On September 1, FOX News Channel general assignment reporter Major Garrett asserted without evidence that Senator John Kerry's statements about war crimes and atrocities in Vietnam during his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (which the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacked in its second TV ad) were based in part on "stories" by "anti-war activists" who may not have served in Vietnam.
In fact, the "stories" that Kerry offered in his Senate testimony were merely summaries of detailed firsthand accounts by Vietnam veterans who had related personal experiences several months earlier at the Winter Soldier Investigation, an event in Detroit organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, of which Kerry was spokesman. All of the Winter Soldier accounts came from soldiers who personally testified to having served in Vietnam. And though White House tapes reveal that notorious dirty trickster Charles Colson, White House counsel under former President Richard Nixon, pledged that "The men that participated in the pseudo-atrocity hearings in Detroit will be checked out to ascertain if they are genuine Viet Nam combat veterans," no public challenge to their identities ever materialized, according to a February 22 article (registration required) in the Chicago Tribune.
From the September 1 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
GARRETT: Kerry, then a leader of the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War, told the Senate war crimes were, quote, "committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." Kerry also referred to stories from anti-war activists, some who served Vietnam, some who did not.
Conservative historian Guenter Lewy claimed in his 1978 book, America in Vietnam, that a Naval Investigative Service report into the Winter Soldier allegations had discredited many of the witnesses and accounts, and in some cases impostors had assumed the identities of real veterans who were not present at the investigation. But no one can seem to locate a copy of it: "We have not been able to confirm the existence of this report, but it's also possible that such records could have been destroyed or misplaced," Naval Criminal Investigative Service public affairs specialist Paul O'Donnell told the Tribune. In a February 14 Baltimore Sun article, Lewy himself admitted that "he does not recall if he saw a copy of the naval investigative report or was briefed on its contents." Apart from Lewy's allegations, a Media Matters for America search turned up no other reports of evidence that any Winter Soldier witness was an impostor.
Moreover, Garrett's suggestion that in addition to Kerry's claim about war crimes, "Kerry also referred to stories" [emphasis added] from the Winter Soldier Investigation is misleading; both the claim about war crimes and the "stories" were based on the first-hand "stories" of Vietnam veterans who testified during the Winter Soldier Investigation.