Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler logo
PROFILES IN COWARDICE (PART 1)! Three Swift vets defended Kerry. But the “press” didn’t dare let you know: // link //

PROFILES IN COWARDICE (PART 1): Forgive a bit of repetition. But let’s examine the way the press has pursued a basic issue of fact in the critical Swift Boat Vets story.

For several weeks, the corps has pretended to be deeply puzzled by a troubling factual question. Was there really enemy fire when Kerry pulled Jim Rassmann out of the drink? (This is the Kerry Bronze Star event.) Swift Boat Veterans have said there was not—that Kerry is lying to burnish his heroism. And the Washington press corps has scratched its head about this deeply troubling matter. The corps has pretended to be involved in a tireless search for the actual facts. On cable, millionaire hosts have struggled hard to get to the truth of the matter.

And then, at last! Eureka! Starting last Sunday, three witnesses to that day’s events came forward supporting Kerry’s assertion (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/27/04). (Kerry’s assertion is, of course, supported by all naval records.) Wayne Langhofer and Jim Russell were crewmen on PCF-43—the boat directly behind Kerry’s that day. And Robert Lambert was on PCF-51, where he served as radar man to Larry Thurlow, one of Kerry’s most aggressive accusers. And last week, all three vets came forward to say that there was hostile fire when Kerry saved Rassmann. Lambert had actually saved Thurlow’s life—and he said there was enemy fire.

Wow! You’d think these statements would get big play from a press corps in headlong pursuit of the truth. But if you thought that, you don’t understand America’s current political culture, and you don’t understand the Potemkin “press corps” that pretends to steward your public debate. How much play did these veterans get—three unaffiliated Swift Boat crewmen who all came forward supporting Kerry? As of today, few voters know what these three men have said. Increasingly, your national “press” is a screaming joke—and so, therefore, is your democracy.

Let’s start with MSNBC, whose millionaire pundits pretended to puzzle about this matter all last week. How often were the network’s viewers told what Langhofer, Russell and Lambert had said? Prepare to learn how your “press” really works. How much play did these three crewmen get? According to the Nexis record:

  1. Langhofer’s name was never mentioned on MSNBC last week.
  2. Russell’s name wasn’t mentioned, either.
  3. Lambert’s statement, published Thursday morning, was mentioned once—on the that evening’s Countdown.
Astonishing, isn’t it? To state the obvious, MSNBC’s evening programs flogged the Swift Boat accusations all week. And this Bronze Star incident was discussed as much as any single event. Indeed, the network’s famous millionaire hosts wracked their brains and puzzled hard, trying to sort out the actual facts. But if you watched MSNBC all last week, you’ve still never heard of Langhofer or Russell, and you’ve heard Lambert’s statement mentioned just once! Of course, you have heard, again and again, the accusations made against Kerry. But when three crewmen stepped forward to challenge these claims, their statements went straight down the memory hole. MSNBC dropped the vets in the drink. They never were heard from again.

Of course, MSNBC is hardly alone in this amazing conduct. Predictably enough, CNN and Fox joined their sister net in consigning these statements to oblivion. The facts? According to Nexis, Langhofer’s name was never mentioned on CNN or Fox last week. And Russell’s name was mentioned just once—on Tuesday’s Inside Politics (CNN). The disappearing of Russell is especially striking, because the Kerry campaign arranged a Monday press event in which Russell produced a videotaped statement. Here’s the tape CNN played the one time it mentioned Russell:

RUSSELL (8/24/04): My recollection is that we were under fire during—off and on during the whole time that this incident took place. For anybody to say that we weren’t is—was on a different river, I think.
Amazing, isn’t it? This tape was available from Monday forward. But so what! Russell’s statement wasn’t played or reported on MSNBC or Fox—and CNN reported his statement just once. Finally, how about the most dramatic case? How about Lambert, the radar man who directly contradicted his own skipper, Thurlow? According to Nexis, Lambert’s statement wasn’t mentioned on any of these three cable nets. His statement went straight down the memory hole. His statement was dumped in the river.

