Attack ads: Where to find truth

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Curious to know the truth about some of the attack ads you see on television in the race for president?

I certainly was. When a couple of readers provided me with Internet resources to read more about the claims being made about John Kerry and George Bush, I took the opportunity to check them out.

The most thorough, objective source appears to be I went there to find out that one of the claims in a current television commercial attacking Kerry is right on, while another attack seems to be questionable at best.

As with anything else, though, don't take my word for it. Check for yourself.

A commercial that began airing in the past week says Kerry was absent for 76 percent of the public hearings of the Senate Intelligence Committee while he was a member.

According to, "Bush is right."

Of 49 public meetings of the committee between 1993 and 2001, Kerry is listed as attending only 11. That's actually slightly worse than the Bush ad claims, but for one of the hearings there is no list of attendees. says there's no mention of Kerry in the minutes, and there's no way to tell for sure whether he was there or not.

The far more complicated claim has to do with Kerry's Purple Heart medals and his tour of duty in Vietnam, which was made an issue by a group called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."

They accuse him of "lying about his record" in Vietnam. You can check their claims for yourself at, which purports to tell "the real story." Keep in mind, though, that this group has a political agenda, as it is backed financially by a Republican contributor, Houston home builder Bob R. Perry.

I went back to to sort out the story. Again, I recommend you read it yourself because even the fact checkers conclude that "At this point, 35 years later and half a world away, we see no way to resolve which of these versions of reality is closer to the truth."

In essence, the man Kerry rescued, Army Special Forces lieutenant Jim Rassmann, confirms the presidential candidate's act of heroism for which he received a Bronze Star. Soldiers on other boats dispute it.

Here's Rassmann's account:

"Machine-gun fire erupted from both banks of the river and a second explosion followed moments later. The second blast blew me off John's swift boat, PCF-94, throwing me into the river. Fearing that the other boats would run me over, I swam to the bottom of the river and stayed there as long as I could hold my breath.

"When I surfaced, all the swift boats had left, and I was alone taking fire from both banks. To avoid the incoming fire I repeatedly swam under water as long as I could hold my breath, attempting to make it to the north bank of the river. I thought I would die right there. The odds were against me avoiding the incoming fire and, even if I made it out of the river, I thought I'd be captured and executed.

"Kerry must have seen me in the water and directed his driver, Del Sandusky, to turn the boat around. Kerry's boat ran up to me in the water, bow on, and I was able to climb up a cargo net to the lip of the deck. But, because I was nearly upside down, I couldn't make it over the edge of the deck. This left me hanging out in the open, a perfect target. John, already wounded by the explosion that threw me off his boat, came out onto the bow, exposing himself to the fire directed at us from the jungle, and pulled me aboard."

There also are questions about Kerry's third Purple Heart, which some say he got for a self-inflicted wound when he threw a grenade too close and caught some shrapnel in his butt, his first Purple Heart, for shrapnel in his arm, and for his Silver Star, awarded for his decision to attack rather than flee two ambushes.

Maybe you don't believe anything you see on campaign television commercials, or maybe you believe them all. My advice is to keep an open mind and decide for yourself. As Vicki Bates, who brought to my attention, said: "That kind of information is really important to somebody making a decision."

How about the pro-Kerry campaign's ads about George Bush? One, by the Media Fund, says, "When President Bush says he's going to help companies outsource jobs, it's infuriating."

But Bush never said that. Bush really said: "The best way to deal with job creation and outsourcing is to make sure our businesses are competitive here at home."

On the other hand, a widespread e-mail campaign tries to paint Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, as exactly the kind of rich people who do outsource jobs to other countries because they own dozens of Heinz factories in Europe and Asia.

That's not true, either. "Public records show Heinz Kerry isn't an officer of the company, isn't on the company's board of directors, and isn't even close to being the largest shareholder," report the fact checkers. "The Heinz Endowments do own Heinz stock - less than 4% of the company - but income from that stock goes to charity, not to the Kerrys personally."

I don't like attack ads, but they're not going away. I don't know how many minds they change, anyway. Just don't make up yours based on what you see in a commercial or receive in an e-mail.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at or 881-1221.


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