1. Nets Condemn Anti-Kerry Ad by Vets and Focus on Bush's 7 Minutes
CBS, CNN and MSNBC on Thursday night decried a new anti-Kerry TV ad produced by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. CBS anchor John Roberts stressed criticism of it: "A harsh new television ad that attacks John Kerry is being denounced as quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable' by a Bush supporter, Republican Senator John McCain." (Just last week on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather trumpeted "John Kerry's band of brothers from Vietnam on one last mission.") CNN's NewsNight didn't inform viewers of the views of the veterans in the ad, just as the show on May 4 ignored, along with ABC and NBC, the press conference held by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But NewsNight, and ABC, had time on Thursday night for how John Kerry mocked President Bush for the seven minutes in the Florida classroom highlighted by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann repeatedly mis-identified the group as "Swift Boat Veterans for Bush."
2. Media Treat McCain Condemnation as More Newsworthy than Charges
Friday morning newspapers and TV treated Senator John McCain's condemnation of the anti-Kerry ad from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as more newsworthy than the substance of the charges the network morning shows have ignored until now. "McCain Criticizes Ad Attacking Kerry on Vietnam War Record," declared a front page Washington Post headline over a story that in nearly 1,200 words didn't quote a word from the ad. "It's getting ugly out there," Today co-host Campbell Brown fretted before she asked Tim Russert: "Republican Senator John McCain, a Vietnam vet, has come out and said that, that ad is quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable.' Should the White House be doing the same thing or the Bush campaign, rather, be doing the same thing?" ABC and CBS also stressed McCain's condemnation.
3. "Top Ten Signs Tom Ridge Needs a Vacation"
Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Tom Ridge Needs a Vacation."
Nets Condemn Anti-Kerry Ad by Vets and
Focus on Bush's 7 Minutes
After abdicating their journalistic responsibility to report on how a significant number of officer colleagues of John Kerry's in Vietnam condemned his behavior during his four months in-country, or in the case of CBS, smearing them while running glowing profiles of the vets who are backing Kerry, CBS, CNN and MSNBC on Thursday night decried a new anti-Kerry TV ad produced by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. CBS anchor John Roberts stressed criticism of it over its content: "A harsh new television ad that attacks John Kerry is being denounced as quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable' by a Bush supporter, Republican Senator John McCain." (Just last week on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather trumpeted "John Kerry's band of brothers from Vietnam on one last mission.")
CNN's NewsNight didn't inform viewers of the views of the veterans in the ad, just as the show on May 4 ignored, along with ABC and NBC, the press conference held by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But NewsNight, and ABC, had time on Thursday night for how John Kerry mocked President Bush for the seven minutes in the Florida classroom highlighted by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11. "When Mr. Bush was told about the second plane hitting the World Trade Center, he stayed in front of a class of children in Florida for upwards of seven minutes," ABC's Dan Harris on Thursday night reminded viewers. CNN's Dana Bash managed to get in a positive look at Kerry in Vietnam. Viewers saw scenes from Kerry's film of himself in Vietnam as she relayed how "Senator Kerry says being President is about having gut instincts in those situations, toughness he found on a battlefield."
At the top of Thursday's NewsNight, anchor Aaron Brown had only cryptically referred to the ad from the anti-Kerry veterans: "If someone makes an allegation in a political campaign, a serious allegation, should we report it simply because it's made? Is the allegation itself news?"
Thursday's NBC Nightly News skipped the ad and instead ran a full story from Chip Reid about "Vote for Change," the anti-Bush series of concerts featuring musicians such as the Dixie Chicks and Bruce Springsteen.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann repeatedly, and one must assume deliberately, misstated the name of the group behind the ads, calling it not "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," but three times referring to "Swift Boat Veterans for Bush." Olbermann lamented: "The ads of campaign 2004 just stepped up to a new level today -- or down to one -- with the release of an anti-John Kerry commercial that immediately brought the condemnation not merely of the Kerry campaign, but also of Republican Senator John McCain, and even generally and at a distance, the White House. Our fifth story on the Countdown, Swift Boat Veterans for Bush..."
