The Swift Boat Veterens for Truth were reporting the facts behind John Kerry’s service in Viet Nam. In fact, it was the first time the truth came out, some 30 years later. If the mainstream left-wing media doesn’t like it, they call the truth a smear.
This plug for John Kerry got the attention of viewers of the PBS show “History Detectives.”
Read it and laugh. A member of the “History Detectives” producers, Wes Cowan, an anthropologist and owner of an auction company that specializes in historical Americana, delivered a brief commentary about Sen. John F. Kerry’s role in 1971, when, as a young Naval officer, he was a leader of those veterans who turned against the Vietnam War, and how, in 2004, a group known as the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and funded by a wealthy Republican campaign donor smeared Kerry’s military record and possibly cost him the election.”
This comment provoked the letters posted below. Even the PBS ombudsman was made aware of this blatant bias for Kerry.
On the ‘History Detectives’
Regarding your otherwise wonderful piece on the GAR — I was both appalled and dismayed that you included a snippet in your backgrounder on veterans groups on John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. In that piece you stated, as if it were historical fact, that the Swift Boat group “smeared John Kerry” and “likely cost him the election.” The “smear” is a matter of interpretation and historians and political observers have many ideas about what “cost” Mr. Kerry the election. My dismay comes from the questions this raises about your show, which I love. If you are so sloppy and partisan about current history, is everything else you present on this show similarly slanted and shoddy? I am proud to tell you that both my great grandfather and my great-great grandfather were GAR veterans and I’m pretty sure they would share my disgust that you used a story about their beloved army as a prop to make a nasty and inaccurate little political point.
Sherry Sylvester, Garden Ridge, TX
This was a fascinating story that added a very important piece to our understanding of the social dynamic following the Civil War. But I was troubled by the subtle, and not so subtle (and totally irrelevant) infusion of current liberal political thought that the producers injected into an otherwise compelling story.
Elyse was careful to note that Cazenovia, NY, was “fairly liberal,” code words for “that’s why the Black vets were allowed in the GAR chapter and photo,” thereby implying that had “conservatives” been in charge back then, there wouldn’t be such a story. I suggest a quick read of Catton’s “The Coming Fury.” It was the Northern conservatives (the brand new Republican party led by A. Lincoln) that led the fight against further spread of slavery, were willing to go to war over the issue, and eventually gave American Blacks emancipation, in the face of massive and eventually deadly opposition led by Southern (and many Northern) Democrats.
Wes Cowan’s wrap-up was breathtakingly inane. Apparently he cannot get over the ’60s, the Viet Nam war, John Kerry’s (thank goodness) failed political aspirations, or Republicans of means contributing to groups he doesn’t like. How did he manage to say so little in so much space, and why was he allowed to take such a political cheap-shot, trivializing an otherwise important and well crafted history piece?
Bob Flood, Front Royal, VA
I was watching the recent episode of “History Detectives” which featured an old photo of Civil War veterans taken at a reunion of the Grand Army of the Republic. I was enjoying this story, until near the end, when Mr. Wes Cowan began his poisoned pontificating. He brought up the hapless Senator John Kerry, and could not help but mention his defeat (by over 3 million votes) to George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential election. Mr. Cowan’s voice took on a noticeably venomous tone when he stated that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth “smeared Kerry” and “may well have cost him the election.” Mr. Cowan, I defy you to name just ONE allegation made by John O’Neal and the Swift Boat vets that has been found to be untrue. To this day, John Kerry has a standing invitation to debate John O’Neal, but continues to run from the opportunity to face his nemesis. Every fact the Swift Boat Vets have brought up about Kerry has withstood the test of public inquiry. I am a Vietnam Veteran who was flying combat missions over North Vietnam in 1972 at the same time Jane Fonda was having her photo taken with the NVA gunners on the very AA guns used to kill American pilots. I believe that you would have a much better program if you would stick to historical facts, and leave out your suffocating left-wing political bias. However, that is probably asking far too much from the likes of P-BS.
John Kuehnert, Norman, OK
I enjoy History Detectives considering it one of my favorite shows, however, the narrative following the GAR segment concerned me. The remarks concerning John Kerry and the Swift Boat veterans were misleading and had nothing to do with the story. I felt the comments were inappropriate as they appeared to be nothing but a political commentary without the disclaimer. The “wealthy businessman” is also a Vietnam veteran who has taken issue with John Kerry for years. Again, I enjoy the show each week but take exception with last night’s remarks about John Kerry.
Paul Michna, Magnolia, TX
I enjoy watching the History Detectives . . . most of the time. Last night’s episode is pushing it, however. Wes Cowan made a comment about how the Swift Boat people “smeared” John Kerry and may have cost him the election. If Wes wants to talk politics, tell him to get on a different show. The Swift Boat folks didn’t “smear” anyone. They told the truth as they know it, and if that “smears” John Kerry, too bad. Kerry, after all, brought the whole topic of Vietnam up himself in the first place. But regardless, Wes’ comments were over the top and I hope you dump him for someone else, or label him as a commentator, not an investigator. We conservatives are the ones who need a return to the “fairness doctrine” to counteract folks like Wes who get paid with public funds to spread his opinions. ENOUGH!
Richard T. Hedlund, Weddington, NC
I was watching History Detectives last night and wanted to provide some feedback. The segment on the Grand Army of the Republic and veterans was well done. My enjoyment of the show was marred by the blatant attempt to politicize the show with the commentary after the mystery. The comments were over the top and very prejudicial. First there was the commentary that the American Legion had supported Mussolini (out of context and did not have anything to do with the previous commentary). A good student of history is aware that much of the country had conflicting opinions in the 1930s and early 1940s. Throwing one comment about the times without context is insulting.
Then there were the comments about Senator John Kerry, the last presidential election and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. That segment was blatantly political and inappropriate. Why and how Kerry lost the election would take an hour to discuss and the issue of the Swift Boat Veterans is only a part of it. Duly noted was the lack of comment about President Bush’s controversial service during that era and the attacks on him.
It would take too much space for me to point out all the problems with your comments (suffice it to say they were one sided at best and inflammatory at worst). I watch PBS because of the quality of the shows and the attempt at fairness and neutrality. If I want to watch a political show, either liberal of conservative, I will do so. I dislike when anyone mixes in their political agendas in the middle of a show that is nominally educational and entertaining. Please cease and desist and keep your entertainment shows neutral, or have the honesty to say that they are political forums and not educational or entertainment.
John Wylder, Lake Oswego, OR
I was disappointed with the episode of “History Detectives” that aired on Monday, July, 9. At the end of the first segment about the photo of the GAR reunion with black soldiers, a comment was made that John Kerry was “smeared” by the Swift Boat Veterans in 2004, and possibly lost the election because of it. This is not true, the group pointed out many of Kerry’s discrepancies in his service with the Swift Boats in Vietnam. He never did answer their charges and refused to release his military records from the period, which would have cleared many things up. This seems to be another example of the liberal bias of PBS. In the future, please confine yourselves to telling about history, not rewriting it.
Bob Abraham, Los Angeles, CA