Clever as ever, Drudge makes it personal

Published September 24, 2004 8:56PM (EDT)

Employing some crude editing techniques, Matt Drudge today tried to convey the impression that one of Sen. John Kerry's staunchest defenders was backing off his praise for Kerry's war service. The misinformation attempt forced historian Douglas Brinkley to clarify his statement of full support for Kerry.

The dust-up grew out of a New York Times article today addressing each presidential candidate's military service as a political issue in light of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accusations and the controversy surrounding Bush's Texas Air National Guard duty. The passage in question, which dealt with how the issue played with voters, reads as follows:

"Every American now knows that there's something really screwy about George Bush and the National Guard, and they know that John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was," said Douglas Brinkley, the historian and author of a friendly biography of Mr. Kerry's war years, acknowledging that Mr. Kerry's opponents had succeeded in raising questions about his service.

"'It's kind of neutralized itself, just by tiring everybody out,' Mr. Brinkley said.'"

Although somewhat clumsily stated, the point was obvious; Brinkley's quote was meant to reflect the take-away for average news consumers, not Brinkley's view of Kerry.

Drudge, in linking to the article on his homepage simply posted: "'John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was' ... -- Douglas Brinkley, Historian, author of friendly bio of Kerry's war years..."

This afternoon Brinkley released this statement: "A story in the September 24 New York Times leaves the false impression that I think John Kerry was not 'the war hero we thought he was.' Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a great American fighting man in Vietnam and deserved all of his medals. Over the past year I have vigorously defended Kerry's military record and will continue to do so. My comment was meant to be about the political consequences of the anti-Kerry Swift Boat attacks vs. the anti-Bush National Guard ones. I was speaking about public perceptions not my personal beliefs."

By 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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