Olbermann, after going on at length about how those featured in the ad did not serve on Kerry's boat (though they were in the same division with him), asked Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly: "Well, why is this one worse than any other misdirecting unsubstantiated attack ad that is conveniently not directly traceable to the other candidate's campaign?" Crawford charged: "Well, as lies go, it's just another lie, I suppose..."
None of the broadcast network morning shows on Thursday touched the ad (see item #2 below for Friday morning coverage), but on Thursday the cable networks did pick up on the ad. FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume featured a story and discussed it during the panel segment, Bill O'Reilly looked at the subject and Hannity & Colmes, which on Wednesday night had played the ad, ran separate segments with a members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and a Kerry-backing Vietnam vet. MSNBC, a bit before 5pm EDT, showcased pro and con on Kerry Vietnam vets and devoted a large part of the misnamed After Hours show at 9pm EDT, co-hosted by Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan, to it. I don't believe Hardball touched it on Thursday night. CNN looked at the ad on Inside Politics and Judy Woodruff interviewed Larry Thurlow of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Jim Rassmann, the man whose rescue by Kerry is in dispute.
NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered on Thursday didn't touch the ad, the MRC's guy monitoring the network, Tom Johnson, reported.
The transcript of the ad which shows black and white Vietnam-era photos in the background as video of the veterans, in color, plays in the foreground:
John Edwards: "If you have any question about what John Kerry is made of, just spend 3 minutes with the men who served with him."
Al French: "I served with John Kerry."
Bob Elder: "I served with John Kerry."
George Elliott: "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."
Al French: "He is lying about his record."
Louis Letson: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury."
Van O'Dell: "John Kerry lied to get his bronze star. I know, I was there, I saw what happened."
Jack Chenoweth: "His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day."
Admiral Hoffman: "John Kerry has not been honest."
Adrian Lonsdale: "And he lacks the capacity to lead."
Larry Thurlow: "When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry."
Bob Elder: "John Kerry is no war hero."
Grant Hibbard: "He betrayed all his shipmates. He lied before the Senate."
Shelton White: "John Kerry betrayed the men and women he served with in Vietnam."
Joe Ponder: "He dishonored his country. He most certainly did."
Bob Hildreth: "I served with John Kerry. John Kerry cannot be trusted."
Announcer: "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is responsible for the content of this advertisement."
That's posted at: www.swiftvets.com
To view the ad: www.swiftvets.com
Now, a more detailed rundown of Thursday night coverage, starting with CBS and its record of obfuscation of Kerry's Vietnam record while championing the vets who support him:
-- CBS. On the August 5 CBS Evening News, anchor John Roberts intoned: "A harsh new television ad that attacks John Kerry is being denounced as quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable' by a Bush supporter, Republican Senator John McCain. [Roberts talks over clip of ad] The ad features Vietnam veterans who question Kerry's war record, patriotism, and fitness to lead. McCain, himself a Vietnam POW, said the White House should condemn the ad put out by a veterans' group [end of ad video]. A presidential spokesman chose not to condemn the ad today, but emphasized that the Bush campaign had nothing to do with it, and does not question Kerry's war record."
