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“You can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader. There are plenty of places to meet people without traveling abroad,” he said, adding that he “would be stupid” to name the leaders, because they still must deal with Mr. Bush.

Mr. Kerry said he still stands by his statement and challenged news organizations to investigate whether his point was correct.

“I invite you, I invite The Washington Times editorial, go to European, go to foreign capitals, travel in the world. Talk to any American businessman who has been abroad,” he said. “Never has the United States of America been held in as low a regard internationally — and polls have shown this — as we are today. We’re not trusted, and this administration is not liked.”

Mr. Russert showed a clip of Mr. Kerry on “Meet the Press” in 1971, saying that in Vietnam: “I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed.”

“You committed atrocities,” Mr. Russert said yesterday.

Mr. Kerry tried to interject some humor.

“Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That’s a big question for me,” he said.

Mr. Kerry then said using the word “atrocities” and calling U.S. leaders “war criminals” were not the best choice of words.

“The words were honest, but, on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top,” he said.