Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — the group that aggressively has questioned Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam record — continued its effort yesterday, running a new television ad in Florida and Tennessee criticizing Mr. Kerry for getting rid of some of his war medals.

The group also sent a letter yesterday to Mr. Kerry, who is scheduled to speak to the American Legion today in Nashville, Tenn., asking him to apologize for becoming a war protester after he returned from Vietnam. The letter further asked him to explain incidents in his war record that are questioned in the group’s ads.

“How can the man who renounced his country’s symbols now be trusted?” the newest Swift Boat television ad asks, after showing clips of a young Mr. Kerry, who was protesting the war, saying that he gave back some of his medals.

“It was a slap in the face to the millions of men who received those medals,” said Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, chairman of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and former commander of swift boats in Vietnam.

The veterans are spending $385,000 to run their newest ad in Florida, and $35,000 to run it in Nashville — a city chosen because Mr. Kerry visits there today. The ads will run through Thursday.

Mr. Kerry’s campaign denounced the newest ads, as it has the others, and said the Swift Boat Veterans are a “discredited” group illegally working in cahoots with the Bush administration.

“This group has been completely discredited,” said Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton. “The web of connection between George Bush and this group grows wider every day. … These guys are a proven pack of liars. They have no credibility and the real question is, why won’t President Bush condemn it?”

Mr. Bush has criticized all attack ads from 527 groups — so named because of the tax code provision that allows them to accept unlimited contributions — including the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Mr. Kerry’s campaign has compiled a fact sheet listing high-profile leaders, such as Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who have denounced the ads, and cited newspaper stories linking Bush campaign aides to the Swift Boat Veterans group.

The group, which consists of more than 250 men who served similar duty as Mr. Kerry on PCF (Patrol Craft Fast) boats in the Mekong River Delta of South Vietnam, has run two other television ads.

Since it ran the first one on Aug. 5, the Swift Boat Veterans said more than 40,000 donors have contacted the group, generating more than $2.6 million.

The veterans spent $550,000 to run their first ad in Wisconsin, West Virginia and Ohio; $800,000 to run their second ad on national cable stations; and $735,000 to run the second ad in New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

The three leading anti-Bush 527 groups have raised a combined $64 million so far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Adm. Hoffmann said the group “will continue to be on the offensive” and plans more ads, probably in swing states or other areas Mr. Kerry visits.

“We intend to follow his campaign trail,” he said.

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