Last Thursday night, before John Kerry's convention speech, Dan Rather set up a CBS Evening News story which showcase several pro-Kerry veterans: "Those who served with him in Indochina are still with him now. They are part of what goes on inside John Kerry. And it's tonight's 'Inside Story.' John Kerry went to war and came home a changed man. A decorated wounded warrior who became an anti-war leader." See: www.mediaresearch.org
That morning, in a glowing profile, Byron Pitts showed Kerry as an anti-Vietnam war protester in 1971 dramatically asking Senators, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake," but he gave no hint how Kerry alienated a great many Vietnam veterans by making unfounded charges of war crimes. CBS's entirely positive review of Kerry's life ended with some of the Kerry campaign's preferred "Band of Brothers" imagery:
"The day before his speech, Kerry crossed Boston Harbor with some of his crew mates from Vietnam. His band of brothers. They have one battle left. But tonight the loner will stand alone here in his hometown one more time and look to do what John F. Kerry has nearly always done -- find a way to win." See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- On July 22 Dan Rather prompted John Kerry to expound on how he's angry at President Bush for criticizing his Vietnam service while Bush avoided the war. Rather asked Kerry: "Have you ever had any anger about President Bush, who spent his time during the Vietnam War in the National Guard, running, in effect, a campaign that does its best to diminish your service in Vietnam?" Kerry replied, "Yup, I have been," and went on to confirm it "grates a little bit" and is "irritating." See: www.mrc.org
CBS News has steadfastly avoided the swift boat veterans, excerpt on the one occasion when CBS smeared them:
# April 22 CyberAlert: A lot more skeptical of Bush than Kerry on Vietnam-era service. Back on February 10 when the White House released George W. Bush's National Guard records, the networks stressed how they only "raise more questions." But with Kerry, the networks ignored for a week questions raised last week in the Boston Globe about whether he deserved one of his Purple Hearts, and then prompted by Kerry's release of his records finally got to the story on Wednesday, but were satisfied with the records despite the lack of documentation for his first Purple Heart. "We'll take 'A Closer Look' tonight at John Kerry's distinguished war record," ABC anchor Charles Gibson promised Wednesday night in stating as fact a claim that is in dispute. Gibson then shifted the burden to Kerry's critics: "His opponents are trying hard to use it against him." CBS didn't even consider Kerry newsworthy, but NBC and CNN ran stories. See: www.mediaresearch.org
# April 23 CyberAlert: CBS on Thursday night caught up with the Kerry campaign's release of his Vietnam military service records, but reporter Jim Stewart avoided the very allegation from Kerry's former commander -- that he really didn't suffer a combat wound for which he was awarded his first Purple Heart -- the charge that fueled the document release. Instead, anchor Dan Rather stressed how the records "show glowing evaluations of him during combat in the Vietnam War." Stewart reminded viewers of Kerry's Senate testimony 30 years ago and noted how "a lot of veterans got mad at Kerry," but avoided citing Kerry's most incendiary claims which so angered his comrades, that Americans regularly committed atrocities in Vietnam, as he asserted that Kerry is "still trying to explain the path that led him from war hero to anti-war activist." Stewart even painted Kerry as a victim, recalling how "Kerry suspected there would be a price" to pay for his anti-war activism. See: www.mediaresearch.org
# May 5 CyberAlert: CBS on Tuesday night tried to discredit some Vietnam veterans critical of John Kerry by impugning them as partisan activists tied to the Bush campaign, though the only link seems to be a public relations firm involved in the 2000 campaign, and tarring all of them with the supposed dirty work for Richard Nixon of one. Very McCarthyistic. FNC's Carl Cameron, however, managed to avoid innuendo as he undermined the credibility of specific vets by showing how in the past they had praised Kerry. CBS's Byron Pitts went back to 1971 as he recalled how John O'Neill, who debated Kerry about Vietnam on ABC's Dick Cavett Show, "was handpicked by the Nixon administration to discredit Kerry." Pitts added, without any explanation, that "the press conference was set up by the same people who," in 2000, "tried to discredit John McCain's reputation in Vietnam service." Then Pitts connected the anti-Kerry veterans to a presumed nefarious "strategy" they had nothing to do with implementing: "It's the same strategy used to go after Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam." See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He teased his show, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Swift Boat Veterans for Bush: The new high and low in the presidential ad campaign. They're swift boat veterans all right. It's just that, despite the title, none of them were on any of John Kerry's swift boats. Swift condemnation from John McCain and from even the White House."
Olbermann set up his lead segment: "Good evening. There has not been a daisy yet with its little girl and big mushroom cloud, nor one that uses a picture of Osama bin Laden in an attack on an incumbent Senator's record. But the ads of campaign 2004 just stepped up to a new level today -- or down to one -- with the release of an anti-John Kerry commercial that immediately brought the condemnation not merely of the Kerry campaign, but also of Republican Senator John McCain, and even generally and at a distance, the White House. Our fifth story on the Countdown, Swift Boat Veterans for Bush, 12 survivors of Vietnam in quick, surgically incisive sound bites explaining why John Kerry should not be President. In an ad already running in swing states such as Ohio, Wisconsin and West Virginia. The implication of the name 'Swift Boat Veterans for Bush' is that the vets somehow served with John Kerry. The fact is not one of them was on either of his boats. The meaning of 'served with him' is literally 'they were in the same war he was.'"
Van Odell, Gunners Mate 2nd Class [from ad]: "John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star. I know, I was there, I saw what happened."
