ZIEGLER: Got to wait for those sopranos to cut in... this is The Inquisition, hosted by Tim Ziegler and Scott Swett, and we have a new twist for you today. The Inquisition has been essentially documenting the case against John Kerry and the players that had a huge role in that, and today we're going to interview Scott Swett, who I believe is one of the key components of the entire Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that came together with the Swift Boat Vets against John Kerry.

Scott, welcome to your own show. How're you doing?

SWETT: Thank you very much for having me. It's going to be different to be on this side of the thumb screws.

ZIEGLER: Well I think that this is an important interview to do. It is important that we discuss what role you played because you were essentially the connecting element between the Swift Boat Veterans, the new media, and the data behind WinterSoldier.com and what John Kerry had done after he left the Swift Boat Vets and started his anti-war protesting.

SWETT: Well, WinterSoldier.com was really the key to making those connections.

At the start of the year when it became clear that John Kerry was going to be the nominee, I originally started researching the book "The New Soldier" with the idea that since this book was so rare and so expensive that I might just put together a fairly quick and easy website and make it widely available.

Once I started digging into the context behind "The New Soldier" - you know, why are these guys dumping blood on the steps of the Capitol and why are they simulating atrocities? You know, who were - I didn't have any deep knowledge of what Vietnam Veterans Against the War had done, and in an attempt to educate myself, I just kept adding what I found to the website, and by the end of March, certainly, it had become pretty much the dominant web place to find information on that topic.

And that put me in touch first with Jerry Corsi, of course, the co-writer of "Unfit for Command," later John O'Neill, Carlton Sherwood...

ZIEGLER: Now wait a minute. You're getting ahead of me here. You're going so fast that people aren't able to connect the huge amount of data that you accumulated and also the connections that you were making. It is incredibly important that people understand who you connected and how.

So it's February 2004. Howard Dean has just imploded, and you've already started a website called WinterSoldier.com.

SWETT: Well, WinterSoldier.com centered around the Winter Soldier investigation, which was Vietnam Veterans Against the War's war crimes tribunal, in which they presented what they considered to be evidence, 120 people who they said were veterans, combat veterans, describing horrific events, atrocities committed by the United States military.

This is the event that John Kerry was referring to and basing his testimony upon when he spoke in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971, the infamous remarks where he said that war crimes were authorized at all levels of command and that the United States military was in effect committing genocide in Southeast Asia, behaving like the armies of Jenjis Khan, in his pronunciation.


SWETT: So in February I was pulling together information about what those guys had done and what Kerry had said and when. One of the first things --

ZIEGLER: John O'Neill's laying in a hospital bed in Texas, having given an organ to his wife, a kidney to his wife, for her.

SWETT: That's accurate.

ZIEGLER: And so -- and in all of these different locations you have people starting to coalesce information that documents Kerry's activities in the 1960's and 70's.

SWETT: A lot of them had already made the decision. Jerry Corsi tells us that long ago he had sworn to himself that if Kerry ever became a serious candidate for president, he would step forward and do whatever he could. I think John O'Neill had probably taken the same private oath. I didn't come into it from that perspective. I came into it essentially as a researcher, and then what I found propelled me into greater degrees of activism.

ZIEGLER: What was the most -- what was the first startling discovery that you made?

SWETT: The first thing that really jumped out at me was when we were able to obtain the complete text from the Congressional Record of Kerry's famous testimony before the Senate committee. The part where he made prepared remarks, which are about six or seven pages, is what's normally been available.

The entire session with the - which is more than two hours with a question-and-answer session at the end - wasn't available anywhere online, and I didn't immediately see anyplace to get a copy of it, so we went back to the Congressional Record, extracted it, scanned it, OCR'ed it, and made sure that we had it right, and put it out there.

And on reading through this - I'm reasonably sure we were the first place on the web to have the complete text of that very important speech.

And one of the things that struck me was way down on the bottom of the Q&A section Kerry had claimed the United States military was, quote, "murdering" 200,000 people a year in Vietnam. That's a staggering claim, and one that of course is completely false, but one for which John Kerry had never been held to account specifically.

So that was one of the early things that we emphasized on WinterSoldier was, you know, how do we get John Kerry to either explain what he had to say on this topic, apologize for it, withdraw it, back it up -- you know, something. But let's see, you know, will it be possible to make him respond to this.

