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Kerry blasts 'phony controversy' over medals

Bush adviser: Democrat 'pretended' to throw away medals

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start quoteI can understand if out of conscience you take a principled stand and you would decide that you were so opposed to this that you would actually throw your medals. But to pretend to do so, I think that's very revealing. end quote
-- Karen Hughes
start quoteThis comes from a president who can't even show or prove that he showed up for duty in the National Guard.end quote
-- Sen. John Kerry
Is Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam War medals controversy a relevant campaign issue?
John F. Kerry
George W. Bush
America Votes 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry on Monday rejected as a "phony controversy" questions about whether he had misled people about a symbolic Vietnam War protest he participated in 33 years ago.

"I'm not going to stand for it," Kerry told ABC's "Good Morning America." "I'm not going to stand for it."

The presumptive Democratic nominee, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, said Republicans were behind the latest questions and pointed out that they coincide with new GOP television ads that attack Kerry on national defense.

At the end of the interview, as he unclipped his microphone, Kerry, apparently not realizing the camera was still on, turned to someone and muttered, "God, they're doing the work of the Republican National Committee."

At issue is Kerry's participation in a 1971 protest at which several veterans discarded their medals in protest of the Vietnam War.

Kerry threw away the ribbons from his medals, along with the actual medals of two veterans who were not able to attend the ceremony, according to the candidate's Web site.

When he returned from the war, Kerry became an active opponent of the conflict and was a leader in Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Karen Hughes, a campaign adviser to President Bush, described herself as "very troubled" by the fact that Kerry only throw away his ribbons -- not the medals themselves.

"He only pretended to throw his," she charged Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

"Now, I can understand if out of conscience you take a principled stand and you would decide that you were so opposed to this that you would actually throw your medals. But to pretend to do so, I think that's very revealing." (Hughes blasts Kerry's Vietnam comments)

And an article in Monday's New York Times says that Kerry gave a 1971 television interview in which he appeared to suggest that he had given his own medals back.

The New York Times describes the transcript of that television interview -- which it says was archived by President Nixon's communications office and held by the National Archives -- this way:

An interviewer asks Kerry, "How many did you give back, John?"

Kerry responds, "I gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine."

The interviewer then notes that Kerry had won the Purple Hearts and Bronze and Silver stars. Kerry says, "Well, and above that, I gave my others."

Pressed Monday about whether he had ever misled people on what he threw away, Kerry rejected the charge. He said there was "no distinction" between medals and ribbons, and stressed the symbolic nature of the protest.

"We threw away the symbols of the war," Kerry told ABC Monday from a campaign stop in West Virginia. "I'm proud I 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."

Kerry has said he did not throw away his own medals because he did not have them with him.

Monday, Kerry also questioned Bush's military service during the Vietnam War, something -- up till now -- he has generally avoided.

"This is a phony controversy," Kerry said of the questions about his anti-Vietnam War protest. "... This comes from a president who can't even show or prove that he showed up for duty in the National Guard."

In February, the White House released Bush's military records amid questions about whether Bush reported for duty during a year he spent in Alabama while working on the Senate campaign of a friend.

A review of those records by retired USAF Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a military analyst for CNN, found that those records appeared to be in order and that Bush was paid during the time period in question.

But the records didn't specify the nature of his duties or where they were performed.

Kerry's actions as a Vietnam War protester have come under new scrutiny during the campaign.

He recently expressed regret for saying in 1971 that he and other soldiers had committed "atrocities" in Vietnam. (Kerry's 1971 testimony reverberates)

Kerry said his use of the term "atrocity" was "inappropriate" and some of his language was "over the top."

He also said he never intended to cast a negative light on the soldiers with whom he served.

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