- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Press coverage of liberal political activist groups attacking President Bush has been less intense and less critical than current coverage of a group questioning Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s service in the Vietnam War.

According to a Lexis-Nexis search, major U.S. newspapers, magazines and television networks filed nearly 400 stories in the past 10 days about the anti-Kerry ads put forward by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Most of those stories have run since last Thursday, when Mr. Kerry accused the group of being a “front” for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, and the articles have explored that charge and examined the group in depth.

The White House has denied any connection to the so-called “527” organization — named for the exemption in tax law that allows it to spend limitless amounts of money on political speech.

Bush-Cheney campaign lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg, who has performed legal work for the Swift Boat veterans, resigned from the campaign yesterday, claiming no wrongdoing and decrying “a stunning double standard” that has emerged “between the media’s focus on the activities of 527s aligned with John Kerry and those opposed to him.”

Research by The Washington Times revealed only 34 stories this month that mentioned the liberal 527 group MoveOn.org, which has been attacking Mr. Bush on television and the Internet since the spring, posting on its Web site an ad that compared the president to Adolf Hitler.

Of those 34 stories, 27 concerned MoveOn.org’s new ad countering the Swift Boat veterans and accusing Mr. Bush of shirking his duty in the National Guard during the Vietnam War — a charge that the White House refuted by releasing his military records and noting his honorable discharge.

Just two of those stories mentioned that MoveOn.org began their attacks on Mr. Bush’s National Guard service in April.

Another 527 organization called “America Coming Together,” which is funded by billionaire financier George Soros and is working to defeat Mr. Bush, turned up fewer than 20 times in the Lexis-Nexis search of stories that mention the group at least twice — a low threshold for stories that would reflect a careful examination of the group.

Mr. Soros has been the subject of more than 600 stories since he began funding various anti-Bush efforts, but Brent Baker of the conservative Media Research Center said most of those stories were hardly as critical and probing as the ones about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in recent days.

“On the 527 groups, in the spring, every network did a story or two, but that was about it,” Mr. Baker said. “They did a few things on Soros or mentioned him in passing during stories showing that Bush has out-raised Kerry by a 2-1 margin, but that Kerry has these independent groups spending money on his behalf.

“There was never any effort to condemn or pursue or try to discredit any advertising based upon funding,” Mr. Baker added. “It was basically a one-day story saying that these groups exist and they attack Bush.”

Jim Naureckas of the liberal media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said the increased attention to the Swift Boat Veterans is unfair — not toward the group, but toward Mr. Kerry because the charges made by the 254 men who served with Mr. Kerry are without merit.

“I think there is a real threshold of credibility that charges should have to meet before they are turned into the lead story on national news, and I don’t think the Swift Boat charges meet that level of credibility,” Mr. Naureckas said, adding that reporters “fell down” by not looking more carefully at Mr. Bush’s National Guard record.

• Researcher Clark Eberly contributed to this report.

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