ZIEGLER: Do you feel that he ever adequately responded to the very matter-of-fact information that you put out on WinterSoldier?

SWETT: No. In fact, his campaign's entire tactic for months was to avoid any response whatsoever. They were clearly counting on their many allies in the mainstream media to simply suppress any contrary information which would tend to undermine the campaign's claim that Kerry was a war hero, period, came back, became disillusioned with the war, protested honorably as he served honorably.

The Swift Vets had another story to tell about whether Kerry's service was honorable and we certainly had another story to tell about whether his protesting was honorable.

ZIEGLER: Kerry becomes, throughout this process, in different key points, a background figure where he steps back, allows something else to step to the forefront and - to go on, supposedly, its own momentum, and then the documentation comes out that actually he's deeply involved.

For example, the Jane Fonda photo. There is a Jane Fonda photo of Kerry and Fonda sitting together at a speech or a VVAW rally, and Kerry's six rows behind Fonda or four rows behind Fonda, but in the same photo. Then there's a hack photo put up that purports to put them on the same stage. It's not accurate, is discredited, and then seemingly discrediting the first photo. And how -- but Kerry and Fonda were deeply involved in the VVAW together.

SWETT: One of the early things that we put up on the site was a copy of some of the internal minutes of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War that we were able to obtain, and they showed, for example, the VVAW leadership, of which there were six members of their executive committee, agreeing that Al Hubbard, who was the executive secretary, would do a tour of college campuses with Jane Fonda, and that's something that John Kerry was present for and apparently signed off on.

So the organizations were working closely together. The extent of Jane Fonda's, you know, personally working with Kerry isn't known and perhaps isn't all that important.


SWETT: But what is true is that Kerry moved from an insider role where he was kind of a -- they brought him in because of his political connections.

Hubbard actually bypassed the process by which people were normally moved into the Vietnam Veterans Against the War leadership, which was a vote, and just installed him because he was connected to the Kennedys and to other leading democrats and fund raisers, and in fact he served in that capacity by coming up with at least $50,000 in donations to finance the Dewey Canyon protest in the spring of 1971 when the VVAW was totally out of money.

So he was brought in first as a fund raiser and then they decided that he gave very good speeches so he became the group's public face for a considerable period of time, about almost two years.

ZIEGLER: In that two years there's a guy named Scott Camil, who comes in and - nicknamed The Assassin, isn't he?

SWETT: Camil was a chapter leader from Florida out of Gainesville, and he was one of the leading claimers of horrendous atrocities. He went around telling people that he had personally murdered some 290 civilians, and he testified to that at the Winter Soldier investigation and he told a number of reporters the same story.

So he was one of the people that Kerry was relying on when he said that all of that stuff was really true.

Camil also had an apparent propensity for planning violence. He wanted to go into the offices of congressmen during Dewey Canyon and -- particularly those that supported the war, and shoot several of them, and then he brought that proposal up again in the latter part of 1971.

ZIEGLER: In Kansas City.

SWETT: In Kansas City in a meeting of the national leadership and chapter leaders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and they actually brought his proposal, which he called the Phoenix program, to --

ZIEGLER: Named after the Vietnam era Phoenix program that had occurred during Vietnam.

SWETT: Yeah, well they did a lot of that sort of thing.

ZIEGLER: During the war.

SWETT: They did a lot of symbolic things like that. For example, the very naming of the Winter Soldier investigation based on -

ZIEGLER: Dewey Canyon, right.

SWETT: - the Summer Soldier. Dewey Canyon was a military operation into Laos, and of course, the VVAW was very big on not having the Ho Chi Minh Trail interdicted.

But yeah, Camil's proposal was voted on, and it was voted down, but he intended for VVAW to assassinate some six or eight pro-war senators.

And that was another very key aspect of Kerry's anti-war protest that had never been exposed and never did in fact make it into the public conversation, although it went around in the new media. It was widely discussed on the web and on talk radio.

Tom Lipscomb played a key role in putting out several early and very well-documented reports on that topic in which he was able to get a number of eye witnesses to state that Kerry, despite his earlier claims to the contrary, was present for the so-called assassination summit.

