Weekly Standard editor William Kristol claimed that a segment on the October 14 edition of ABC's Nightline about the events that led to Senator John Kerry's Silver Star did not include interviews with "any of the swift boat vets who were there with him."
Kristol's claim implies that there are swift boat veterans who witnessed those events who would contradict Kerry's version. However, none of the members of the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who are challenging Kerry's receipt of the Silver Star actually witnessed the events, and the accounts of veterans who were there support Kerry's and the Navy's version.
From the October 17 edition of Fox Broadcasting Company's FOX News Sunday:
KRISTOL: Ted Koppel did Nightline Thursday night -- he's a friend of all of ours -- he went to Vietnam, they interviewed Viet Cong about the truth about the Kerry account of one of the medals he won and didn't interview actually any of the swift boat vets who were there with him. Is that fair?
As Media Matters for America has noted, Kerry's fellow swift boat commander William B. Rood was present at the events leading to Kerry's Silver Star and backs Kerry's account of what happened. 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.
The Nightline segment -- which included interviews with Vietnamese villagers that were "consistent with the after-action report and his [Kerry's] citation for bravery" -- strongly refuted claims by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that Kerry pursued and shot to death "a lone, wounded, fleeing, young Vietcong in a loincloth." As Media Matters for America noted, Nightline reported that the villagers described the man as "one of the 12 [Viet Cong] reinforcements sent to the village by provincial headquarters." According to those eyewitnesses, "[h]e wore a black pajama. He was strong. He was big and strong. He was about 26 or 27." Rood also wrote that he -- as well as "Jerry Leeds, our boat's leading petty officer with whom I've checked my recollection of all these events" -- recalls that the person Kerry shot "was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore."
In addition to the Vietnamese villagers, the Nightline segment also featured an interview with John O'Neill, co-founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now called Swift Vets and POWs for Truth). Koppel devoted approximately half the segment to his interview with O'Neill, who used the opportunity to complain that Koppel "relied on people that were enemies of the United States, in a closed society, instead of getting the information that was easily available from us [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] and from the record."
But "the record" supports Kerry's version of events, and none of O'Neill's fellow Swift Boat members were there. The account of the incident offered in O'Neill's book (co-written with Jerome R. Corsi), Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak out Against John Kerry (Regnery, August 2004), relies on scattered remarks made by four veterans: Michael Medeiros, Doug Reese, Tom Belodeau, and George Elliot. Of these, Medeiros and Reese support Kerry; Belodeau died in 1997; and Elliot supported Kerry during his Senate bid in 1996, retracted his condemnation of Kerry this year and, in a second affidavit retracting his retraction, admitted that he was not present during the events that led to Kerry's Silver Star. O'Neill called Koppel's report "truly pathetic"; Koppel noted that O'Neill was "reluctant to at least address the substance of what they [the Vietnamese villagers] said."
- 2004 Elections