Boehlert Criticizes Press Handling of Swift Boat Lies
Eric Boehlert, author of the excellent book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, has a guest blog at Crooks and Liars on Why the Swift Boat Hoax Still Matters! I rcommend reading the entire post, as well as his book, with a selection posted below:
Incredibly, faced with an elaborate campaign hoax, most in the press didn’t set their sights on the Swifties or the Bush campaign which refused to denounce the lies. Instead, the punditocracy, echoing Republican spin, collectively agreed that the smear campaign was really Kerry’s fault. “In some ways you can certainly say that John Kerry brought this on himself,” insisted Time magazine’s Carney. “He should have known that this was coming because he has experienced it in previous campaigns. He knows that John O’Neill is out there.”
ABC’s Chris Bury made the same point during an appearance on CNN: “Because [Kerry’s military service] is the central tenet of John Kerry’s campaign….once that issue is open, it’s fair game.”
In a sense they were right, it was fair game–just as questions about Bush’s military service were fair game. But the Swifties never played fair– they couldn’t even keep their stories straight. As their dishonesty become obvious, journalists never adjusted their coverage. Instead, pundits and reporters diverted their eyes from the porous, poorly constructed smear campaign and focused the blame on the Kerry campaign. That saved reporters the trouble of labeling Vietnam veterans as liars (not to mention Bush’s father, wife, and political advisor Karl Rove who all publicly signed off on the contents of the Swifty campaign), which in turn would have unleashed the fury of right-wing press critics. It also kept the Swift Boat storyline on familiar ground, one of tactics and process—were Kerry’s consultants too slow in responding? Was their coordination between the Swifts and the Bush campaign, etc.? All of that should have been secondary to the central and pressing question—Were any of these allegations true?