Referring to widely discredited attacks on Senator John Kerry's military service by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, falsely claimed that "major pieces of this story ... are true." Sabato's remarks came during a discussion on the August 30 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume.
Hume asked Sabato about what sort of media coverage a news story had to attract before it could significantly affect a campaign:
HUME: Does it not -- a story have to eventually break into some of the main news organizations for it to really have an impact?
SABATO: Absolutely, it has to, but it also has to be true. And there are at least major pieces of this story -- like Cambodia, like the first Purple Heart, and like the 1971 testimony to the U.S. Senate by Kerry -- that are true.
In fact, all three of the charges by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that Sabato referenced have been discredited.
John E. O'Neill, co-founder of Swift Boat Vets, claimed in Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry (which he co-authored with Jerome R. Corsi) that "Kerry was never in Cambodia" because neither he nor any other swift boats were allowed to cross the Cambodian border. Yet a recently released audiotape of O'Neill's meeting with former President Richard Nixon in 1971 reveals that O'Neill told Nixon that O'Neill himself was in Cambodia on a swift boat during his service in Vietnam. As Media Matters for America has noted, either O'Neill lied to the president then, or he is lying now.
2) First Purple Heart
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has alleged that Kerry did not earn his first Purple Heart, but the group has produced only one veteran -- retired Rear Admiral William L. Schachte Jr. -- who claims to be a witness to the events in question. But as MMFA has noted, Schachte's account of the events leading to Kerry's first Purple Heart has been been severely undermined. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's own website contradicts his account of the December 2, 1968, incident, and Schachte has contradicted his own account in earlier statements.
Moreover, as MMFA has previously reported, the two crewmen who joined Kerry on the mission -- Patrick Runyon and William Zaladonis -- support Kerry's version of events and insist that Schachte was not on the boat that night.
3) 1971 Senate testimony
Finally, the charge leveled by Swift Boat Vets in its second TV ad -- that Kerry betrayed his fellow Vietnam soldiers by accusing them of atrocities in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in 1971 -- is a gross distortion of what Kerry said. As MMFA has repeatedly documented (on August 23 and August 24), Kerry's testimony related the stories of other Vietnam veterans who came home and related their personal experiences in what was known as the Winter Soldier Investigation. Kerry did not blame these soldiers for the acts they claimed to have committed. Rather, the focus of Kerry's remarks was an indictment of the leaders at the time.