Booksellers asked to reconsider "Unfit"


Eric Boehlert
August 20, 2004 10:02PM (UTC)

Calling Unfit for Command, "the Hitler Diaries of the current political season -- a complete fraud," a media advocacy group is urging major book retailers to rethink their policy surrounding the anti-John Kerry title, which stands at the center of a controversial smear campaign. Noting that key allegations in the book have already been proven to be false, Media Matters for America CEO David Brock today wrote to Wal-Mart, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble "to express my concern that by continuing to sell "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry" as a work of nonfiction, prominent book retailers are complicit in a literary hoax."

On Thursday, a Kerry campaign spokesman told Salon that Unfit for Command's publisher should recall the book since it's based on "falsehoods." "We'd be surprised if they'd keep publishing a book that's been proven to have outright lies in it," said Chad Clanton. In the past, reputable publishers have withdrawn titles from the marketplace after being revealed to be hoaxes, such as The Hitler Diaries.

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But Regnery Publishing, the firm behind Unfit for Command is known for its openly conservative agenda and it's doubtful the company would take actions to correct the book's assertions, let alone pull the title. "I therefore ask you to consider what is the responsibility of a bookseller when a prominent work of nonfiction is found to be based on false information," wrote Brock. "It's important to keep in mind that official military records (as well as the statements of all but one of Kerry's crewmates) flatly contradict the lies in Unfit for Command."

He urged the retailers to pull off their shelves, or at least alert readers to the book's factual shortcoming. One way, suggested Brock, would be to include links on Unfit for Command's product page, alerting online shoppers to recent articles that refute the book's claim.


Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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