Swift Boat Veterans for Truth | Media Matters for America

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth

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  • Wall Street Journal Joins Fox's "Swift Boat" Campaign Against John Kerry

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    A Wall Street Journal op-ed pushed discredit smears to claim that Senator John Kerry is anti-military and not fit for a possible cabinet post.

    President Obama is reportedly considering Kerry to be Secretary of State or Defense. In response, former Journal editorial board member Seth Lipsky asked in his op-ed "why in the world" the president would consider Kerry for either position. Lipsky claimed nobody did more than Kerry to "besmirch the name of the GIs who fought in Vietnam." As evidence, Lipsky cited 1971 testimony by Kerry that members of the military had committed war crimes in Vietnam. Lipsky suggested this claim was unfounded aside from the massacre at My Lai. But as FactCheck.org stated in 2004, "ample evidence of other atrocities has come to light" since Kerry's 1971 testimony.

    Lipsky wrote:

    In 1971 Mr. Kerry related to the Senate accusations that he said had been made by veterans testifying before an antiwar group called the Winter Soldier Investigation.


    The conviction of Lt. William Calley for his role in the massacre at My Lai is a reminder that our side did commit some war crimes in Vietnam. But they were, as Mr. Obama suggested, the misdeeds of a few. According to the website wintersoldier.com, which is sympathetic to Mr. O'Neill and the Swift Vets, the allegations raised by the Winter Soldier investigation were examined by the Defense Department and either did not hold up or could not be proved and no one was ever prosecuted for the allegations made by Mr. Kerry's group. Allies of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, sponsor of the antiwar hearings at which veterans testified, dispute critics of the investigation.

    But Factcheck.org debunked the claim that Kerry was making unfounded charges, pointing out that Kerry was relating stories he had heard from fellow members of the armed forces and that stories of wartime atrocities by U.S. troops have been documented in a book by Marine Corps veteran Gary D. Solis, a Pulitzer Prize winning series by the Toledo Blade, and by a Columbia University doctoral student who said she found evidence of hundreds of atrocities in government archives.

  • It's Not "Swift Boating" If It's True

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Outlining the growing controversy about the timeline of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital career, CNN's Jim Acosta recently asked the candidate if he believed he was "being swift-boated in this campaign." Later that same evening, reporting on Anderson Cooper 360, CNN's Tom Forman forged a tighter connection, suggesting "Republican analysts fear Mitt Romney could become the second politician from Massachusetts swift boated out of the presidency."

    Here's how Forman describe the Swift Boat affair [emphasis added]: 

    FORMAN: He's talking about the Swift Boat campaign, in which President Bush's challenger John Kerry was demonized over what his campaign considered an attribute. His decorated service as a soldier in Vietnam. The Swift Boat ads, backed by a group of pro-Bush veterans, questioned the Democratic challenger's conduct in the war, his anti-war activities later and his patriotism.

    Kerry was slow to respond and never very effective in refuting their claims even though his critics offered little in the way of proof. He lost the election of course. And for many Democrats, swift-boating became a catch-all term for any unfair, untrue, personal assault on a candidate.

    Trying to tie contemporary questions about Romney's Bain past with an infamous GOP smear campaign is an exercise in false equivalency.  "The Swift Boat campaign was completely a lie," Esquires' Charles Pierce recently reminded readers. "Nothing the Swifties said about John Kerry was true." And yet, despite the cavernous gap between the Swift Boat affair and the ongoing Bain story, the comparison continues to gain currency.

    The conservative Washington Examiner editorial page on Monday lamented the "Swift-Baining of Mitt Romney." What had the Obama campaign done that was so unfair to the Republican candidate? It had "seized on reports by liberal websites Mother Jones and Talking Points Memo -- and later by the Boston Globe -- citing Securities and Exchange Commission filings that listed Romney as the CEO of Bain after he was said to have left for the Olympics."

    Quoting news outlets that cite government documents regarding Romney's employment record now constitutes a smear campaign?

    Let's stipulate this fact going forward: A candidate having his résumé  or biography examined during the course of a presidential campaign does not constitute being "swift boated." Enthusiastic "vetting" of candidates' backgrounds is a routine aspect of general elections.

    The distinguishing feature of a Swift Boat smear campaign, of course, was that virtually every single war-era allegation made against Kerry's military service proved to be false, leaving the assumption that the entire point of the coordinated, deep-pocketed attack was to purposefully spread as manly lies as possible. And not just small fibs, but truly unconscionable lies about a serviceman's record during the unpopular Vietnam War.