Of course, one thing wasn’t thrown away—the nasty accusations being made by the bilious “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.” Accusations by John O’Neill’s Vets continued to get major play on these networks. Endlessly, viewers were told that men like Thurlow and Steve Gardner were calling Kerry a liar. But when Lambert came forward to contradict his own skipper, his statement was thrown in the drink.

Let’s not beat around the bush. There’s a word for this coverage, and you know the word: Fraud. Simply put, a hoax is being played on American voters as cable networks feign engagement in a search for the truth of these matters. Profiles in Cowardice rule the “press” as they cower before John O’Neill’s surly men. But then, such scams have been happening since 1988—and your “press corps” is still too scared to confront them. Profiles in Cowardice rule the press, as we’ll help you see all this week.

TOMORROW: Part 2! Matthews knew to run and hide when Reagan called the Swift Boat Vets liars.

HOW ABOUT YOUR MAJOR NEWSPAPERS: As everyone knows, the print press has done a much better job in covering the Swift Boat Vet accusations. We “know” this because Big Pundits keep reciting this claim—a claim that is baldly inaccurate.

For example, how did the New York Times cover the statements of Langhofer, Russell and Lambert? According to Nexis records, Langhofer’s name has never been mentioned in the brilliant paper of record. And Russell’s name was mentioned just once; his Monday statement earned two paragraphs, deep in a Tuesday news story (paragraphs 18 and 19). And how about Lambert, the most dramatic new witness, the guy who challenged his own skipper, Thurlow? Lambert’s interview was published Thursday morning. But his name hasn’t yet appeared in the Times. His statement has never been mentioned.

And like the Times, the Washington Post has performed like gut-bucket cowards. As we noted last week, the Post broke the story of Langhofer’s statement—consigning it to paragraphs 49 and 50 of a detailed Sunday news story! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/23/04.) Russell’s name was actually mentioned twice, although the substance of what he said was only reported one time (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/24/04). And how about Lambert, most dramatic of all, the guy who went right after Thurlow? Lambert can go jump off a bridge as far as the Washington Post is concerned. His statement hasn’t been mentioned in the Post, whose “reporters” continue to scratch their heads about the truth of these troubling accusations.

There’s a word for such coverage, and you know the word—fraud. But then, your press corps is made up of gut-bucket cowards. We’ll report their malfeasance all week.

WHO IS WILLIAM SCHACHTE: What happened when Kerry earned his first Purple Heart? For years, the story had been fairly clear. Kerry had been on an overnight mission with two crew-mates, Bill Zaladonis and Patrick Runyon; each supported Kerry’s account of the evening’s events. But then, in August, the story changed. John O’Neill began insisting that another veteran, William Schachte, had been present on Kerry’s boat that night. And needless to say, William Schachte didn’t agree with the conventional story. William Schachte didn’t believe that Kerry deserved that Purple Heart.

Zaladonis and Runyon both insist that Schachte wasn’t present that evening. And last week, Schachte finally gave a TV interview, to NBC’s Lisa Myers. (He says it’s the only one he will give.) Myers’ report was played on Friday’s Hardball; you can read the transcript here. But we specifically draw your attention to one thing Myers said:

MYERS (8/27/04): You are in a sense saying Senator Kerry is lying and did not deserve his first Purple Heart.

SCHACHTE: I'm saying that he did not deserve the first Purple Heart from what I saw. You can characterize it any way you want.

MYERS: But when interviewed briefly last year, Schachte did not make such a charge. And he has no documents to back up his claim to have been with Kerry that night.

Myers seems to refer to Schachte’s interview with the Boston Globe’s Michael Kranish. In June 2003, Kranish did a report on the Purple Heart incident as part of a seven-part Globe biographical series. After quoting Schachte about Kerry’s wound, Kranish said that Schachte, one of Kerry’s superiors, “oversaw the mission and went on to become a rear admiral.” But he didn’t say that Schachte was present that night. Nor has Kranish ever seemed to believe that Schachte was actually there on the boat. Earlier this year, the Globe published a full Kerry biography, which Kranish co-authored. The bio says that, on the evening in question, “Kerry and two other sailors trolled the darkened waters” (page 71). Zaladonis and Runyon are both quoted about the evening’s events. There is no suggestion that Schachte was present.