ZIEGLER: Scott, I want to get to the Lipscomb and the other major media players in the third segment. I really want to talk about how the site connects to the major media later on, and so I want to go back to that.

But early on in February and in March of 2004 you're adding articles to your site, adding the document and film clips, you posted the cartoons from Gary Trudeau. Gary Trudeau and Kerry had known each other in college.

And what is the reaction happening via your e-mail, via administration - were there any terms-of-service attacks on the site? What was happening in regard to the site being out there, the rate of exposure increasing, and we're still two months away from the Swift Boat Vet press conference?

SWETT: One thing that happened very early that I didn't fully expect was that rather than being a site where conservatives would gather information about the VVAW and Kerry - I had put up a number of film clips and kind of scoured the web and other resources to find audio-visual information on what the VVAW had done, so I had clips of them throwing their medals and this sort of thing, pretending to commit atrocities against Quakers and so forth.

So I had this interesting footage, but what happened right off the bat was that the word about the site got out into the Vietnam veterans' online community, which is very well connected by e-mail and by a number of key sites, and they latched onto the site and started supporting it. They showed me where to find additional information. They sent me thousands and thousands of e-mails and said basically, you know, what you're doing is valuable. Keep it up. We'll help any way we can.

ZIEGLER: And so you became the clearinghouse for not only new information and the new articles that were being written, but you became the clearinghouse for veterans who had actually been in Vietnam, served with Kerry or served in operations that Kerry denigrated, and coming up and saying, "This is what really happened; this is how I saw Vietnam."

SWETT: I think what the whole campaign season shows us and what I had sensed to a degree even before it happened was that there was a tremendous pent up resentment of the unfair treatment Vietnam veterans received when they came home from the war, that they were treated unjustly and with contempt, and this deep sense of wrong, having served your country, risked your life, in many cases been wounded, lost your friends, and then to come home and be treated in this way has really burned in the hearts and souls of a lot of honorable men for more than 30 years, and --

ZIEGLER: And the fact that this guy who said these things became a United States senator seemed to validate that point of view, didn't it?

SWETT: Oh, it wasn't just that. It was -- it permeated the entire culture. Any number of movies adopted that point of view, that Vietnam veterans were, you know, semi-crazed baby killers who couldn't hold a job and took a lot of drugs.

ZIEGLER: And then the actors who portrayed them as those things, like Sean Penn, become - that becomes their historical reference, even though it's fantasy, as to what occurred.

SWETT: Yeah, you get a self-fulfilling sort of thing, almost like a syndrome, and also the media adopted this completely. They had helped create the poisonous myth of the Vietnam veteran - and then they acted as a self-selecting filter where if you weren't like that, they didn't want to talk to you.

And that was one of the things Jug Burkett, the author of "Stolen Valor," found out, was that the media wanted to interview the guy with the bottle of Mateusse in a sack sitting on the corner and, you know, whining about how he couldn't do anything.

Most of those guys, as Burkett was able to document, were not in fact veterans. They were just playing on the societal myth.

The guys that really were, were you know, like the Swift Vets. They had responsible jobs. They had families. They, you know, put their war experiences behind them and moved on with their lives.

But nonetheless, the mythology and the culture was very different, and huge numbers of veterans and their friends and their families very much resented that, and the campaign, the candidacy of Kerry, crystallized that resentment in a way that perhaps nothing else could have done.

ZIEGLER: There has been - your site has received over three and a half million hits. Now, that's not the family collection of photos. That's serious information dissemination.

SWETT: Well, it was not - it wasn't a popular culture type website. It was very tightly focused on a single item and it was, in many cases, very technical and somewhat arcane, but the people who cared about the topic cared about it a whole lot, and so they told their friends and it became a - even as early as March I was starting to see articles in the mainstream press that were obviously influenced by the material that was on WinterSoldier, so it became -

ZIEGLER: John Fund in the Wall Street Journal.

SWETT: Among others. It became clear that influential people were reading the site, checking the documentation, and finding the documentation was accurate and that they could rely on it, and going from there.

That was one of the key objectives I had when I created the site was to attempt to occupy and if possible dominate the conversation on the topic, backed by factual evidence.

ZIEGLER: And that factual evidence included U.S. Senate testimony, very literary and scholarly works by professors of history in universities around the country.