Jack Chenoweth, Lieutenant J.G [from ad]: "His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day."
Roy Hoffmann, Rear Admiral [from ad]: "John Kerry has not been honest-"
Adrian Lonsdale, Commander [from ad]: "-and he lacks the capacity to lead."
Larry Thurlow, Lieutenant J.G [from ad]: "When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry."
Olbermann: "One of the vets who rips Kerry in this spot, George Elliott, praised him in 1996, calling Kerry's Vietnam swift boat pursuit of the enemy, quote, 'an act of courage.' There is a 13th speaker in the 60-second spot, Dr. Lewis Letson, claims, 'I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury.' Kerry's campaign pointed out that none of the medical records concerning his injury are signed by a Dr. Letson, and there is no evidence he treated Kerry's wound. Kerry, of course, has not hesitated for a moment to bring his actual crewmates into this campaign as a theatrical element in as theatrical a way as possible. They stood beside him on the deck of the craft that took him to the Democratic Convention last week. They stood on the stage at the Fleet Center with him. One of them, Jean Thorsen, says of the ad today, 'These are assertions are garbage. These people were not there with John Kerry.' Another Vietnam vet went further. He called them dishonest and dishonorable. Republican Senator John McCain, who added that the ad was additionally distressing to him because it was similar to ones that attacked him during the Republican primary of 2000 and because this ad was created by the same agency that produced McCain's own advertising that year. But he reserved his greatest criticism for the White House [text on screen]. 'I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad,' McCain told reporters. 'I can't believe the President would pull such a cheap stunt.' In reply, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters, 'We have not and we will not question Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam. We're calling for a cessation to all the unregulated soft money activity.' For Kerry's supporters, that was not, not surprisingly, enough."
Jim Rassmann, Vietnam Veteran: "I submitted John for the Silver Star for pulling me out of the water under fire. That is what happened. That's what the Navy agreed is what happened. If they felt otherwise, they should have brought this up 35 years ago."
Olbermann questioned his guest: "Well, why is this one worse than any other misdirecting unsubstantiated attack ad that is conveniently not directly traceable to the other candidate's campaign?"
Craig Crawford, MSNBC (and CBS News) political analyst, in Washington, DC: "Well, as lies go, it's just another lie, I suppose, but that is a pattern we've seen in this campaign, and ironically enough, because of McCain-Feingold, the campaign finance reform McCain himself put his name on. It allowed this unregulated world of independent soft money on ads attacking others."
Olbermann: "I am sensing, and I guess it's based in part on Senator McCain's reaction, that this one, though, for some reason, hit home harder than usual. Is it still possible to, despite McCain-Feingold, obviously the holes with which you can drive trucks or, at least, TV trucks through, that, that you can, in fact, make political ads so bad that even politicians will again try to reform this process?"
Crawford: "It's going to be a tough process to reform. We have this constitutional right, as the Supreme Court's found, that for these groups to do these things, so the only way to control it, I suppose, is if the beneficiary of an ad comes out and condemns it specifically. And I'm sorry, that quote we just read from the Bush campaign, that's no such thing."
Olbermann: "To those quotes, 'We want to discontinue all such unregulated soft money activity,' I'm paraphrasing Scott McClellan there. Is there also in that not nearly just not very much of a condemnation, kind of a courtesy condemnation, but is that also a, is something in political speak a message to the Kerry campaign that might translate along the lines of, 'Stop those folks over at MoveOn.org and all their ads about the President, or you will see more of these?"
Crawford: "Sure, I mean, this is an explicit message, I would say, to the Kerry camp on that because the Democrats have gained the most advantage from this loophole earlier in the year when Kerry hadn't raised enough money and the independent groups were attacking Bush, and that is equivalent to, at a ball game, you know, where the fans erupt in a brawl, and then steal the show. I mean, here you've got the fans on either side of the campaigns just causing such a stir, and it's not going to stop. We're going to see a lot of this sort of thing from here to November 2nd."