  • Gingrich Tells The Truth About Swift Boat Veterans

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Responding to a relentless wave of Iowa attacks ads produced by a Mitt Romney-friendly Super PAC, an angry Newt Gingrich last week challenged Romney to debate the "dishonest" commercials. Over the holiday weekend, Gingrich said of the ads, "I feel Romney-boated."

    As the Associated press noted:

    Gingrich's nautical attack was a reference to a 2004 TV ad campaign by a group called the "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" that bloodied Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

    Gingrich's turn of phrase was telling. Why? Because this was Newt Gingrich, a leader of the modern-day conservative movement, presidential candidate, and proud Republican partisan adopting language that acknowledged the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are synonymous with unsubstantiated campaign attack ads. With his "Romney-boated" comment, the former Republican Speaker of the House reinforced what progressives have been saying for years.

    But wait, everyone knows the Swifties peddled slanderous lies about John Kerry, right? Everyone acknowledges their ad campaign represented a new low point in American politics, right?


    For years, prominent right-wing bloggers have clung to the parallel universe belief that the Swifties were honorable men and that none of their wild Vietnam War claims about Kerry were ever debunked. Within the right-wing media, the Swift Boat Veterans are fondly remembered as heroes who "courageously told the untold truths."

    Previously, from Michelle Malkin:

    A reminder to conservatives: "Swift-Boating" does not equal smearing. Swift-Boating means exposing hard truths about corrupt Democrats.

    From Powerline:

    Most of what the Vets said in their ads has never been disputed, let alone discredited.

    From Patterico's Pontifications:

    The canard that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was a "smear campaign" is so well accepted by Big Media that ABC NEWS feels comfortable in portraying the Swifties' ad campaign as "slanderous" and "smear ads."

    On and on the denial goes as far-right bloggers cling to their Swift Boat fantasy. But now, with the likes of Newt Gingrich using the Swift Boat handle as bipartisan shorthand for claims of duplicitous campaign lies, that fantasy is being put to bed.

    By Republicans.

  • Wash. Post's Cillizza asserted that Swift Boaters "raise[d] questions about" Kerry's military credentials, did not note accusations were false and baseless smears

    ››› ››› ANNE SMITH

    Discussing on CNN the 2004 presidential election and noting that Democrats believed Sen. John Kerry had "unassailable military credentials," Chris Cillizza asserted, "Well, lo and behold, a group called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth raises questions about it, John Kerry is presented as a flip-flopper, and that conventional wisdom goes out the window." But Cillizza failed to note that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's "questions" were false and baseless smears about Kerry's service in the Vietnam War.

  • Fox's Henneberg did not challenge Swift Boat member Bud Day's false claim that Clark served in Vietnam for only one month


    Fox News' Molly Henneberg uncritically reported the assertion by Bud Day, a member of the then-named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, that Wesley Clark "spent a month in Vietnam, got badly wounded, evacuated, and that was his Vietnam experience." In fact, according to documents posted on the website for Clark's 2004 presidential campaign, Clark served at least six months in Vietnam -- first as a 1st Infantry Division staff officer, then as an infantry company commander -- before he was wounded.

  • Limbaugh joins other media in whitewashing Swift Boat Vets' falsehoods, claims "nobody has disproven anything they claimed"

    ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    On his radio show, Limbaugh claimed that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth "were right on the money, and nobody has disproven anything they claimed in any of their ads, statements, written commentaries, or anything of the sort." In fact, most of the allegations the Swift Boat Veterans made about Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam War service during the 2004 presidential campaign have been thoroughly discredited, often by official military records, but also by the Swift Boat accusers themselves, who struggled to keep their stories straight.

  • To back up claims of a "liberal media," ABC's Halperin said liberal 527s "spent millions" attacking Bush, but falsely suggested there were no similar groups on the right


    ABC News political director Mark Halperin falsely suggested that while progressive 527 organizations with ties to the Democratic Party attacked President Bush during the 2004 election, there were no comparable groups on the right. But one of the most prominent 527 groups in the 2004 election cycle was the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a group with ties to both the GOP and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign whose attacks on Democratic candidate John Kerry -- which included numerous false and discredited allegations -- received broad coverage in the media.

  • NY Times' Phillips's revisionist history: "Swift-boating" is "a verb for negative ads"

    ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    On The New York Times' weblog The Caucus, Kate Phillips wrote that "swift-boating became a verb for negative ads" during the 2004 presidential election. However, the group behind the ads, the Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth, did much more than just run "negative ads" -- they launched a widespread smear campaign against Sen. John Kerry based on lies, factual distortions, and baseless attacks on Kerry's Vietnam War record and personal life.