SWETT: Well, that was another thing that happened. In addition to Vietnam veterans adopting the site, a number of very well credentialed and high-powered academicians showed up.


SWETT: Among them were Dr. Robert Turner from the University of Virginia and perhaps most critically, Dr. Jerry Corsi, a Harvard Ph.D. who had written a number of books and had deep experience in the anti-war movement.

He wrote to say, you know, I like what you're doing. I'd like to write some articles for your site. I'd like to work with you to do some research.

And the first thing he suggested was that he was aware that Kerry's performance in the week-long protest that accompanied it in the Spring of '71 had been featured on the front page of the "Communist Daily World" newspaper day after day after day, glowing adulatory articles, Kerry's photo. You know, they loved what he was doing. He was doing their work for them.

And so he felt that he could write an article about that and we could present that material. So he did the research, sketched out the article, I did some editing on it, and we put it out there. We took the article and put it on FreeRepublic and some other places, and it got quite a bit of attention, and it started adding a scholarly patina, if you will, to the case that we were making because the guys like Corsi and Dr. Turner were throwing some real heavy artillery into the mix.

ZIEGLER: This is The Inquisition with Tim Ziegler interviewing Scott Swett about WinterSoldier.com and the most recent campaign. This is Rightalk, your internet radio source for the truth. Welcome to The Inquisition. We'll see you in a couple of minutes after we pay some bills.

(Commercial break)

ZIEGLER: We're back with The Inquisition, interviewing Mr. Scott Swett of WinterSoldier.com, also the co-host of this show. But it's important that we get on the historical record Scott's role in WinterSoldier and his involvement with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Scott, welcome back.

SWETT: Thank you. I'm resisting the temptation to ask myself snarky leading questions. Let's proceed.

ZIEGLER: Yeah well, I'm enough of a parrot that I can do that instead.

The role that WinterSoldier started to play April and March, or March and April, and then into May when the Swift Boat Veterans held their press conference became pretty integral. You were a clearinghouse of information between all of these different individuals who now, looking back, were key to what the election outcome was. And nobody knew that at the time.

SWETT: Well, that's true. As early as, I would say, March or April we were already publishing articles by and in contact with people who became the principal architects, if you will, of the anti-Kerry veterans' revolt. And some of those are very well known names such as Jerry Corsi and John O'Neill because of the huge success of "Unfit for Command."

Others though less well known, such as Larry Bailey, who put together and organized the Kerry Lied rally that several thousand people attended, and that was nationally televised on C-Span.

Other people like Bruce Kesler, who had known John O'Neill, who had actually recruited him as part of a group he formed in 1971 called Vietnam Veterans for Just Peace that countered the VVAW, you know, wrote dozens and dozens of articles and evolved a huge e-mail list and, you know, pumped the word out to vast numbers of people.

And so what actually happened is you had almost an instantaneous political movement which was really led by a small handful of people who just emerged spontaneously from the mix. It was fascinating to watch.

ZIEGLER: And so in spite of what Hillary Clinton had said in 2000, that this was a - or in 1998, that this was a vast right wing conspiracy, what we're discovering is that it is a number of key individuals with personal first-hand experience and knowledge of John Kerry and his activities that said: We're stepping up; this isn't going to stand; what can we do to stop it?

SWETT: Many of them fit that description. Some did not. Others were not, for example, movement conservatives at all. I'm a conservative activist.

ZIEGLER: Right. Kesler is certainly not a movement conservative.

SWETT: John O'Neill is very much a moderate. He's not particularly political. Bruce Kesler, who I just mentioned, regards himself as moderate to perhaps slightly liberal.

But what united all these people - and I should mention there were some behind-the-scenes folks working that were actually elected Democratic officials that would prefer their names not be mentioned. But what they shared was a sense that what Kerry had done was wrong and unjust and had created one of the uglier episodes that was really to the discredit of America's history.

They saw an opportunity to, in my phrase, set the record straight. That phrase wound up being adopted by most of the key elements of the movement, and they took it.

ZIEGLER: In May we have the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth come forward and say, en masse: Kerry says this; this is what I saw. Kerry lied; this is the truth. And each of these men stepped up to the microphone. C-Span broadcast this live. You were there. Tell us about that press conference.

