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Veteran stands by criticism of Kerry
One of the swift boat veterans included in a new television ad questioning the veracity of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam war record stands by his criticism, despite reports he had recanted, according to the group sponsoring the ad.
"Captain George Elliott describes an article appearing in today's edition of the Boston Globe by Mike Kranish as extremely inaccurate and highly misstating his actual views," said a statement released yesterday by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group opposed to Mr. Kerry's election.
"He reaffirms his statement in the current advertisement paid for by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Captain Elliott reaffirms his affidavit in support of that advertisement and he reaffirms his request that the ad be played."
The Boston Globe reported yesterday that Mr. Elliott, who served as Mr. Kerry's commander during most of his 41/2 months of combat in Vietnam, had recanted his affidavit this week, saying he'd been in a hurry and made a "terrible mistake" by signing it.
"I still don't think [Mr. Kerry] shot the [Viet Cong] in the back," Mr. Elliott reportedly told the Globe Thursday from his home. "It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here."
Last month, Mr. Elliott, 67, signed an affidavit swearing that Mr. Kerry "lied" about his experiences in Vietnam.
"Kerry was also not forthright in Vietnam," he said in his affidavit. "For example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back."
A woman who answered the phone at Mr. Elliott's Delaware home yesterday referred questions to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Asked later if the statement -- which directly disputed that day's report in the Globe -- was accurate, she conferred with another person and said : "That is absolutely correct."
It's not the first time Mr. Elliott has sent mixed signals about Mr. Kerry's war record.
Prior to his current criticism -- part of a searing portrayal of Mr. Kerry's service -- Mr. Elliott campaigned on behalf of Mr. Kerry in a tight 1996 Senate race.
And earlier this year he told USA Today that he had "no question about" Mr. Kerry's actions that earned him the Silver Star.
"This was an exemplary action," he said.
In the ad, which is playing in key battleground states such as Ohio, Wisconsin and West Virginia, Mr. Elliott says, "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."
Specifically, Mr. Elliott and other Navy veterans who served nearby Mr. Kerry challenge some of the claims that led to the Bronze Star, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts awarded to Mr. Kerry. They also criticize Mr. Kerry for his protesting against the war after he returned home.
Claims by Mr. Elliott and other veterans opposed to Mr. Kerry are to appear in the forthcoming book "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry."
The Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee wrote to television stations demanding that they not air the anti-Kerry ad, calling it "an outrageous, inflammatory lie." As of yesterday, stations in Lacrosse, Wis., and Dayton, Ohio, agreed not to air the 60-second ad.
The Kerry campaign also has criticized the effort by the swift boat veterans group, saying they had not served on Mr. Kerry's boat with him as had other veterans who have traveled the country and vigorously campaigned for him.
In his convention speech, Mr. Kerry was introduced by his old Navy comrades and spent much of his speech talking about his service. Campaign ads also have focused on his heroism.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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