Accuracy in Media

Senator John Kerry had asked the Defense Department to investigate a series of allegations made by the Toledo Blade about a U.S. Army platoon in Vietnam allegedly killing unarmed civilians back in 1967.  The Blade series has now won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.  Of course, getting such a prize doesn’t make a story true.

Janet Cooke of the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for a phony story about a child heroin addict.  The prize was returned.  The New York Times won a Pulitzer for Walter Duranty’s stories about Stalin’s Soviet Union.  Duranty was later exposed as a liar who covered up the mass murder of millions, but his prize was not returned.  Jack Kelley, the ex-USA Today reporter who faked major stories, was nominated by his editors for a Pulitzer Prize five times.  These same editors have subsequently reported that parts of one of  Kelley’s most gripping stories, an eyewitness account of a suicide bombing that helped make him a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist, were untrue.

Kerry’s decision to ask the U.S. military to investigate the Blade series about alleged war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam is significant.  Kerry himself made some of those charges when he came back from Vietnam.  He claimed Vietnam Vets cut off peoples’ heads.  But he was never able to back them up.  

Now, reports that several Navy officers who supervised Kerry when he commanded a Swift Boat in Vietnam are preparing to publicly question his war record.  B.G. Burkett, who wrote a 1999 book about phony Vietnam Vets, told WABC Radio’s Steve Malzberg that Kerry’s former commanders would allege that Kerry’s Purple Hearts were awarded for “self-reported injuries that were virtually nonexistent.”

We don’t pass judgment on the Toledo Blade series, except to say that the allegations were investigated and the case was closed without charges being filed.  But we do have something to say about “investigative reporting.”  Consider the coverage by the New York Times of FBI documents of Kerry’s role as an activist against the Vietnam War.  The Times reporter highlighted claims by the Kerry campaign that the FBI surveillance was “a badge of honor” for the Senator.  The Times ignored revelations in the documents showing that Kerry lied when he denied attending a 1971 meeting where fellow members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War discussed killing members of Congress.

The Washington Post story noted that the documents “contradict” some of Kerry’s statements, such as his claim that he didn’t attend a “controversial” meeting.  But the Post failed to mention what the meeting was about.  These are two papers known for “investigative reporting” and yet they will not report extremely damaging information about the Democratic candidate for president being at a meeting to discuss assassinating federal officials.  One can anticipate that new information which may discredit Kerry’s Purple Hearts will also receive the silent treatment.  This may not be as blatant as fake stories written by Janet Cooke, Walter Duranty or Jack Kelley, but it is dishonesty nonetheless.

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