SWETT: Well, I was invited to the press conference and the organizational meeting the night before by John O'Neill.

Jerry Corsi had introduced me to O'Neill, who he had known back from his college debating days, and he had reintroduced himself. He'd agreed to write articles with John, and of course, they would eventually write the most powerful and influential book of the campaign cycle.

At that point John and Jerry were looking at writing a Wall Street Journal article, and I helped out with that, and it was published on May 4th, the exact day of the press conference in Washington, D.C., at which the Swift Vets announced their organization and their intentions.

I found what they had to say to be extremely powerful and very convincing. It was -- it presaged the effect that the Swift Vet / POW ads had on the public. These guys were just innately credible. They had jarring, stunning things to say, and they weren't afraid to say them.

So when - shortly after the press conference there were probably 20 journalists and media types that were there and a number of camera crews filmed it for the major networks, and in the aftermath of this hour-and-20-minute barrage of devastating attacks on John Kerry, all these media people are walking around kind of flapping their hands and looking up at the ceiling with this just really upset kind of feel about them. It was obvious to me that they were all thinking: How can we make this go away?

ZIEGLER: Who was there?

SWETT: Who specifically in the media?

ZIEGLER: Yeah. I mean, what -- at least, you know, were Reuters there? Was AP there? Was the New York Times there?

SWETT: AP was there and flatly declined to file any report at all, and --

ZIEGLER: So we have personal, first-hand experience of the media stuffing a story that they are well aware of.

SWETT: No question. The most telling aspect of the Swift conference, from my point of view, was that they represented or had on -- behind the podium Kerry's entire chain of command. That's like everybody he ever served for under combat in Vietnam. And they're all saying this guy's unfit to be Commander in Chief and he's lying about what he did. I mean, that is completely without precedent in the history of America politics. To say that it's not news is ludicrous.

ZIEGLER: At the same time that the Democratic Party offered us Terry McLaughlin (sic), or Terry whatever his name is.

SWETT: McAuliffe.

ZIEGLER: McAuliffe, McAuliffe. Saying that George Bush dishonorably served and left the Alabama National Guard illegally, and the media is hyping a non-story which had been readily disproven by Bush's filing his form 180, and that information is out there, and yet they continue to dig at the story.

SWETT: Well, and of course, and they would continue to do that for months thereafter, including the use of the forged documents on "60 Minutes" by Dan Rather.

But at the press conference most of the questions were on that topic, you know: "What do you think about George Bush's service in the National Guard and you know, don't you think he failed to meet his obligations?"

And the Swift Vets, without exception, said: I don't know; I wasn't there; it's not my problem.

"Well, don't you think it would be correct and proper for this to be investigated?"

And they'd say things like: "If people that served with President Bush in the National Guard want to come forward and say their piece, then you know, certainly we have no objection to that."

But the media didn't want to talk about John Kerry's activities and they certainly didn't want to give the Swift Vets any platform to tell their story.

I think the New York Times ran a brief hatchet piece. One of the more egregious attacks on them was by Byron Pitts of CBS News, who -


SWETT: - did an article saying essentially that, you know, these are no ordinary veterans. These are, in essence, Republican operatives. This is the same group that savaged Max Cleland and who went after John McCain.

Well, that was totally untrue, and what Pitts didn't say was that none of the veterans had had anything to do with either of the two putative events.

What had happened was that the press firm that they had retained, Spaeth Communications, had worked on some political campaigns that had involved McCain and Senator Cleland, but that really had nothing to do with the core claims that the Swift Vets were making or their credibility because none of them were involved, so it was a transparent attempt to smear the Swift Vets with some fairly wild claims about the media activities of their PR firm. It was just desperation.

ZIEGLER: And John O'Neill explained to us on this show that Merrie Spaeth was his former law partner's wife and that was how there was that connection.

SWETT: Yeah, widow.


SWETT: He had died earlier in the year.


SWETT: And so naturally when he needed the services of a PR firm, then Merrie Spaeth was who he turned to, and she had a long and very honorable history of, you know, doing that kind of work.

She'd been a figure in the Reagan administration - she's by no means a fringe figure.

