Novak denied Swift Boat Vets' GOP ties; Matthews claimed group's unsubstantiated charge "could hurt" Kerry


On the August 7 edition of CNN's The Capital Gang (and in his August 9 syndicated column), CNN Crossfire host and regular panelist Robert Novak defended Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group behind the soon-to-be-released book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, published by the conservative publishing house Regnery. "They're not Republicans at all," Novak insisted -- despite the documented GOP and right-wing ties of the book's authors.

Novak's defense came in response to co-panelist Margaret Carlson, who noted that a recent ad sponsored by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is "completely partisan."

From the August 7 edition of CNN's The Capital Gang:

NOVAK: There's a new book out called Unfit for Command about his [Kerry's] record. I've read it all. It's coming out it'll be published soon. It is a shocking presentation of Senator Kerry's record. I just couldn't believe some of the things in there -- very carefully documented.

Margaret, these are not partisan Republicans. They're not Republicans at all. They're Naval personnel. They're not interested in [President] George [W.] Bush. One of the authors of the book told me he would have voted for John Edwards if he were nominated. Not particular Bush fans, but they just are appalled by John Kerry.

Moments later, when co-panelist Albert R. Hunt (executive editor of The Wall Street Journal) interjected, "I think this is some of the sleaziest lies I've ever seen in politics. John O'Neill, one of the principal authors, has been a Republican functionary for over 30 years..." Novak protested, saying, "That's not true! That's a lie!" But Hunt continued, "He's [O'Neill] a liar. He started with -- he started with Chuck Colson. He was a pawn of Chuck Colson."

Indeed, as Media Matters for America has documented, O'Neill's links to the GOP go back to his days as a "protégé of Nixon-era dirty trickster Charles Colson." MMFA has also exposed the extreme commentary of O'Neill's co-author, Jerome R. Corsi, who is a frequent participant at the conservative online forum Free Republic.

Meanwhile, on the August 8 edition of the NBC Sunday-morning program The Chris Matthews Show, Matthews posited that one of the veterans in the Swift Boat Veterans' TV ad -- the doctor who claims "Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury" -- "could hurt" Kerry. "If the doctor said, 'I treated him, it was a scratch, he shouldn't have gotten a Purple Heart.' And then if he did get a Purple Heart, it just diminishes one of his medals," Matthews said.

Matthews failed to acknowledge that, as both MMFA and Annenberg Political Fact Check have noted, while Dr. Louis Letson claims to have treated Kerry, Letson's name does not appear on the medical records as the "person administering treatment" for the injury that earned Kerry his first Purple Heart.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, 2004 Elections
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