Swiftly Slanted, Part 4: No Questions Asked
The ConWeb lets obvious errors in the latest Swifties' ad just slide right by unchallenged. Plus: Is the Winter Soldier investigation discredited, or just the ConWeb that declared without any evidence that it was?
By Terry Krepel
Just how snuggled in bed are the ConWeb and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? The ConWeb will not point out obvious errors in the group's ads.
Case in point: the latest offering from the Kerry-bashing group, alleging that John Kerry "secretly met with enemy leaders in Paris," then "accused American troops of committing war crimes on a daily basis."
But you wouldn't know that from reading the ConWeb. WorldNetDaily dutifully reported on the Swift Boat Vets' ad without question. A Sept. 22 article tries to obscure the fact that Kerry did no negotiating in his meeting with Viet Cong leaders by stating that "in 1971, Kerry called a press conference in Washington and urged President Nixon to accept the seven-point surrender plan of Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, the foreign minister of the Viet Cong's political entity." WND's source for this is, unsurprisingly, the Swifties' own book, the factually challenged "Unfit for Command." (WND has never reported to its readers the bigoted history of "Unfit for Command" co-author Jerome Corsi.)
CNSNews.com was also uncritical of the ad, but its Sept. 22 story added a new spin: a report of a second meeting between Kerry and " North Vietnamese communists in Paris" in 1971, something that it had reported on back in June. The source for this was a Los Angeles Times Magazine article written in May by author Gerald Nicosia, citing newly released FBI files.
But, according to Media Matters for America (full disclosure: my employer), the only evidence for a second meeting in Paris is, as Nicosia told FOX News Channel, a single newspaper clipping from the FBI files in which Kerry mentioned during a speech about having "just returned from Paris and a meeting with North Vietnamese."
It can be argued that he may have been referencing his trip the previous year. And even if he wasn't, if there was indeed a second trip to Paris, the fact that he was apparently discussing it in public speeches makes it something other than the "secret" the Swifties claim it was.
CNS also ran an article back in May based on one man's claim that Kerry's trip to Paris broke several U.S. laws. That man: Jerome "Jerry" Corsi. Neither that article nor the September article on the Swifties' ad that references the May article notes his connection with the Swift Boat Vets or his history of bigotry; it merely refers to Corsi as an "researcher and author."
NewsMax, surprisingly, didn't report on the Swift Boat Vets' new ad, but an April 11 story pushes the line that Kerry's Paris meeting was "secret," and that his discussion of it during his Senate testimony occurred during "a little-noticed question and answer session."
It's an article of faith in the ConWeb: the 1971 Winter Soldier investigation, which John Kerry cited in his Senate testimony as evidence of atrocities committed in Vietnam, is discredited.
"More than a few Winter Soldier witnesses later turned out to be complete impostors," claims a February NewsMax story. Another February story at NewsMax states: " Later, some 'veterans' who participated in Winter Soldier were exposed as impostors." Yet another story states that "many of the accounts were later completely discredited."
At CNSNews.com, Winter Soldier-bashing started early. A November 1998 "news analysis" from the Claremont Institute references "the now-discredited 'Winter Soldier' investigation of 1970" that gets the year it occurred wrong, as does a February 1999 opinion piece also supplied by Claremont. Closer to current events, an August commentary by Paul Weyrich claims: "The only problem is that many who testified never served in Vietnam and others who testified, while in Vietnam, were never near where they had claimed they had committed the atrocities."
And a Sept. 10 article on a new anti-Kerry documentary claims that "The new documentary also features clips of anti-war former Vietnam veterans apparently making up and embellishing testimony." That documentary was made by a man named Carlton Sherwood, last seen claiming that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon is simply a victim of religious persecution.
At WorldNetDaily, an Aug. 26 story states that "some of those presenting horror stories at the Jane Fonda-sponsored probe had misrepresented themselves as Vietnam War vets even using the names of other veterans who did not attend the hearings. Several veterans provided sworn affidavits that others spoke in their names."
The problem? The main evidence that the Winter Soldier investigation was "discredited" is dubious at best. And the ConWeb offers virtually nothing beyond the above excerpts to prove that it was.
The only place where there is any documentation whatsoever that anyone who offered Winter Soldier testimony is in a 1978 book, "America in Vietnam" by historian Guenter Lewy, which claims that a Naval Investigative Service report into the Winter Soldier allegations had discredited many of the witnesses and accounts, and in some cases impostors had assumed the identities of real veterans who were not present at the investigation. Even WinterSoldier.com, the Free Republic-operated Kerry-bashing web site, offers only the Lewy book as direct evidence that the Winter Soldier investigation is discredited.
However, as Media Matters for America discovered, that Naval Investigative Service report Lewy cites is nowhere to be found; Naval Criminal Investigative Service public affairs specialist Paul O'Donnell told (registration required) the Chicago Tribune: "We have not been able to confirm the existence of this report, but it's also possible that such records could have been destroyed or misplaced." And Lewy himself admitted to The Baltimore Sun that "he does not recall if he saw a copy of the naval investigative report or was briefed on its contents."
WinterSoldier.com also offers a sideways attempt to discredit the investigation -- a long excerpt from a book by Kerry-basher B.G. Burkett that attack on Mark Lane, a Winter Soldier organizer who, prior to the investigation, wrote a book in which Vietnam veterans told stories of atrocities and war crimes. Some of the soldiers quoted in Lane's book turned out to be unreliable or fraudulent, but they didn't testify at the Winter Soldier investigation, something Burkett fails to note (but Media Matters did). The Burkett excerpt also rehashes Lewy's allegations.
The ConWeb has tossed in a couple side issues to distract from this lack of actual facts. CNSNews.com ran a story in March on another Winter soldier organizer who lied about his military background. The story, by Mark Morano, wrote that the investigation "culminated in a stage production," then quotes Burkett quoting Lewy as evidence that the investigation was discredited. (The fact that this story appeared in March should put the lie to any claim that Kerry opened himself up to criticism of his war record by making a big deal of it at the Democratic National Convention.)
In early September, the ConWeb also jumped on the story that a veteran who testified at Winter Soldier was recanting his testimony, adding the juicy detail that Kerry coerced him into it. Both WorldNetDaily and NewsMax featured it prominently, while CNSNews.com strangely stayed away from it.
But one guy crawling out of the woodwork 33 years after the fact during an election smacks more of partisanship than a blow to credibility.