And also, I was present, as I said, at the meeting where they planned the press conference. Merrie Spaeth was there and so were the 18 vets that spoke, O'Neill and company. I was really just there kind of watching, taking notes, and introducing myself to some of the veterans.

I brought my copy of "The New Soldier" and passed it around so that some of the guys could see it. And I watched for five, six hours as these guys pulled together their testimony.

Most of them had written it out in longhand on notebooks, and what the communications firm was doing was trying to boil each of those statements down to about 90 seconds so they could get everybody in and put them in some kind of coherent order and go through the mechanics of getting people on and off the podium, fired some sample questions at them so that they could practice answering them, because these guys were not political.

They were not used to being in a political situation. Nonetheless, they walked up in front of the microphones and I thought did themselves proud.

ZIEGLER: Absolutely. There's no question, having watched that press conference live, I sat here in Colorado and was just stunned that the powers that be in the Democrat party hadn't stepped up and said: This guy's not our candidate. He really isn't. We're -

SWETT: That's what John -

ZIEGLER: We're going to redo the primaries and here's what's happening now.

SWETT: That's what John O'Neill expected to happen, and many of the Swift Vets did. I think in that respect they were a bit naive. They felt that they would come forward, tell their story, and the Democrats would withdraw Kerry, and that they would all go home.

Well, you know, those of us with a little more political background understood that that was certainly never going to happen.

And then after the press conference, there was a brief burst of attention and then that was it. The Swift Vets vanished from the media scene. The one thing I did was I went through the press conference and extracted what I thought were the most powerful quotes for each guy.


SWETT: And pulled it together into a piece with a screen capture of each of their faces and put that up on WinterSoldier as part of a new section about the Swift Vets. And that page wound up being clipped and e-mailed all over the place, and it gave the Swift Vets some of their early momentum online. It stimulated curiosity in them.

A number of people who received this e-mail just flatly refused to believe it was true, and I think that that - probably that little piece of work was what led to the Swift Vets asking me to rewrite their own website at SwiftVets.com.

ZIEGLER: In early June Jerry Corsi gets together with John O'Neill and decides that they have to write a book and put the book out.

SWETT: Yeah.

ZIEGLER: And they write in a record amount of time - less than a month? - "Unfit for Command."

SWETT: They wrote it in three weeks. It was unprecedented in the history of Regnery, from what I understand.

On the Swift Vets side they had a number of guys working on it. It wasn't entirely or even primarily O'Neill doing all the writing. They had guys pitching in information that they had personally experienced.

John O'Neill ordered it, did some of the writing, made sure that each account that they included in the book had two eye witnesses. They left out a huge amount of material that there wasn't that standard of documentation for.

That was half the book was the Kerry in Vietnam story.

ZIEGLER: Isn't that the old New York Times standard: If there are two independent witnesses verifying an instance, they will go with the story, or historically have done that.

SWETT: Sure, and that's one thing that ticked off the Swift Vets was that places like the New York Times were claiming that their charges were unsubstantiated when they had 60 eye witnesses. And so they were blatantly ignoring their own supposed standards, for political reasons.

ZIEGLER: I'm shocked.

SWETT: No, no. It's true. Really.

ZIEGLER: This is The Inquisition and we're interviewing Scott Swett of WinterSoldier.com, who's a co-host of The Inquisition. We'll be back in a couple of minutes after we pay some bills. We'll let you listen to some more music from the 16th century.

(Commercial break)

ZIEGLER: We're back with The Inquisition, interviewing Mr. Scott Swett of the website WinterSoldier.com. Scott was also the webmaster for the website SwiftVets.com and is intricately linked between - the bridge between both sites.

Scott, when did you take over the SwiftVets site?

SWETT: Well, having the two sites to run made for an entertaining summer. We signed a contract in July and had the new SwiftVets.com online in late July, I think the 22nd. And what it did was it provided some fuel for the fire.

Because of the tremendous interest online in what the Swift Vets were doing and with what a number of the other vets in the anti-Kerry movement were doing, there was a great appetite for information on the topic, and the site went from essentially zip to getting hits at a rate above that of Moveon.org in its first week.


SWETT: And that's before any of the ads hit. The first Swift Vet ad hit about two weeks later, and that's what really blew the roof off the media attempt to blockade the Swift Vets.