Of course, the Swift Boat Vets are full of scatter-brained skippers who have rearranged their previous stories. Is Schachte the latest Kerry-accuser to reinvent a previous tale? On Saturday night’s Capital Gang, Al Hunt did something quite unusual. He explicitly said that Schachte might be lying:

HUNT (8/28/04): I talked to those two enlisted men today. I talked to Pat Runyon and Bill Zaladonis. They both were on that boat December 2, 1968. They say there is no way that [Schachte] could have been on that boat. And they describe in vivid detail that night...

Moreover, Schachte has changed his story. A year ago, he talked to Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe, and he said that there was a firefight. He didn't say he was in the boat. He said Kerry was hit—quote, "hit”—though it wasn't very serious. Now he says there wasn't a firefight and it was a self-inflicted wound. Moreover, he went and he said that he—when he saw Kerry 20 years later in Washington, he was with a top aide of Fritz Hollings, Ashley Thrift. Ashley Thrift I talked to today and he said, No way. I wasn’t there.

So I think that—I think the admiral is either mistaken or he's lying.

Is Schachte lying? We have no way of knowing. But what did Schachte tell Kranish last year? If your press corps dared to do its job, they’d call up their colleague and ask him.

MSNBC UPDATE—DEBORAH DOES DUKAKIS: Last Thursday, MSNBC’s hapless hosts made a total mess of the Swift Boat case (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/28/04). In particular, Deborah Norville may have authored the worst performance we’ve ever seen on cable. But her clowning only continued the next night. Norville chatted with children of former pols. Here’s the type of political brilliance that gets you your own cable “news” show:

NORVILLE (8/27/04): We are back previewing the Republican National Convention with the sons and daughters of past presidents, vice presidents and candidates.

When George Bush ran for president the first time around in opposition with John Dukakis, they ran an ad that everybody said was one of the most biting political ads ever. Everybody remembers the Willie Horton ad. Does anyone think that George Bush, the current president, will take a chapter out of that page, because the lieutenant governor to John Dukakis was John Kerry?

Jack Carter, do you think that might be happening, that they would go that far?

Norville’s amorphous question was just as strange as her double reference to “John” Dukakis. What was Norville asking Carter? Was she really asking if the Bush campaign would run another Horton ad? That would be a normal reading of what she said—if such a question wouldn’t be so ridiculous. Could anyone possibly be more clueless about American political life?

Norville has her own show because she’s good-looking. Rick Kaplan, current head of MSNBC, should be embarrassed to the depth of his soul by the garbage he keeps putting on the air.

MSNBC UPDATE—KEITH GOES TO CAMP: Norville was grossly unprepared for Thursday night’s Swift Boat debacle. But then, so was her colleague, Keith Olbermann, one hour earlier. Why was Olbermann unprepared? Perhaps because the millionaire host is too busy to bother preparing! Wednesday night, Olbermann let admiring fans know where they could catch him on Thursday:

OLBERMANN (8/25/04): And, lastly, this brief and very self-serving promotional announcement. For those of you in New York City metropolitan area, if you would like to hear a fish out of water at noon Eastern tomorrow, I will be the guest host of the radio show of the legendary rock 'n' roll disc jockey Scott Muni. The station is WAXQ in New York, 104.3 FM, noon Thursday. No Captain & Tennille will be played during this program.
We’re supposed to find this amusing, of course. But why was Olbermann unprepared Thursday night? Perhaps because he spent the day in fantasy camp, pretending to be a disc jockey.

Of course, we know why Norville was unprepared. Norville tapes Inside Edition each day, then scurries to do her MSNBC program. One multimillion-dollar salary isn’t enough for this incompetent, selfish star. The result, of course, is a clowning embarrassment like Thursday night’s astonishing program. Question: How long will the American people put up with a “press” of this type?