As for whether those in the ad "served with" Kerry, they were officers who mostly commanded other swift boats which patrolled alongside Kerry's boat and were based together. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has an interesting Web page with a photo from Vietnam of Kerry posing with 19 of his officer colleagues. Put your curser over it and all but Kerry and two of the men disappear. The two are the only ones of the 19 who are supporting Kerry. Go to: www.swiftvets.com
-- ABC's World News Tonight skipped the ad. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up ABC's campaign story: "Turning now to politics, the campaigns turned to talk of the 9/11 attacks today. Democratic challenger John Kerry criticized the way President Bush reacted in the first moments after the planes hit the towers. It did not take long for the Bush administration to fire back. ABC's Dan Harris is traveling with the Kerry campaign in Missouri tonight."
Dan Harris: "Senator Kerry's comment to a group of minority journalists this morning was the first time he's criticized the President's actions on September 11th. [video of Bush in classroom] When Mr. Bush was told about the second plane hitting the World Trade Center, he stayed in front of a class of children in Florida for upwards of seven minutes."
Kerry at UNITY: Journalists of Color conference: "I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the President of the United States had something that he needed to attend to [loud applause from the journalists]. And I would have attended to it."
Harris: "Kerry aides later said the Senator was simply answering a question from the audience."
Scott McClellan on the road: "It's just sad to see Senator Kerry make such a comment, simply for political purposes, about one of the most tragic events in our nation's history."
Harris, over scenes from Fahrenheit 9/11 showing Bush hitting golf balls and riding in a golf cart: "The Bush campaign says Kerry was 'taking his cues' from Michael Moore's movie, Fahrenheit 9/11," in which Moore ridicules the President for reading My Pet Goat while the towers burned."
Harris back on camera in Jefferson City: "The war on terror is a loaded political issue. But beyond the politics, there are genuine policy differences between the two candidates..."
Kerry got the question, and loud approving applause, at the conference in Washington, DC of the very liberal, every four year meeting of UNITY: Journalists of Color, made up of four groups of journalists: Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association. Its home page: www.unityjournalists.org
President Bush appeared Friday morning and got questions which were more hostile and received much more muted applause, C-SPAN and CNN coverage revealed.
-- CNN's NewsNight. Aaron Brown announced up top: "Good evening again. Here's a question to start the night. If someone makes an allegation in a political campaign, a serious allegation, should we report it simply because it's made? Is the allegation itself news? Let's say, for example, that someone alleges that a candidate had a drug problem at some point in his life. Should that allegation be reported if we don't know the truth of it or can't confirm any of it just because someone makes the charge? We actually dealt with this four years ago with one of the candidates for president. And we didn't report it because, though we tried to find the evidence, we could not. Was that the right call? Were we taking sides by not reporting the allegation? Should we just allow anyone to say anything and let the other side deny it and go home and call it a night? This is the political season, and some pretty nasty things are being said and will be said. Do you think we should report them all, throw in the denials and say we've done our job? That's a question for you to consider tonight."
Not sure what Brown means by how he "didn't report" on a candidate's past drug problem. In July/August 1999, that would be five years ago, when allegations about George W. Bush circulated, Brown was with ABC News and so maybe he personally didn't do anything on the matter, but ABC didn't hesitate to pick up on the rumors. As I recounted in an August 23, 1999 op-ed in the Washington Times:
"The drug questions were fueled in late July by a week-long profile of Mr. Bush in the Washington Post. Reporters Lois Romano and George Lardner insisted, 'We need to ask the cocaine question. We think you believe that a politician should not let stories fester. So why won't you just deny that you've used cocaine?' ABC invited Ms. Romano to be a guest on the July 27 edition of Good Morning America to dismiss Mr. Bush's answer: "He's basically declared that his life began at 40 and that we're supposed to not ask about that other fellow before 40 and I don't know if he can hold to that position."
For details on how all the networks jumped on the Bush drug use story, see: www.mediaresearch.org
Later, on Thursday's NewsNight, Brown introduced a full story on Kerry's comments about Bush and the seven minutes: "It's a potential minefield for both presidential candidates in an election in which 9/11 and national security are key issues: How to avoid to appear to be exploiting 9/11 for political gain? Dicey business made clear again today when Senator John Kerry spoke at a conference of minority journalists in Washington. Here's CNN's Dana Bash."
Bash began: "It's a memorable image of September 11th. The President is told America is under attack. Visibly stunned, he does not leave a Florida classroom. On a D.C. detour, John Kerry, responding to a question, said he would have acted differently."