ZIEGLER: But the SwiftVets site and WinterSoldier.com, contrary to the big media pushing the sites, like Drudge, these sites were discovered by e-mail viruses. I mean, not - by essentially e-mailing lists and those people e-mailing their lists in the form of communicating to people who you knew rather than via any huge break on television or in an article.

SWETT: That was one key way that the word got out. Another I've already mentioned, the Vietnam veterans' lines of communication. They had the word early and they pushed it hard throughout the summer.

Also worthy of mention is that the Swift Vets didn't pack their tents and go home. They did hundreds and eventually thousands of talk radio interviews all through the summer, and because there were so many of them, they were available to just about any radio station that wanted one. So this put a voice and some real recognition behind who these guys were.

So there were things happening simultaneously on many fronts. Websites like Freerepublic posted and talked about article after article about what the Swift Vets were doing, what their claims were, the discussions of the validity of those claims, and many blogs did the same thing.

So there was this absolute firestorm going on, quote, underground, in the new media, while at the same time if all you read was the Washington Post, you had no clue that any of this was happening. So there was a tremendous disconnect between the two levels of the media.

ZIEGLER: And then the one big break that did seem to cross over to the mainstream media was the night before Christmas in Cambodia.

SWETT: That was the first big story to get discussed, and of course, there were many Swift Vet claims that were less than complimentary to Kerry, but this one was just so egregious and so cut and dried that John Kerry had claimed before the United States senate in 1986 that a formative experience of his life was being ordered illegally into Cambodia by President Nixon to fight the Khmer Rouge.

Well, first of all, he wasn't in Cambodia, Nixon wasn't president, the Khmer Rouge weren't there at the time, and -

ZIEGLER: But aside from that, the story was true.

SWETT: Other than that, it seemed fairly solid.


SWETT: He repeated some - he had a number of variants of this story that he repeated over a period of years, but I think John O'Neill eventually identified something like 50 different occasions where he made this claim. And once the Swift Vets -

I actually got the story to John O'Neill and said that, you know, here's what Kerry has claimed, here's the Senate testimony. I sent it to him. You know, can this be true? And he called me right back and said no, this is ridiculous. He was in Sa Dec. That's, you know, 50 miles from the Cambodian border. We can absolutely prove that.

So that was one of the stories that was highlighted early on the web and that really the Kerry campaign was utterly unable to respond to. They eventually tried to say, well, he really meant January instead of Christmas day, but that just didn't fly.

ZIEGLER: Not when it was seared into his memory and he'd been so pointed about saying Christmas Eve. It was a great war story.

SWETT: Well, and what it also was was emblematic of Kerry's apparent lifelong willingness to say anything he thought was to his advantage.

ZIEGLER: Agreed.

SWETT: It really destroyed the man's personal credibility that he would say that this was a formative experience when in fact it was, you know, completely mythical.

And it started - and then you start to look at, well, what about all those war crimes. Well, it turns out that, you know, that a lot of documentation, a lot of hard evidence, says that war crimes were rare in Vietnam by the United States. They weren't rare by the other guys, but Kerry never talked about that.

ZIEGLER: Why talk about - well, I won't go there.

SWETT: Oh, go ahead. It's your show.

ZIEGLER: The ads start coming out, and these are very impactful, direct attacks. Not politically poised phrases, not actors. These are Swift Boat Veterans. These are businessmen now who while maybe not super sophisticated in the way of the Washington Beltway, these guys told what they experienced, and they had credibility.

SWETT: Well, I was there when the ads were filmed. I mostly stood around with my jaw hanging down. These were body blows.

And the first ad is, of course, probably the one that will go down in history as the most famous and influential where they did that terrible segue from John Edwards saying, you know, if you want to know about John Kerry, spend just three minutes with the men who served with him. Bam! "I served with John Kerry."

And in each of - and the other interesting thing the Swift Vets did, and this was very effective, was they backed that ad. Each person that appeared in it, each claim had an affidavit behind it, it had detailed documentation of exactly what they were talking about, and they provided that package to each TV station manager to whom they submitted the ad, by way of forestalling the counter attack that this is just libel and you can't run it. And no TV station refused the ad. The documentation was that powerful and that well put together.

