Fact-checking FactCheck.org

By Joseph Farah

Those attacking the credibility of the swiftboat vets are citing a supposedly impartial, unbiased, non-partisan report on the Annenberg Foundation-supported FactCheck.org site as evidence their claims are bogus.

What I found there is a one-sided, biased report that seems to set out with one purpose – to undermine the legitimate assertions of some 250 sincere Vietnam veterans who believe with all their hearts John Kerry is a sinister fraud unworthy of being considered as a legitimate candidate for the presidency.

Let’s start with the headline: “Republican-funded Group Attacks Kerry’s War Record.”

It’s not true.

The Republican Party has offered no funding to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The report itself does not even suggest that is the case. But, of course, some people never get past the headlines.

The report begins:

A group funded by the biggest Republican campaign donor in Texas began running an attack ad Aug. 5 in which former swiftboat veterans claim Kerry lied to get one of his two decorations for bravery and two of his three Purple Hearts.

By citing the political persuasion of a key funding source for the ads, clearly the report is setting out to cast aspersions on the accuracy and truth of the 60-second commercial itself. In the news business, it would be considered much more newsworthy if the funding source were not predictable – if a Democrat were funding it. The fact that a Republican would fund the ad is hardly surprising. By this standard, Americans should disbelieve anything they hear from either John Kerry or George Bush during the campaign because it is all supported directly by partisan funds.

The report continues:

But the veterans who accuse Kerry are contradicted by Kerry’s former crewmen. One of the accusers says he was on another boat “a few yards” away during the incident which won Kerry the Bronze Star, but the former Army lieutenant whom Kerry plucked out of the water that day backs Kerry’s account. In an Aug. 10 opinion piece in the conservative Wall Street Journal, Rassman (a Republican himself) wrote that the ad was “launched by people without decency” who are “lying” and “should hang their heads in shame.”

First, this report suggests all of Kerry’s crewmen dispute what the ad charges. That’s not true. Neither does the report ever cite any specific refutation of the facts by any Kerry crewmen.

Notice, again, the gratuitous political characterizations in this report. We learn that the Wall Street Journal is “conservative.” We learn that Rassman is a “Republican.” Nowhere in the report, of course, does it point out that the point man in the group, the chief spokesman, the author of the No. 1 best-selling book in the nation, “Unfit for Command,” John O’Neill, is a long-time Democrat. Nowhere does it point out that others involved in the swiftboat vets group are Democrats.

There’s a reason: This report is not the unbiased, objective, neutral, fact-based analysis it pretends to be. It is a hatchet job on the Swift Boat Vets for Truth.

Four of the next five paragraphs of this rather short report are devoted to exposing Bob R. Perry – gasp, a Republican – as the source of the initial funding of the commercial. I don’t know whether it’s true. Nor do I care. What I care about are the facts. Is John Kerry a liar as 250 Vietnam vets who knew him best in his glorious war months say?

The next 16 paragraphs of the report are devoted to the supposed retraction offered to the Boston Globe by one of those appearing in the ad. Never mentioned is the fact that George Elliott says his views were completely misrepresented in the Globe account. Neither does the report mention that the Globe is Kerry’s hometown paper and has been carrying water for the candidate for more than 20 years.

“None of those in the attack ad by the swiftboat group actually served on Kerry’s boat,” says the report. “And their statements are contrary to the accounts of Kerry and those who served under him.”

This is perhaps the single most deceptive claim in the report – and the one that betrays the agenda behind it.

It suggests strongly that none of Kerry’s crewmen support the ad. Some do. Some don’t. Since the report is obsessed with the money behind the ad, has the unnamed author of this report bothered to find out how much Democratic money has been directed to those crewmen who now support Kerry’s version of reality? No.

But none of those challenging Kerry are being paid for their efforts. John O’Neill, for instance, author of the best-selling book, is donating all of his royalties to the U.S. Navy. These men are motivated by one thing and one thing only – the truth about John Kerry.

This report seems to care little about whether Kerry’s story stands up to the light of day and only with the motivations of those who challenge him.

Let me remind the FactCheck.org staff that John Kerry is seeking the presidency of the United States of America. These men challenging his honesty and his integrity do so with little hope of personal gain. They do so with sincere convictions. And they do so with great credibility.

The so-called “fact-checkers” here are only bothering to check certain facts. That’s not a search for the truth. That’s an attempt to spin. Some real fact-checkers ought to be looking at a 35-year record of lies, deceit, dishonesty, deception and fraud perpetrated by the man who desires to become the next president of the United States.

And, oh, by the way: I’m not a Republican. I don’t support Bush. I didn’t vote for him in 2000 and I am on record as not supporting his re-election. Now, can we get down to some real facts?