John Kerry: "I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the President of the United States had something that he needed to attend to. And I would have attended to it." [applause for the journalists]
Bash, over video of Bush in the classroom followed by film of Kerry in Vietnam: "Mr. Bush has said he was just trying to project a sense of calm until he had more information. Senator Kerry says being President is about having gut instincts in those situations, toughness he found on a battlefield. Hindsight is 20/20, but this is a candidate trying to fight a Bush campaign painting him as indecisive, not fit to lead, and a President Americans still see as best to fight terrorism. The President in Ohio didn't mention the swipe. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani did, saying, quote, 'John Kerry must be frustrated in his campaign if he is arm chair quarterbacking based on cues from Michael Moore.' The controversial film Fahrenheit 9/11 mocks the President for waiting seven minutes before responding. A Kerry spokeswoman says he never saw the film. On the trail, no surrender."
Kerry in Missouri: "I pledge to you, Missouri, I can fight a more effective, smarter and better war."
Bash concluded: "And like Bill Clinton and Al Gore before them, the senators John boarded Harry Truman's train hoping to capture the magic of his famous 1948 whistle-stop tour. Dana Bash, CNN, Jefferson City, Missouri."
Media Treat McCain Condemnation as More
Newsworthy than Charges
Friday morning newspapers and TV treated Senator John McCain's condemnation of the anti-Kerry ad from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as more newsworthy than the substance of the charges the network morning shows have ignored until now. "McCain Criticizes Ad Attacking Kerry on Vietnam War Record," declared a front page Washington Post headline over a story that in nearly 1,200 words didn't quote a word from the ad, but which noted in its second paragraph that the ad "was financed in part by a major Republican Party donor in Texas."
For the August 6 Post story: www.washingtonpost.com
"It's getting ugly out there," Today co-host Campbell Brown fretted before she asked Tim Russert: "Republican Senator John McCain, a Vietnam vet, has come out and said that, that ad is quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable.' Should the White House be doing the same thing or the Bush campaign, rather, be doing the same thing?"
Over on CBS's Early Show, Harry Smith emphasized how "Republican John McCain is defending Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry over a controversial ad campaign." Cynthia Bowers tried to discredit the ad: "This is not the first time this particular group of veterans has raised this issue and, in fact, most of the funding for this ad just happens to come from a Houston-based Republican."
ABC's Jake Tapper, on Good Morning America, seemed the least hostile to the ad, but he stressed how "the ad is so tough, even some top Republicans have come out against it." Tapper also recalled: "Running against Bush four years ago, McCain, too, saw his war record questioned by Bush allies, though then, as now, not by the Bush campaign itself."
CNN's American Morning brought aboard, for interviews conducted by Bill Hemmer, the anti-Kerry Bob Elder and the pro-Kerry Dal Sundusky.
Friday's New York Times carried an article by Jim Rutenberg headlined: "Anti-Kerry Ad Is Condemned by McCain." But unlike the Washington Post which ignored the ad on Thursday, the Times on Thursday had run a story about the new ads: "Vietnam Veterans Buy Ads to Attack Kerry." That was penned by Jodi Wilgoren.
For the August 5 New York Times story: www.nytimes.com
For the August 6 New York Times article: www.nytimes.com
Now, a further rundown of the anti-Kerry ad coverage on the NBC, CBS and ABC morning shows, as provided by MRC analysts Geoff Dickens, Brian Boyd and Jessica Anderson:
-- NBC's Today. Co-host Campbell Brown teased: "And terror also took center stage in campaign 2004 on Thursday with John Kerry slamming President Bush for his actions on 9/11 drawing a fierce Republican response and this came as a new attack ad has emerged belittling Kerry's service in Vietnam. Is this a sign of things to come in the campaign? We're gonna talk to Tim Russert about that."
Brown set up the Russert segment: "Now to presidential politics where the gloves are off. On Thursday John Kerry slammed President Bush for his actions on 9/11 and a new attack ad was released questioning Kerry's service in Vietnam. Tim Russert is NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press. Tim, good morning."
Russert: "Good morning, Campbell."
