NYT Again Slimes 'Unfounded Rumors' from Swift Boat Vets

February 26th, 2008 2:19 PM

Hillary Clinton and "conservative blogs" are attacking media heart-throb Barack Obama, and reporter Michael Powell rushed to Obama's defense Monday, including a slam of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, in "Taking Blows From All Sides and Weighting When to Punch Back."

And conservative blogs and television commentators accuse Mr. Obama of all manner of unpatriotic derelictions....Mr. McCain, for his part, lobbed a few shots over the weekend into the Democratic Party ranks.

If either Democrat withdrew troops from Iraq as proposed, he said in a speech Saturday night before the Republican Governors Association in Washington, Al Qaeda would "celebrate to the world that they have defeated the United States of America."

The Republican attacks, whether from Mr. McCain or the conservative blogosphere, present a trickier challenge for Democrats. When Mr. Obama tried to ignore the unfounded rumor that he is a Muslim (he is, in fact, a practicing Christian), the charge even appeared in mainstream news outlets.

In 2004, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee for president that year, and his campaign also tried to ignore unfounded rumors besmirching his war record in Vietnam -- a move that former aides now describe as a mistake.

"I'm not saying you can ignore patented smears," said Mr. Axelrod, the Obama campaign strategist. "But the danger is that you take your eye off your knitting."

(Speaking of "unfounded rumors," how about that blockbuster McCain story?) 

The "unfounded rumors" Powell is referencing of course came from the Swift Boat Veterans, who famously went on the record to challenge Sen. John Kerry's medals and memories. Powell's hostile, loaded description highlighted above is a harsher echo of the Times's dismissive coverage of the Swift Boat Vets from the 2004 campaign, when the Times called the group's claims "unsubstantiated" on two dozen occasions. The Times never bothered to actually test the Swifties' claims for veracity, even after the Swifties has proven John Kerry to be false on his frequent claim of having spent Christmas 1968 on a secret mission in Cambodia.

By contrast, smears on George W. Bush's National Guard record during Vietnam were never called "unsubstantiated" by the Times, even though they were based on forged documents.