Media report McCain's recent efforts to tout his military record, but not that he told Kerry not to do so in '04


Several media outlets reported on Sen. John McCain's recent efforts to highlight his Vietnam War experience as part of his presidential campaign without noting that, in 2004, he reportedly told Sen. John Kerry that Kerry should not use his Vietnam war record during his campaign, or that McCain falsely asserted in 2004 that he "didn't talk about" his own service during his 2000 presidential campaign "because," he said, "I didn't need to."

In reports on Sen. John McCain's recent efforts to highlight his Vietnam War experience as part of his presidential campaign, several media outlets -- including The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today -- have failed to mention that, in 2004, McCain reportedly told then-Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (MA) that he should not use his own Vietnam War record during his campaign, or that McCain falsely asserted in 2004 that he "didn't talk about" his own service during his 2000 presidential campaign "because," he said, "I didn't need to."

The Post reported on August 27, 2004, that, after condemning one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack advertisements against Kerry, McCain "also said Kerry had invited scrutiny of his record by putting so much emphasis on Vietnam at the Democratic National Convention in Boston last month." The Post further reported:

McCain said that he urged Kerry sometime ago not to talk about Vietnam during his campaign. "I did advise John. I said, 'Look, you shouldn't talk about Vietnam because everybody else will. Let everybody else do it.' His advisers figured that was probably not enough, that he had to emphasize that in his campaign. In my campaign, as you know, I didn't talk about it because I didn't need to."

As Media Matters for America has documented, contrary to McCain's assertion that he "didn't talk about" his military service during his 2000 presidential campaign, McCain prominently used his experience as a POW in Vietnam in campaign ads and a stump speech that year.

In recent days, the Arizona senator has again highlighted his veteran status and time spent as a POW, this time as part of his 2008 campaign for the White House. For instance, on March 27, McCain's campaign released its first general election television ad. The ad -- with the title "624787," his Navy number -- highlights McCain's military experience by airing footage of him as a POW in Vietnam. McCain began a five-day, six-city "Service to America Tour" on March 31, during which, according to his website, he will visit various locations that hold biographical significance for him, many of which relate to his family military history. "Day One" of the tour is scheduled to kick off in Meridian, Mississippi, "[h]ome of McCain Field named after John McCain's grandfather, an admiral in the U.S. Navy." On "Day Three," McCain will apparently head to Annapolis, Maryland, and Pensacola, Florida, "[h]ome of U.S. Naval Academy and where John McCain prepared to serve his country." The following day, McCain is set to visit Jacksonville, Florida, "[h]ome of John McCain base before his deployment to Vietnam and following his return after 5 years as a POW." In total, according to his campaign's itinerary, three of the five days McCain will spend on the trip, and four of the six cities he is scheduled to visit, relate to his or his family's military service.

Yet numerous reports on McCain's campaign ad and his "Service to America Tour" have failed to note his previous reported assertion that Kerry should not talk about his military service when running for president, or McCain's claim, regarding his own military service, that, in his 2000 campaign, "I didn't talk about it because I didn't need to." For instance:

  • Despite its earlier reporting on McCain's 2004 comments, a March 29 Washington Post article, headlined "McCain's TV Ad Prompts Chatter About 'American President,' " reported that "Sen. John McCain launched his first television ad of the general election yesterday -- a 60-second commercial that links the candidate's heroism during the Vietnam War with his call for Americans to 'stay strong' and 'never surrender' in Iraq, though the ad does not mention that war directly."
  • A March 31 post on The New York Times' political blog The Caucus, by Times correspondent Michael Cooper, discussed McCain's "Service to America Tour" and reported: "Senator John McCain is hoping to move the campaign narrative from the current events section of the popular imagination to the biography section with his tour this week of places important to his life story." Cooper added:

Mr. McCain's life story -- he survived the fire aboard the aircraft carrier Forrestal off Vietnam that killed 134 of his shipmates, was shot down over Hanoi, and endured five and a half years as a prisoner of war -- is taking on added importance and seems to have helped him appeal to voters who disagree with him on some issues. ... Advertisements and Web videos featuring images of him as a prisoner of war in a hospital bed helped persuade voters to take a second look. Now the campaign is returning to his biography as Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, tries to broaden his appeal to a general-election audience even as he continues to champion an unpopular war.

Eager to stay in the news in the long march to the Republican convention, presumed nominee John McCain sets out on a biographical tour next week intended to reintroduce himself to voters. ... McCain will attend an air show Monday near Meridian, Miss., at McCain Field, which was named for his grandfather, an admiral. His speech there will outline his family's military service. McCain was stationed in the area as a flight instructor. ... On Wednesday, he will make stops near the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class, and in Pensacola, Fla., where he attended flight school and drove a red Corvette -- spending most of his free hours "at bars and beach parties," according to one of his memoirs.

During a stop Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla., where McCain's first wife and young children lived while he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, he is expected to emphasize the importance of service and what he views as the need to increase the Army and Marine Corps.

  • On March 28, USA Today reported on McCain's "Service to America Tour," and stated that "John McCain became a public figure as a Vietnam prisoner of war." The article noted: "Stops include Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; military bases in Florida and Mississippi; and his political base in Arizona. The son and grandson of admirals, McCain is also expected to discuss his service during the Vietnam War."
Posted In
The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times
John McCain, 2008 Elections, 2004 Elections
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