Brown: "It's getting ugly out there. Let's start with this new attack ad. This is from a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, not put out by the Bush campaign. But I want to play a bit and get your reaction."
Clip of ad:
Lt. Commander Louis Letson: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first purple heart because I treated him for that injury."
Van Odell, Gunners Mate 2nd Class: "John Kerry lied to get his bronze star. I know, I was there. I saw what happened."
Lt. J.G. Jack Chenoweth: "His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day."
Brown, back live: "Tim, Republican Senator John McCain, a Vietnam vet, has come out and said that, that ad is quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable.' Should the White House be doing the same thing or the Bush campaign, rather, be doing the same thing?"
Russert: "Well they have been asked about it, Campbell. And what they've said is that, 'let's just stop all this independent campaign financing of these kinds of ads.' Which is interesting because if that happened John Kerry, because he's now taking federal money has not gone on the air until September would, in effect, be removed from the air waves. The interesting thing, I think to look at in this ad is it cuts to the core of John Kerry's candidacy. That he's an honored Vietnam veteran. The Democrats are quick to point out that the people who are seen in that ad did not specifically serve on the same boat as John Kerry and that it, it's being funded in large part by a Houston developer who had given President Bush money. The Republicans will counter saying it has nothing to do with the White House. But it is, it is, it is, it is a very tough, direct hit at John Kerry. One last thing Campbell. Democrats say, 'Listen there are four people at the top of the national tickets. Only one served in the active military during Vietnam, only one volunteered to go to Vietnam and his name is John Kerry."
Brown moved on to the seven minutes: "Tim, let's turn to another issue. The, uh, Kerry has faulted Bush for a scene that people are familiar with from Fahrenheit 9/11. When the President was sitting in a Florida classroom reading to school children in the moments after the attacks and Kerry says, well we have a soundbite actually. Let me play the bite and get your reaction."
John Kerry at UNITY: Journalists of Color: "Had I been reading to children and had my top aide whispered in my ear, 'America is under attack.' I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the President of the United States had something that he needed to attend to. And I would've attended-"
Brown: "Tim, the Republican reaction to that coming from Rudy Giuliani who says, 'John Kerry must be frustrated in his campaign if he is armchair quarterbacking based on cues from Michael Moore. John Kerry is an indecisive candidate who has demonstrated an inconsistent position on the war on terror.' Should this issue even be part of this debate?"
Russert: "I was surprised when John Kerry raised it, Campbell. Because it is taken from the Michael Moore movie Fahrenheit 9/11. Many of the Democrats I speak to think it plays to the converted. People who are upset by George Bush's handling of September 11th are already gonna vote against George Bush. Will it affect independent swing voters? That's an open question. But it tells you about the intensity of this campaign around one central issue: Who is better fit to serve as commander- in-chief? Whether it's the criticism of John Kerry's Vietnam record or the criticism of George Bush's action on September 11th."
Brown: "Quickly Tim. You had both campaigns out on the road this week but also enormous amount of attention on these new terror threats. Who won the week?"
Russert: "Well it's pretty tough Campbell. What happened, I think, after the rollout of the Democratic convention everything just froze with the announcement of the terror alerts. And people in both campaigns believe that any time you are talking about terror, rather than the economy it's a net plus for the Republicans and the Bush White House. But this race is still too close to call."
-- CBS's The Early Show didn't get to the story until the 8am news. Harry Smith announced: "Republican John McCain is defending Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry over a controversial ad campaign. CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers is following the Kerry campaign. She's in Kansas City this morning. Good morning, Cynthia."
Bowers explained: "Good morning, Harry. This is not the first time this particular group of veterans has raised this issue and, in fact, most of the funding for this ad just happens to come from a Houston based Republican."
George Elliott in ad: "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."
Bowers: "The 60 second spot scheduled to run in small markets in three swing states: Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, features Vietnam swift boat veterans who challenge John Kerry's war record."
John Kerry in stump speech: "I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president of the United States."
Bowers: "The Kerry camp, which has used his service in Vietnam as a major selling point, calls the commercial 'an inflammatory outrageous lie' and in a letter to local TV stations asks them to pull it. Communications director Stephanie Cutter says the American people deserve better."
Stephanie Cutter, Kerry-Edwards campaign: "I think the American people are tired of these misleading attack ads by the Bush-Cheney campaign. We need to talk about real issues."
