Discredited Swift Boat Vet seeking conservative handouts

Steve Gardner, a member of the discredited anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth, claimed that he lost his job for speaking out against Senator John Kerry, and that Veterans for Kerry national director John Hurley threatened to retaliate by looking into his finances. On the basis of these alleged incidents, Gardner is currently seeking financial donations from supporters through the online payment service PayPal. But Gardner's accusations are dubious: he did not mention them in four television appearances since his firing, including in an appearance with Hurley and in a discussion of the magazine article he claims triggered his firing; Gardner's former employer has claimed to have had no idea of Gardner's politics at the time of his dismissal and claimed that the company laid off two other people the same day, also for reasons having nothing to do with politics; and Gardner has a long history of distorting the truth to promote his agenda, which Media Matters for America has documented.

Gardner's claims were first described November 29 by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Laney in a column titled "How Kerry whistleblower suffered for truth"; it was linked to by the high-traffic Internet gossip website The Drudge Report on the same day under the headline "John Kerry Swiftboat 'brother' destroyed after speaking out..." FOX News Channel host Brit Hume repeated the allegations during the “Grapevine” segment of Special Report that evening. On November 30, Gardner was a guest on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. A December 1 Washington Times editorial, titled "A Veteran in Need," called for financial donations to Gardner, who described himself as “broke” in the Sun-Times article.

During his November 30 Hannity & Colmes appearance, Gardner claimed he was fired “24 hours” after a March 9 TIME magazine article titled "The Tenth Brother" by Kerry biographer and historian Douglas Brinkley noted Gardner's opposition to Kerry's presidential bid. But co-host Alan Colmes told Gardner that he had contacted Gardner's former employer, Millennium Information Services, and the company claimed it “had no idea of your political connections.” Colmes also reported the company's contention that “two other people were let go the same day having nothing to do with politics.” Company officials noted this in a statement PDF; the company also claims that Gardner has declined other employment opportunities within the company.

Gardner also claimed on Hannity & Colmes that Hurley threatened to “delve into my financial history” because of Gardner's refusal to assist the Kerry campaign. But Colmes said that he “spoke to John Hurley today” and that Hurley said “that's a complete fabrication, a complete lie, and that conversation did not -- he never said that to you.” Gardner responded: “Well, that's just a continuance of what they've done from day one.”

Further, although Gardner was fired in March and claimed in the Sun-Times article to have been contacted by Hurley before that, according to a Media Matters Nexis search, Gardner did not mention his firing or Hurley's threat in any of the four television appearances he made between those purported incidents and the presidential election. Those four appearances included a March 15 Hannity & Colmes appearance less than a week after he was fired -- in which the Brinkley article was a specific topic of discussion -- and an August 20 appearance on MSNBC's Scarborough Country.

Media Matters has noted that Gardner has a history of distorting the truth. In at least two interviews, Gardner claimed personal knowledge of the circumstances leading to Kerry's first Purple Heart; and spoke with authority about the events leading to Kerry's Bronze Star, despite the fact that he had admitted that he was not present for the incidents leading to Kerry's receipt of the medal or any of Kerry's three Purple Hearts. Gardner has also falsely claimed that three of Kerry's other crewmates -- James Wasser, Drew Whitlow, and Steven Hatch -- “felt the same way that I felt about John Kerry” before they joined the Kerry campaign. But, as Media Matters previously noted, comments from Wasser in Brinkley's TIME article directly contradict Gardner's claim. Further, although Gardner claimed in the Sun-Times article that “I had no and have no political agenda whatsoever,” Brinkley reported that Gardner expressed disdain for Democrats: "[H]arsh as this may sound or as good as it sounds to any Democrat, out there, John Kerry is another 'Slick Willy.' He's another Bill Clinton and that's exactly what he is. And I'm telling you right now, that if John Kerry gets to be president of these United States, it'll be a sorry day in this world for us. We can't stand another Democrat like that in there again."