TEXT of letter retyped from fax; fax courtesy of Human Events.

August 5, 2004


Re:   Swift Boat Veterans for Truth

Dear Station Manager:

        We are counsel to the Democratic National Committee and John Kerry, respectively.  It has been brought to our attention that a group calling itself "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" has bought time, or may seek to buy time, on your station to air an advertisement that attacks Senator Kerry.   The advertisement contains statements by men who purport to have served on Senator Kerry's SWIFT Boat in Vietnam, and one statement by a man pretending to be the doctor who treated Senator Kerry for one of his injuries.  In fact, not a single one of the men who pretend to have served with Senator Kerry was actually a crewmate of Senator Kerry's and the man pretending to be his doctor was not.  The entire advertisement, therefore is an inflammatory, outrageous lie.

       "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" styles itself as a group of individuals who personally served with John Kerry in the United States Navy in the Vietnam War.  In truth the group is a sham organization spearheaded by a Texas corporate media consultant.  It has been financed largely with funds from a Houston homebuilder.  See Slater, Dallas Morning News, July 23, 2004.

       In this group's advertisement, twelve men appear to make statements about Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam.  Not a single one of these men served on either of Senator Kerry's two SWIFT Boats (PCF 44 & PCF94).

       Further, the "doctor" who appears in the ad, Louis Letson, was not a crewmate of Senator Kerry's and was not the doctor who actually signed Senator Kerry's sick call sheet.  In fact, another physician actually signed Senator Kerry's sick call sheet.  Letson is not listed on any document as having treated Senator Kerry after the December 2, 1968 firefight.  Moreover, according to news accounts, Letson did not record his "memories" of that incident until after Senator Kerry became a candidate for President in 2003.  (National Review Online, May 4, 2004).

       The statements made by the phony "crewmates" and "doctor" who appear in the advertisement are also totally, demonstrably and unequivocally false, and libelous.  In parrticular, the advertisement charges that Senator Kerry "lied to get his Bronze Star."  Just as falsely, it states that "he lied before the Senate."  These are serious allegations of actual crimes -- specifically, of lying to the United States Government in the conduct of its official business.  The events for which the Senator was awarded the Bronze Star have been documented repeatedly and in detail and are set out in the official citation signed by the Secretary of the Navy and the Commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam.  And yet these reckless charges of criminal conduct are offered without support or authentication, by fake "witnesses" speaking on behalf of a phony organization.

       Your station is not obligated to accept this advertisement for broadcast nor is it required to account in any way for its decision to reject such an advertisement.  Columbia Broadcasting System v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U.S. 94 (1973), You Can't Afford Dodd Committee, 81 FCC2d 579 (1980).  The so-called "Swift Boat Veterans" organization is not a federal candidate or candidate committee.  Repeated efforts by organizations that are not candidate committees to obtain a private right of access have been consistently rejected by the FCC.  See e.g., National Conservative Political Action Committee, 89 FCC2d 626 (1982).

       Thus, your station my freely refuse this advertisement.  Because your station has this freedom, and because it is not a "use" of your facilities by a clearly identified candidate, your station is responsible for the false and libelous charges made by this sponsor.

       Moreover, as a licensee, you have an overriding duty "to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising."  Licensee Responsibility With Respect to the Broadcast of False, Misleading or Deceptive Advertising, 74 F.C.D.2d 623 (1961).  Your station normally must take "reasonable steps" to satisfy itself "as to the reliability and reputation of every prospective advertiser."  In re Complaint by Consumers Assocation of District of Columbia, 32 F.C.C.2d 400, 405 (1971).

       Under these circumstances, your station may not responsibly air this advertisement.  We request that your station act immmediately to prevent broadcasts of this advertisement and deny andy future sale of time.  Knowing that the advertisement is false, and possessing the legal authority to refuse to run it, your station should exercise that authority in the public interest.

       Please contact us promptly at either of the phone numbers below to advise us regarding the status of this advertisement.

                                        Sincerely yours,
Marc Elias
Perkins Coie
607 14th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20005
[phone number omitted]

General Counsel
Kerry-Edwards 2004
Joseph Sandler
Sandler, Reiff & Young
50 E Street, S.E. #300
Washington, D.C.  20003
[phone number omitted]

General Counsel
Democratic National Committee