, FOX News Channel host Sean Hannity reported on his nationally syndicated ABC Radio Networks radio show that Senator John Kerry (D-MA), while lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1984, "authored an executive order that said that the state of Massachusetts would refuse to take part in any civil defense efforts in response to a nuclear attack on America." This claim -- stemming from a flawed article published the same day on right-wing website NewsMax.com -- is a gross mischaracterization of the order, which actually promised "to develop the concept of Comprehensive Emergency Management to deal with major disasters or emergencies in the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts]."
Had Hannity read the actual executive order (which, incidentally, does not bear Kerry's name), he would have learned that it was not a "no nuclear defense executive order," as he claimed. The order, in fact, endorsed a Comprehensive Emergency Management strategy for use in case of an "attack by a hostile power, whether nuclear, conventional, terrorist, chemical or an attack accomplished through biological warfare." According to the order, this strategy sought "to mitigate the effects of a hazard, to prepare for measures to be taken which will preserve life and minimize damage, to respond during emergencies and reduce the impact of the emergency, and to establish a recovery system to channel financing and other resources in order to restore the governance and other essential functions of the community."
The one civil defense strategy rejected by the executive order was "crisis relocation planning"; the order asserted that "[n]o funds shall be expended by the Commonwealth for crisis relocation planning for nuclear war." According to the Electronic Encyclopaedia of Civil Defense and Emergency Management, crisis relocation planning is the Cold War-era notion that "the relocation of people from some or all of approximately 400 risk areas in the United States" would have been a viable strategy in the face of a nuclear attack. The rejection of this strategy by Massachusetts -- which followed rejections by California, Maryland, and New Mexico, according to a 1984 Associated Press article -- is the feeble basis on which NewsMax.com claimed that Kerry "Wouldn't Respond to [a] Nuclear Attack."
Crisis relocation planning is simply one proposed response to a nuclear attack, and it has been determined to be ineffective and "impracticable," as the order observed. The House Committee on Appropriations wrote in 1983 that it "does not believe that the 'crisis relocation' plan will work," according to a 1986 report (pdf) by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In a 1991 editorial in Medicine & Global Survival (the journal of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War), Dr. Jennifer Leaning, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote: "The massive civil defense plan advanced in the early years of the Reagan administration, Crisis Relocation Planning, has been abandoned, as logistically infeasible and strategically provocative."