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October 15, 2004
ABC Can't Do A Hit Piece Any Better Than CBS

Pity the mainstream media, which apparently fell asleep for the last four years and have woken to discover a brand new world. This time it's ABC's turn for embarassment, as their attempted attack on the Swiftvets has foundered on the shoals of a thousand fact-checkers -- and the calm determination of John O'Neill:

Nightline traveled to Vietnam and found a number of witnesses who have never been heard from before, and who have no particular ax to grind for or against Kerry. Only one of them, in fact, even knew who Kerry is. The witnesses, all Vietnamese, are still living in the same villages where the fighting took place more than 35 years ago. A Nightline producer visited them and recorded their accounts of that day. The accounts were subsequently translated by a team of ABC News translators. ...

The Vietnamese government initially rejected Nightline's request to visit the village, saying it did not want to somehow influence the U.S. presidential election. Once Nightline explained that the intention was to simply find out what the Vietnamese people remember and think of what happened there, permission was granted.

Well, if ABC bought that, then you have to question their political and news judgement. Kerry is considered a hero to the Vietnamese, not as some think because of his testimony in 1971 but in his efforts to normalize relations and trade in the 1990s with the Communists, as well as his efforts to bury the POW/MIA issue that enraged the Village Voice earlier this year. They owe a lot to John Kerry and have every reason to root for his election.

Villagers say this is what they saw:

"Firing from over here. Firing from over there. Firing from the boat," Vo Thi Vi told Nightline.

She was only a couple hundred yards away when a Swift boat turned and approached the shore, she said, adding that the boat was unleashing a barrage of gunfire as it approached.

"I ran," she recalled, "Running fast. ... And the Americans came from down there, yelling 'Attack, Attack!' And we ran."

Her husband, Tam, said the man who fired the B-40 rocket was hit in this barrage of gunfire. Then, he said, "he ran about 18 meters before he died, falling dead."

Was the man killed by Kerry or by fire from the Swift boat? It was the heat of battle, Tam said, and he doesn't know exactly how the man with the rocket launcher died. But he knows the man's name -- Ba Thang. He was one of the 12 reinforcements sent to the village by provincial headquarters, and after he died, the firefight continued, according to Tam.

"When the firing started, Ba Thanh was killed," Tam said. "And I led Ba Thanh's comrades, the whole unit, to fight back. And we ran around the back and fought the Americans from behind. We worked with the city soldiers to fire on the American boats." According to the after-action report, after beaching the Swift boat, Kerry "chased VC inland, behind hooch, and shot him while he fled, capturing one B-40 rocket launcher, with round in chamber."

None of the villagers seems to be able to say for a fact that they saw an American chase the man who fired the B-40 into the woods and shoot him. Nobody seems to remember that. But they have no problem remembering Ba Thang, the man who has been dismissed by Kerry's detractors as "a lone, wounded, fleeing, young Vietcong in a loincloth." (The description comes from "Unfit for Command," by Swift boat veteran John O'Neill.)

"No, this is not correct," Nguyen Thi Tuoi, 77, told ABC News. "He wore a black pajama. He was strong. He was big and strong. He was about 26 or 27."

The only problem with this account is that it not only differs from the account given by the Swiftvets who were on the scene, it also differs from Kerry's version in his reports, in his biography, and in his autobiography, as John O'Neill pointed out to Ted Koppel during his Nightline appearance. Wizbang describes the way O'Neill laid Ted Koppel out on his own show (via INDC Journal):

When Koppel asked O'Neil to respond to the villagers who he, in an overstatement, said backed Kerry's claims, O'Neil -ever the trial lawyer- did what I did not think possible. He laid Koppel on the canvas.

O'Neil held up his book and read the part where he claimed there was only one VC soldier. THEN he held up the Boston Globe biography of John Kerry and he read the part where IT said there was only one VC solder... Then in a coup de grce, John O'Neil held up John Kerry's own AUTObiography and read the part where Kerry himself says he was glad there was only one VC soldier because he was not sure what would have happened if there had been "2, 5 or 10 of them." ...

In reply, O'Neil took both Koppel and ABC to task for not asking any of the Swift Boat Vets on to tell their story and for not even telling John Kerry's own version of the story but for only going to communist country and asking our former enemies.

Nor does ABC's embarassment stop there, although failing to even interview American veterans and witnesses in discussing a military engagement and favoring villagers whose only qualification is a self-identification that they were there for this one battle, 35 years ago. Bandit notes that staunch Kerry supporter and defender Doug Reese, who was on Bill Rood's boat during the engagement, also disputes everything ABC reported:

Army advisor, Doug Reese, who was on Bill Rood's boat and just happens to be a staunch Kerry supporter and defender has publicly spoken in detail of what he had witnessed of the dead VC guerrilla minutes after he had been shot by Kerry. It should be noted that Mr. Reese works in Vietnamese Tourism out of the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington D.C.

Mr. Reese was kind enough to document the following with Swift Vets for Truth:

"Anyway, we'll never know much about him [VC killed by Kerry], as he wasn't local like the other guys, who lived right there. The survivors -- local guys -- weren't in a good position to see what was going on with the B-40 guy. For that matter, they don't even know his name."

Mr. Reese's statement says it all about the facts surrounding the dead VC, and he should know since was standing over the dead VC along with Sen. Kerry within 5-8 minutes of the shooting. Unfortunately, ABC was not interested in the facts, just any interview they could use to distort the truth to their viewers.

ABC News makes one thing abundantly clear: despite taking the lead on covering Rathergate, they've apparently learned absolutely nothing from it. Their badly-misfired attack piece should embarass everyone who works in their news division.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 15, 2004 8:35 AM

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