On the August 24 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, co-host Alan Colmes confronted John E. O'Neill, co-founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and co-author of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, about several false attacks against Senator John Kerry (D-MA) by O'Neill and Swift Boat Veterans. Earlier today, Media Matters for America documented Colmes's confrontation of O'Neill's over his allegation that Kerry lied about being in Cambodia in 1968 and O'Neill's 1971 admission that he himself entered Cambodia. Following are other false attacks addressed by Colmes during O'Neill's appearance.
Colmes uncovered O'Neill's false claim that there's "not a bullet hole" in any of the swift boats involved in the combat that earned Kerry the Bronze Star
COLMES: All right. Let me show you something you said on this program when you were on last week [Hannity & Colmes, August 19]. Let me roll that tape.
O'NEILL: [video clip] This is a 75-yard-wide creek that these boats are on. They were on this creek, rescuing the three-boat for a period of an hour and a half. Not a single person was wounded after the original mine explosion. There's not a bullet hole in any of those three or four boats, not one.
COLMES: Now, that's at variance with a number of reports that's come out. Let me show you what the Los Angeles Times reported: "A damage survey filed with the Navy report said that three of the five boats involved sustained 'battle damage,' and [Swift Boat Vets member Larry] Thurlow's boat had .30 caliber bullet holes about super structure." And other reports, damage reports and after action reports, similarly say that there was damage to those boats.
O'Neill's only response -- that "[t]he boats were damaged the day before on March 12" -- didn't take into account his false claim that there was "not a bullet hole" in any of the boats.
Colmes nailed O'Neill on selectively contacting Kerry's former crewmates in order to portray two Kerry supporters as "neutral" (and visually as opponents)
COLMES: Mr. O'Neill, on your website at one point, you showed a photo of 19 officers from your division. The group -- you said that only one man in the picture that supported Kerry. A couple of others were neutral, you said. Two of those have come forward. Let me show you what they have said.
One of them said -- Rich McCann says, "I was never neutral about Kerry as president. If the question is whether John Kerry is fit to be commander in chief, my answer is absolutely."
Another guy named Rich Baker comes forward, and USA Today reports today that Baker says he was never contacted by your group. "Kerry is very well fit for command. He was one of the most courageous and aggressive swift boat captains in the division."
I know you've since took their pictures down. But why did you put them up in the first place if their stories don't confirm with what you say?
O'NEILL: We did exactly the right thing. We showed them as neutral. That was the best information they had. As soon as they announced for Kerry, we could.
The current count is of 23 officers there, there are 17 who condemn Kerry as unfit. There are four, by our count, that are for Kerry and indicate that he's fit. So the current count is about four and a half to one. And those guys are entitled to their opinion. But isn't it remarkable that when those few guys come out, they get a headline everywhere, whereas the 17 get no headlines anywhere?
COLMES: What I want to know, this is all about credibility, and you have put people up on your site who have since come forward. A number of people have changed their stories. Last time you were on, I confronted you with some of those people. And now more people come forward and say, "We were never contacted." Or "I'm not neutral about John Kerry," as your site suggests." So what does that say about the credibility of the Swift Boat Vets?
O'NEILL: I think we showed those people as having no opinion. That was based on our best information. As soon as they expressed an opinion and decided to, we shifted and showed them favorable to Kerry.
The count now, Alan, of the people who served right with him is 17 think he's unfit, and only four, with these guys, think he's fit.
When Colmes pointed out that "[a]ll of the people who were actually on his actual boat, as we pointed out many times, with the exception of one, [Stephen] Gardner, support him," O'Neill falsely claimed, "That's not right either."
Colmes raised the fact that a lawyer for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign has also provided legal assistance to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
COLMES: [N]ew information comes out tonight that a lawyer for President Bush's reelection campaign disclosed today that he has been providing legal advice for your group. And there have been lots of stories circulating about the relationship between your group and the Bush/Cheney reelection campaign.
This attorney, Benjamin Ginsberg, now has acknowledged he was providing advice to your group. Doesn't that hurt your case that there's no relationship between the two groups?
O'NEILL: Not at all. He's an independent lawyer to our group. He's with a huge law firm in Washington.
We've been sued by or had complaints filed by two large Washington firms, by any number of other people. I think we have a perfect right to retain the -- Ginsberg's firm on behalf of our group. I mean, what are we supposed to do, walk in with nobody?