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CBS Employs McCarthyistic Tactics to Smear Anti-Kerry Veterans --5/5/2004


1. CBS Employs McCarthyistic Tactics to Smear Anti-Kerry Veterans
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."

2. CNN Uses Iraqi Prisoner Abuse to Bring Up Vietnam's My Lai
The horrific treatment of some Iraqi prisoners by some U.S. soldiers in Iraq led all the evening newscasts again Tuesday night, fueled by fresh condemnatory comments from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but CNN's Bruce Morton used the terrible treatment to argue that "we like to think that we're the good guys. But we're not. Not always." He then brought up Vietnam and an incident in which hundreds were murdered, as if that were equivalent: "We learned this lesson last in Vietnam, in a village called My Lai."


Correction: The May 1 CyberAlert, about last Friday's Nightline, suggested: "But by airing the list of names and pictures on the eve of the one-year anniversary of President Bush's much media-ridiculed 'Mission Accomplished' speech and aircraft carrier landing, ABC still raised suspicions about the motives behind the effort, especially when combined with how the list ignored those killed in Iraq..." Oops. Iraq on the mind. The entire Nightline was about Iraq and Iraq only. As I hope most figured out, that last word should have been "Afghanistan."

CBS Employs McCarthyistic Tactics to
Smear Anti-Kerry Veterans

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.

Dan Rather claimed on the CBS Evening News that veterans "allied with the Bush campaign attacked Senator Kerry today more directly and more personally" than had President Bush. Rather deplored how "their tactic was to depict Kerry, a wounded, highly-decorated Vietnam combat veteran, who eventually became a vocal opponent of that war, as unpatriotic and not a worthy leader."

CBS's Byron Pitts After running a couple of soundbites from those in the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Byron Pitts asserted that "some of the organizers have a track record of going after Democrats, and Republican opponents of President Bush." 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 tried to discredit John McCain's reputation in Vietnam service when McCain faced George W. Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000."

(That language matched a release on the Kerry Web site from Kerry Campaign Manager Mary Beth Cahill: "This attack was organized by the same pro-Bush group that smeared John McCain in 2000..." See: www.johnkerry.com )

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."

Though Pitts didn't say, his reference to "some of the organizers" apparently was to Spaeth Communications, but the most extensive story today I could find about the firm recalled how an executive of the firm was involved in criticizing McCain's environmental record. It made no mention of any attack on him over Vietnam.

Of course, by Pitts' standard we can now judge CBS News by the list of past clients for the PR firm 48 Hours hires to promote its next murder mystery hour.

In a May 5 Washington Post story, "Veterans Group Criticizes Kerry's War Record," reporter Paul Farhi outlined:
"O'Neill started the group earlier this year with help from Dallas communications specialist Merrie Spaeth, a former official in the Reagan White House who was spokeswoman in 2000 for Republicans for Clean Air, a group that spent $2 million on ads attacking Arizona Sen. John McCain's environmental record when he was seeking the GOP nomination against Bush. A director of that group was Sam Wylie, a Dallas investor who has contributed the maximum amounts allowable to the RNC and Bush's campaign.
"Spaeth is mentioned on the White House's official Web site as among the 'prominent public and private sector leaders who are alumni of the White House Fellows Program from Texas.' Spaeth's late husband, H.J. 'Tex' Lezar, a law partner of O'Neill's, was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Texas the same year Bush won his first term as governor."

For the Post article in full: www.washingtonpost.com

The home page for Spaeth Communications: www.spaethcom.com

One look at the barren Web site for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth will show it's not quite the well-funded, powerful group feared by CBS News: www.swiftvets.com

The night before, on Monday's CBS Evening News, Pitts did a little smearing of his own as he previewed how "tomorrow a group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth will release a letter it claims is signed by 200 veteran who served with Senator Kerry in Vietnam, men who call him quote, 'unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.' The Kerry campaign says the letter's bogus, including the names of veterans who don't even know they're listed."

In contrast, FNC's Carl Cameron managed to raise questions about the opportunism of some involved without impugning the whole effort or making uncorroborated claims about links to other political players. On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, after noting how John O'Neill has been consistent from the Dick Cavett Show in 1971 to now, Cameron ran a soundbite from former Kerry commander Grant Hibbard: "He later received a Purple Heart for that scratch and I have no information as to how or whom." Cameron then pointed out: "A critic now, in 1968 Hibbard described Kerry in various favorable ways as quote, 'one of the top few...in his willingness to seek and accept responsibility.' Captain George Elliott, who served in Vietnam at the same time Kerry did, condemns Kerry now for touting his service in a war that Kerry later protested."
Elliott at the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth event: "It just galls one to think about it."
Cameron: "But in '96 Elliott, and other Kerry critics of today, praised him for going after the enemy."
Elliott at an October 27, 1996 Kerry campaign event outdoors: "It was an act of courage and the whole outfit served with honor."

