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KERRY RESPONDS ON 'GMA'
Mon Apr 26 2004 09:04:52 ET
ABC NEWS GOOD MORNING AMERICA'S CHARLIE GIBSON: Now joining us from West Virginia is himself senator John Kerry. He's in the town of Glen Easton, West Virginia, today. Good to have you with us.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: i'm glad to be with you. i really am.
GIBSON: 1984, senator, to the present. you have said a number of times, as brian pointed out as recently as friday with the ""los angeles times,"" have you said a number of times that you did not throw away the vietnam medals themselves. but now this interview from 1971 shows up the in which you say that was the medals themselves that were thrown away.
KERRY: no, i don't.
GIBSON: can you explain?
KERRY: absolutely. that's absolutely incorrect. charlie, i stood up in front of the nation. there were dozens of cameras there, television cameras, there were -- i don't know. 20, 30 still photographers. thousands of people and i stood up in front of the country, reached into my shirt, visibly for the nation to see, and took the ribbons off my chest, said a few words and threw them over the fence. the file footage, the reporter there from the ""boston globe,"" everybody got it correctly. and i never asserted otherwise. what i said was and back then, you know, ribbons, medals were absolutely interchangeable . senator simmington asking me questions in the committee hearing, look ad at the ribbons and said what are those medals? the u.s. navy pam let calls the medals, we referred to them it is a symbols, representing medals, ribbons, countless veterans through the ribbon -- threw the ribbons back. everybody did. veterans threw back dog tags. they threw back photographs, they th rew back their 14's. there are photographs of a pile of all of those things collected on the steps of the capitol. so the fact is that i have -- i have been accurate precisely about what took place. and i am the one who later made clear exactly what happened. i mean, this is a controversy that the republicans are pushing , the republicans have spent $60 million in the last few weeks trying to attack me. and this comes from a president and a republican party that can't even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the national guard. i'm not going to stand for it.
GIBSON: senator, i was there 33 years ago and i saw you throw medals over the fence and we didn't find out until later -
KERRY: no, you didn't see me throw th. charlie, charlie, you are wrong. that's not what happened. i threw my ribbons across. all you have to do -
GIBSON: someone else's medals, correct in?
KERRY: after -- excuse me. excuse me, charlie. after the ceremony was over, i had a bronze star and a purple heart given to me, one purple heart by a veteran in the v.a. in new york and the bronze star by an older veteran of world war ii in massachusetts. i threw them over because they asked me to. i never --
GIBSON: let me come back to the thing just said which is the military --
KERRY: this is a phony -- charlie, this is a phony controversy.
GIBSON: the military makes no distinction between ribbons and medals but you are the one who made the distinction. in 1984 --
KERRY: no . we made no distinction back then, charlie. we made no distinction.
GIBSON: senator, i don't want -- i just want to ask the question. in 1984 when you were running for the senate, that was the first time that you called someone in from labor because they were upset that you had thrown ribbons away.
GIBSON: you called them and you made the distinction and said i didn't throw my medals away. i just threw the ribbons away. you made the distinction.
KERRY: i was asked specifically in greater detail about what took place. i answered the question truthfully. which is consistent with what happened in 1971. i mean, charlie, go back and get the file footage. there are were millions of people watching. i took my ribbons off my chest just as other veterans did. this is a phony controversy. this is being pushed yesterday by karen hughes of the white house on fox. it shows up at a several different stations at the same time. the republicans are running $10 million this week to attack my credentials on defense. this comes from a president who can't even show or prove that he showed up for duty in the national guard.
GIBSON: senator --
KERRY: i'm not going to stand for it. i'm in the going to stand for it.
GIBSON: i-understand you are feeling politics is behind this. but i ask you, is it not --
KERRY: i know politics is behind this.
GIBSON: when trying to appeal to the anti-war people in 1971, you said as in that interview, it was the medals and then when the people who supported the war were giving you political problems, you then said i didn't throw the medals away 13 years later.
KERRY: that's the most -- with all due respect, that's the most ridiculous thing i have ever heard. because i stood up in front of the country, in front of cameras, a reporter of the ""boston globe"" got it correct . he wrote about the medals but knew they were my ribbons. everybody understood what we were doing. i even said in that interview we threw away the symbols of what our country gave us for what we had gone through. and if i was -- you know, back then, trying to appeal to somebody, i stood up against richard nixon, stood up against the withar, took a position, and it wasn't popular, and it was polarizing. i didn't have to do it. if i was trying to hide something, i would have never stood there in floment of everybody and thrown them over the fence. i threw my ribbons over. i threw the medals of two veterans who asked me to throw them over, after the ceremony, completely separate, and i'm the one -- if hi something to hide, i'm the one who made it known exactly what happened. to me, it is one in the same. and i'm proud of it.
GIBSON: let me ask you, too, about two other things that you have said. subsequent to that. 1985, you said to ""the washington post,"" it is such a personal thing i did no want to throw my medals away. then 1996, you said to the ""boston globe,"" i didn't bring my own medals to throw because i didn't have time to go home and get them. which one was it?
KERRY: i expressed there was great sense of wrench being the whole thing. many of us -- we had a long argument the night before, charlie. it is a matter of record. as to how we were going to do it. and the vote was taken. i was not in favor of throwing them over the fence. i thought we ought to lay them on a table and put them in front of people in a way that, you know, wouldn't be as challenging to many americans. other veterans felt otherwise. they took a vote. the vote was made, they voted to throw. i threw my ribbons. i didn't have my medals. it is very simple . what the republicans are trying to do is make this into an issue because they have no record to run on and they can't go out and talk about jobs or health care or environment. they are going to attack 35 years ago. last week in an unprecedented attack, they sent congressmen to the floor of the senate of the house to attack me on the anniversary of my speech. george bush has yet to explain to america whether or no t to tell the truth about whether he showed up for duty. i'm not going to get attack order something i did that's a matter of record that the press saw, that i did in front of the entire nation and everyone then understood there was no distinction. we threw away the symbols of the war. i'm proud i stood up and fought stood up and fought against it. proud i took on richard nixon. and i think to this day, there's no distinction between the two.
GIBSON: all right. senator, i appreciate your being with us this morning. i'm glad to have you here. thank you. all the best. diane?
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