FOX, CNN bolster SBVT claim of Kerry's “secret” Paris meeting

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's new ad attacking Senator John Kerry claims that he “secretly met with enemy leaders in Paris.” But as Media Matters for America has noted, the meeting cited in the ad was not a secret; Kerry spoke about the meeting in public Senate testimony. After The Washington Post reported on the ad's inaccuracy, FOX News Channel general assignment reporter Major Garrett and CNN senior political analyst and American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Bill Schneider then reported, without challenge, claims by the defenders of the ad that Kerry met with communists in Paris a second time.

But in reporting those claims, Garrett and Schneider relied on the assertions of only one person: author Gerald Nicosia, who specifically cites only an inconclusive August 1971 newspaper article found in an FBI file that he obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

On May 23, the Los Angeles Times Magazine published an article by Nicosia in which he claimed that “files” he obtained from the FBI “record that Kerry made a second trip to Paris that summer [1971] to learn how the North Vietnamese might release prisoners.” On September 16, Garrett reported on FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume that “Nicosia told FOX” that “the FBI files contained a newspaper clipping in which Kerry gave a speech in August 1971, saying he had just returned from Paris and a meeting with North Vietnamese.”

While in that newspaper clipping Kerry reportedly made reference to having recently returned from Paris, it is not clear if Kerry was referring to the same meeting he described in his Senate testimony or the alleged second meeting. And if Kerry was talking about a second meeting in speeches, he obviously was not keeping it secret.

On the September 22 edition of FOX News Channel's FOX News Live, Garrett reported that "[h]istorians say Kerry made a second trip to Paris in 1971." But Garrett produced only Nicosia (without identifying him on screen):

GARRETT: Here's what it's about: John Kerry traveled to Paris in 1970 and met with North Vietnamese delegations -- that much his campaign acknowledges. Historians say Kerry made a second trip to Paris in 1971 to meet with the same North Vietnamese enemies. That trip the Kerry campaign denies.


NICOSIA: I don't think it [sic] was anything illegal or morally wrong about either meeting [with the North Vietnamese]. Kerry, as he explained it, was on a fact-finding mission, that he did not believe what his government was telling him about the war in Vietnam.

On the September 22 edition of CNN's Inside Politics, Schneider reported that Kerry's second Paris meeting “was disclosed only this year in the Los Angeles Times.” Schneider did not make clear that he was referring to an article by Nicosia, rather than by Los Angeles Times staff:

SCHNEIDER: I just spoke with John O'Neill, who's one of the organizers of the Swift Boat Veterans, who said Kerry inadvertently disclosed the first meeting at the Senate. And later a second meeting in Paris with communist representatives was disclosed only this year in the Los Angeles Times.