Neither ABC's World News Tonight nor the NBC Nightly News on Tuesday mentioned the press conference by the Swift Boat vets.

But CNN's Inside Politics did cover it. In studio, Candy Crowley explained: "We did have another group come up called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. This is headed by a man, Retired Admiral Roy Hoffman. They are critics of John Kerry. They don't like what he said about veterans when he came home. They believe his war record has been exaggerated, they believe that Kerry in fact has not put out all of the records that are there. They want him to tell the Pentagon to put everything out there so that they can see it. But in the end when you listened to it, what you heard is much of what we've been hearing over the past couple of weeks about John Kerry's service record as well as his peace record."
Hoffman: "I signed this letter because I do not believe John Kerry is fit to be the Commander-in-Chief of the United States armed forces. This is not a political issue. It is a matter of his judgment, truthfulness, reliability, loyalty and trust."
Crowley: "Again, that is Roy Hoffman, a retired admiral, one of the members of this Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The Kerry campaign pushed back as it is wont to do, wanting to respond to all things that are out there. They brought in Kerry's No. 2, a man we've seen a lot on the campaign trail."
Del Sandusky, Vietnam veteran: "We were with Senator Kerry on the river boat in Vietnam. We were there when he got his medals, when he got bloodied up and he deserved every one of his medals and we're just here to respond to say, we don't know where they're coming from or where they're getting these outrageous statements, but, you know, I don't think there's much basis in fact of what they're saying."
Crowley: "The letter that was referred to earlier, Judy, is they have written Senator Kerry and said tell the Pentagon to put out all of your records."

Anchor Judy Woodruff soon wanted to know: "Candy, any connection between this Hoffman group and the Republican party or the Bush-Cheney campaign?"
Crowley answered: "To tell you how sensitive this is, the Bush-Cheney campaign put out a press release and said the first we heard of this group was today. We didn't encourage them, however we do believe that all vets no matter who they support ought to be able to take part in the political process. Having said that, the Kerry campaign points out that there are Republicans here, in fact the woman that represents them is a Texas Republican who has contributed to the Bush campaign which is not all that surprising given they are saying that John Kerry's record in war is not what he's saying it is and he's not deserving of being commander-in-chief so-"
Woodruff: "They clearly don't want to see him elected President."
Crowley: "Exactly."

Now, a full rundown of the May 4 CBS Evening News story quoted in part above. Rather plugged the story before an ad break: "Coming up next here on the CBS Evening News: Playing the Vietnam card. How an experienced and successful Republican operation made up of veterans is attacking Vietnam war hero John Kerry. We'll give you the 'Inside Story.'"

Following a clip of President Bush at a campaign event criticizing Kerry by asserting that "you can't tax the rich enough to pay for all his promises. So guess who's going to Pay? You're going to pay," Rather intoned:
"Others allied with the Bush campaign attacked Senator Kerry today more directly and more personally. Their tactic was to depict Kerry, a wounded, highly-decorated Vietnam combat veteran, who eventually became a vocal opponent of that war, as unpatriotic and not a worthy leader. CBS's Byron Pitts gives you the 'Inside Story.'"

Pitts began, over video of Kerry at bottom of steps of plane: "It's a favorite tactic of the Kerry campaign. So in Albuquerque today, John Kerry, war hero, was greeted by Vietnam veterans, his band of brothers. But 1,800 miles away in Washington-"
Steve Gardner, Vietnam veteran, at the press conference at the National Press Club: "The John Kerry that I know is not the John Kerry that everybody else has portrayed."
Pitts: "-a different band played a different tune about the John Kerry they served with in Vietnam."
Rear Admiral Roy Hoffman, Vietnam veteran: "He was aggressive, but vain and prone to impulsive judgment. He was a loose cannon."
Pitts: "For nearly an hour, this group, called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, unleashed decades of bitterness, attacking Kerry's service record and his anti-war testimony before Congress, which they say painted them all as war criminals."
Unnamed veteran at press conference: "I'm here today to express the anger I've harbored for over 33 years about being accused, with my fellow shipmates, of war atrocities."
Pitts: "But if you think this is just a concerned group of veterans, think again. Some of the organizers have a track record of going after Democrats, and Republican opponents of President Bush."
John O'Neill, Vietnam veteran: "We believe, based on our experience with him, that he is totally unfit to be the Commander-in-Chief."
Pitts, over brief Dick Cavett Show video: "John O'Neill, he debated Kerry about Vietnam on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971. Back then he was handpicked by the Nixon administration to discredit Kerry. The press conference was set up by the same people who tried to discredit John McCain's reputation in Vietnam service when McCain faced George W. Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000. It's the same strategy used to go after Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam."
Cleland, at an event sometime in the past: "That sticks in my craw and it ought to stick in yours, because if you don't go to war don't throw rocks at those who did."
Pitts: "The Bush-Cheney campaign quickly denied any part in today's news conference. The Kerry campaign was just as quick to say they were behind it."
Wade Sanders, Vietnam veteran: "It smells like another dirty trick from the Bush-Cheney machine."
Pitts dismissively concluded: "Vietnam: Politicized then, politicized now."