And so the ad only aired in three states. It was a $500,000 buy. They didn't have much money then. But it became topic A partially because all of the pent-up interest in the subject that had been generated through the new media, and then all the news, all the political shows had to show it, if only to denounce it.

And three weeks later there was a study that said something like 60 percent of the American public had seen the ad. Well, that's a lot of bang for the buck for $500,000 of an ad buy in three states.

So by the middle of August the Swift Vets were dominating the political conversation in the country during the heart of the election campaign, having derailed both the agendas of the Kerry and the Bush campaigns.

ZIEGLER: And the Democratic convention happens, and Kerry plays right in to the Swift Boat experience.

SWETT: That's what he'd always -

ZIEGLER: "I'm reporting for duty."

SWETT: It's what he'd always done before. Whenever he got in trouble in an election, he would go back to his, quote, "band of brothers" and send them out, and sic them on his opposition, saying: We were in Vietnam and you weren't. Well, that one wasn't going to play this time because the other guys - the other side had a lot more guys who were in Vietnam than Kerry's very small band of brothers, which was only, you know, half a dozen or eight guys.

ZIEGLER: And then Steve Gardner, being one of the men who served on his boat - and of course, as the ads hit, the surrogates of the Democrats, Susan Estrich, for example, savages Van O'Dell on Sean Hannity's show, and - you can tell how close you are to a target by how much flak you get.

SWETT: Oh yeah, that's certainly true, and John O'Neill took as much of that flak as anybody, but because of their - they were very steadily on topic and they kept a cool demeanor and they just told their story, and people believed their story.

ZIEGLER: The truth will out.

That's what we're here about - that's what we're about here on The Inquisition. This is Rightalk Radio Network, interviewing Scott Swett on The Inquisition. We'll pay some bills and be back.

(Commercial break)

ZIEGLER: Okay, This is The Inquisition, and we're back for a quick one, interviewing Scott Swett - Scott of WinterSoldier.com.

The common perception now is that - in early December of 2004 after the election, you know, 36 days after the election - that Kerry didn't fight back.

SWETT: I don't know if that's the common perception. That's the Kerry spin that they would like to have become the common perception.

In fact, Kerry fought back in every way available to him. He fought through his surrogates in the media, first by trying to ignore and then by trying to discredit the veterans who were speaking against him, and that didn't work. And so he spoke personally against them, denounced them as liars. And perhaps most disturbing, he sued and threatened lawsuits against everybody he could get his hands on.

He threatened to sue the writers of "Unfit for Command." He threatened to sue any station that would accept the Swift Vets' ads, and - he didn't threaten to sue them, but he sent them nasty letters on legal stationery hinting very strongly that such might be the case, the DNC did.

ZIEGLER: He sent those letters to -

SWETT: To the station managers -

ZIEGLER: - Borders and Barnes and Noble.

SWETT: - telling them not to carry the book. And then when "Stolen Honor" came out, they launched a similar campaign to silence that devastating documentary on the POWs and what they suffered in Hanoi prison camps directly due to Kerry's actions and testimony in 1971.

And none of it worked. But the fact that it was so obvious that they were trying to suppress these sources of information just whetted the appetite for them.

"Unfit for Command" vanished from the book shelves everywhere across the country. "Stolen Honor," some two million people either downloaded or acquired copies of it through their website.

And so the word got out because we now have a system where you can't really silence your political opposition because you don't own all the channels of information.

In 1971 that wasn't true, and the VVAW lies about atrocities became gospel passed into the American culture and were accepted as truth because the people that were in a position to know better never had the microphone. That's not true now.

ZIEGLER: Well to your credit, you helped give them that microphone and you helped them have a voice, and I think have forever helped alter the perception of the Vietnam veteran.

SWETT: Well it was a great privilege. I got to meet and work with some genuine heroes, and it was humbling and it was exhilarating and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

ZIEGLER: That's The Inquisition, December 6th, 2004, with Mr. Scott Swett of Wintersoldier.com. Scott, I really appreciate you showing us the inside look at your site.

We look forward next time to interviewing Bruce Kesler on December 20th, here at Rightalk on The Inquisition.

SWETT: Thank you. It was an honor to be on my show.

(End of transcript)

Last Updated Wednesday, July 02 2008 @ 12:54 PM MDT|4,047 Hits