Bob Elder in ad: "John Kerry is no war hero."
Bowers: "The timing of the commercial coincides with the August 15th release of this book: Unfit for Command, which questions Kerry's status as a war hero. Republican Senator John McCain, a war hero himself, denounced the ad as 'dishonest and dishonorable'. And points out a similar tactic was used against him four years ago during his contentious primary race against George Bush."
McCain to Bush in 2000 debate: "I don't know how, if you can understand this, George, but that really hurts."
Bowers: "He called on the White House, Thursday, to condemn the practice."
Bush: "That's what I'm here asking for, for four more years."
Bowers: "The Bush administration declined to do that but rather called for an end to the campaign finance reform loophole that helps fund these attack ads, a number of which have targeted the President."
Scott McClellan, White House press secretary: "We've called for an immediate cessation of these ads and we hope Senator Kerry will join us."
Bowers: "The Kerry camp is taking a wait and see approach to that challenge, Harry. But for now, some TV stations have already agreed to pull the ad."
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Near the end of the 7am half hour, Diane Sawyer asserted: "Well, this morning, we're turning now to a new hot potato being passed around on the campaign trail, a group of Vietnam veterans casting a shadow on John Kerry's war record, and ABC's Jake Tapper has a report on all this from Washington. Jake."
Tapper began: "Good morning, Diane. Well, these anti-Kerry Vietnam veterans have launched a very controversial new ad in a few key battleground states, slamming John Kerry's record as a soldier. The ad is so tough, even some top Republicans have come out against it. It is a harsh attack on perhaps the most compelling aspect of John Kerry, his decorated service in Vietnam. The ad calls him a bad leader who lied to get his medals." [clip from ad] But in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Republican Senator and decorated Vietnam veteran John McCain had harsh words for the ad."
Senator John McCain: "I condemn the ads as dishonest and dishonorable and I think it's very, very wrong."
Tapper: "Running against Bush four years ago, McCain, too, saw his war record questioned by Bush allies, though then, as now, not by the Bush campaign itself. McCain says that's irrelevant, but he issued a challenge to President Bush."
McCain: "I hope that the President will also condemn it."
Tapper: "So far he has not. These anti-Kerry activists have been attacking Kerry relentlessly for months."
Larry Thurlow, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: "In my estimation, he was not a war hero and he certainly wasn't a strong leader, two of the things that he's used as a central platform for his campaign."
Tapper: "But none of them served with Kerry on his boat. His actual crewmates reject their charges."
David Alston: "To me it's disgusting."
Del Sandusky: "John Kerry earned every one of those medals."
Unidentified crewmate: "What boat were you riding on? Because you weren't there, we were."
Tapper: "The Kerry campaign calls it dirty politics and notes two of the veterans from the ad praised Kerry's war record eight years ago. Here's one of them, George Elliott in 1996."
George Elliott: "The fact that he chased an armed enemy down is something not to be looked down upon, but it was an act of courage."
Tapper: "And here he is today."
Elliott, in ad: "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."
Tapper concluded: "So who's behind all this? Democrats want you to know that some top Texas Republicans are funding the group, though the Bush campaign insists it has nothing to do with the group of anti-Kerry Vietnam veterans. For its part, the group says it will keep going until November and maybe even beyond."
"Top Ten Signs Tom Ridge Needs a Vacation"
From the August 4 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs Tom Ridge Needs a Vacation." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Rides around in a chariot pulled by bomb-sniffing dogs
9. Recently announced, "We must destroy Norway before Norway destroys us"
8. Has started posting nude photos of himself on the Homeland Security Web site
7. Wore mickey mouse ears to press conference and screamed, "I can't go to Disneyworld 'cuz of the stupid terrorists!"
6. Blew off terrorist briefing to see "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle"
5. Wears slacks that match the color of the current terror alert
4. Before making important decisions, asks self, "What would Courtney Love do?"
3. Issues separate terror warnings for squirrels
2. Stands outside White House all day screaming, "Condoleezza!!!!!!"
1. Yesterday had lunch with Osama -- completely forgot to call the cops
Tonight, Friday, on the Late Show: Retired General Tommy Franks.
-- Brent Baker
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