To watch Pitts' story: www.cbsnews.com

Two articles posted on the MRC's CNSNews.com site offer a lot more on what members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth said in their letter and press conference.

"Kerry Was a 'Loose Cannon' in Vietnam, Says Ex-Commander," read the headline over a May 4 dispatch by Robert B. Bluey. An excerpt from the top:

John Kerry's former swift boat commanders and colleagues on Tuesday described the presumptive Democrat nominee as a self-absorbed and devious sailor during the Vietnam War who was there merely to advance a future political career.

A group of 18 veterans gathered in the nation's capital asking Kerry to authorize the Department of the Navy to independently release his military records, including medical information, about his service during the Vietnam War. Many said Kerry was unfit to be commander-in-chief of the U.S. military

More than 200 veterans have signed a letter from the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth seeking the release of records. Retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann commanded the fleet of swift boats -- the Navy's Task Force 115 -- during Kerry's tour of duty. Today he serves as chairman of the veterans' group.

"He arrived in country with a strong anti-Vietnam War bias and a self-serving determination to build a foundation for his political future," Hoffmann said. "He was aggressive, but vain and prone to impulsive judgment, often with disregard to specific tactical assignments. He was a loose cannon.

"In an abbreviated tour of four months and 12 days," Hoffmann added, "and with his specious medals secure, Lt. j.g. (junior grade) Kerry bugged out of Vietnam and began his infamous betrayal of all United States forces in the Vietnam War."...

END of Excerpt

For the article in its entirety: www.cnsnews.com

"Kerry 'Unfit to be Commander-in-Chief,' Say Former Military Colleagues," read the headline over a May 3 article by Marc Morano. See: www.cnsnews.com

CNN Uses Iraqi Prisoner Abuse to Bring
Up Vietnam's My Lai

CNN's Bruce Morton making comparison to My Lai, Vietnam The horrific treatment of some Iraqi prisoners by some U.S. soldiers in Iraq led all the evening newscasts again Tuesday night, fueled by fresh condemnatory comments from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but CNN's Bruce Morton used the terrible treatment to argue that "we like to think that we're the good guys. But we're not. Not always." He then brought up Vietnam and an incident in which hundreds were murdered, as if that were equivalent: "We learned this lesson last in Vietnam, in a village called My Lai."

The MRC's Ken Shepherd caught the story with which CNN ended the May 4 Inside Politics. Judy Woodruff set it up: "For most Americans, the reports and pictures of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners are inconceivable. As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put it, those acts are 'un-American.' But are they? Our Bruce Morton looks at a past war where horrible acts occurred. To our viewers, some of these pictures are graphic and may be disturbing."

Morton began: "The pictures of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib are hard to look at. They will make it easier for foreigners to hate America, but they will also make us take a hard look at ourselves. We like to think that we're the good guys. But we're not. Not always. We learned this lesson last in Vietnam, in a village called My Lai. In March of 1968, Charlie Company of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, came to My Lai and killed many unarmed men, women, and children. The plaque in the My Lai Museum lists 504. Americans learned of the massacre months later when Army photographer Ron Haberly's pictures ran in Life Magazine. They too, were hard to look at.
"Platoon commander Lt. William Calley was convicted of the murder of at least 22 Vietnamese. His company commander and two others were acquitted in separate trials. Aubrey Daniel, then an Army captain, later a Washington lawyer, was the prosecutor of Calley's court martial. He talked to CNN about the trial in 1995."
Daniel, in 1995: "They were the sons of Americans, the children of America who'd been sent to this war. So, I think it's always difficult for parents, perhaps, to recognize that a child can do something wrong. So I think it was a very difficult thing to accept, the reality that one of our own, or some of our own, could be engaged in this kind of conduct."
Morton: "Calley was found guilty, but then-President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence. Daniel wrote a protest letter. But what My Lai really did was make us all think twice about the war."
Daniel: "I think the My Lai massacre really brought into focus, for the country, the limits, if you will, on our consciences, it made us take a very, very long, hard look at the war, and the conduct of the war, and what it meant for Americans."
CNN showed pictures of the My Lai massacre followed by blurred out backsides of Iraqi men in humiliating poses as Morton closed his piece: "They keep a visitors book at My Lai. One American wrote that he'd been a medic in the war, adding quote, 'We need to realize we are all one. We all carry with us the potential to be the killer and the victim.' Maybe that's the lesson now, too. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington."

-- Brent Baker