Brokaw accepted anti-Kerry vet's disputed claim as fact

On August 30, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw anchor Brokaw repeated as fact retired Rear Admiral William L. Schachte Jr.'s claim that he was the commander on the December 2, 1968, mission for which the U.S. Navy awarded Senator John Kerry (D-MA) his first Purple Heart. According to Schachte, Kerry did not deserve the award.

During MSNBC's live coverage of the Republican National Convention, Brokaw asked Douglas Brinkley (author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War) the following:

BROKAW: Just this past week, a man who was an admiral, Schachte, who was his [Kerry's] commander on the first mission which he went in for a Purple Heart, says, “He really doesn't deserve it, it was blowback from an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade]. I said he shouldn't get it, his commander at the time said he shouldn't get it, and it took three months to get it.” Have you [Brinkley] looked into that?

In fact, Schachte's role in the December 2, 1968, mission leading to Kerry's first Purple Heart is the subject of considerable dispute. Responding to Brokaw's question, Brinkley noted that “the three men that were on the Boston Whaler with him [Kerry] all have the same story [that refutes Schachte's claim]. And that's a man named [Patrick] Runyon, [John] Kerry, and [William] Zaladonis.” Indeed, as Media Matters for America has noted, mounting evidence contradicts Schachte's claim that he was the commander on Kerry's boat for the mission in question. Even Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's own website contradicts Schachte's claim that he was on the boat that night. And syndicated columnist, CNN Crossfire co-host, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth backer Robert Novak has conceded that Runyon and Zaladonis were “certain that they alone were in the boat with Kerry and did not even know Schachte.”