Swift Boats 101

The Republican National Convention seems to have provided some surcease from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth controversy, after two weeks of the slinging of increasingly stale mud balls.

But the SBVFT stories aren’t gone forever — trust us on that — and today Campaign Desk caught yet two more instances of the press misreporting the known facts, as if this was day one of the controversy.

First, FoxNews.com ran an “exclusive” story recapping Bill Clinton’s interview with Geraldo Rivera during which the former president said, “There has been too much controversy or discussion about the politics of [the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] and [too] little about its merits.” Clinton elaborated, “All the guys that were on the boat with him say he told the truth. The records say he told the truth.”

While the records indeed support Kerry’s recollections, it has been widely reported that one man who served under Kerry on a swift boat, Stephen Gardner, disputes some of Kerry’s accounts. FoxNews.com should have corrected the former president for that misstatement.

In a similar manner, via Kos, an Associated Press story about John McCain from earlier this morning leaves readers with an incomplete version of the truth. The AP writes, “A group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, made up of men who served on the same vessels as Kerry in Vietnam, has been running harshly critical ads questioning the Massachusetts senator’s leadership qualities and claiming he embellished his record to receive military awards.” (Emphasis added.) This is the flip side of Fox’s error. While the members of the SBVFT are men who served on the same type of vessel as Kerry, only one (as explained above) actually served on the boat under Kerry’s command.

This story maybe fading for now, but it’s never too late to get the facts straight — especially since, unless the members of SBVFT somehow recant and swear fealty to the Democratic Party, we’re sure to see this stuff back in the news cycle before November.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.