Kerry Failed to Denounce MoveOn's Bush-Hitler Ad

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:30pm EDT

( - The ads comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler drew rebukes from Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe and liberal financier George Soros in January, but Sen. John Kerry never denounced the controversial ads at the time.

It took the Kerry campaign months to condemn the use of Hitler imagery in a political ad, yet an adviser to the Democrat presidential nominee suggested earlier this week that Kerry had been out in front with his condemnation.

"When these groups go over the line, like one of them did when they compared George Bush to Hitler, John Kerry said, 'Foul. That's wrong,' " spokesman Michael Meehan said on Sunday's Scarborough Country on MSNBC.

But a search of newspaper articles and television appearances in January revealed no instance where Kerry or any of his surrogates denounced the ads comparing Bush to Hitler.

Spokesmen for the Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee didn't return calls Wednesday.

Immediately after the story made headlines Jan. 4, Republicans hit the airwaves calling on Democrats to condemn the ads, which were posted on the Voter Fund website. McAuliffe, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, wasted no time.

On the Jan. 6 episode of "Crossfire," conservative host Robert Novak put the question to him, "I'm going to ask you, as a fair-minded man, Mr. McAuliffe, can you condemn that ad?"

"Absolutely," McAuliffe replied. "Despicable. It should be nowhere in the discourse of politics."

One week later, on Jan. 13, Soros openly condemned the ads. At the time, Soros had just announced a $2.5 donation to MoveOn with the intention of defeating Bush.

But despite the criticism from McAuliffe and Soros, the Democrat candidates seeking their party's nomination for president kept quiet. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean was considered the front-runner in the race at the time, but Kerry was gaining momentum.

"While none of the Democratic candidates have responded to the GOP calls that they condemn the two ads," the Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 11, "others have fired back at Republicans for their own divisive TV spots."

The ads themselves set off a furor at the Republican National Committee, which posted them on its website. One of them compared Bush to Hitler, declaring, "What were war crimes in 1945 is foreign policy in 2003."

The ads were part of a contest by the Voter Fund. The group received 1,500 submissions and some of them, including the Hitler ads, were posted on its website. MoveOn's founder, Wes Boyd, called the postings an accident and later apologized.

It wasn't until the Bush campaign released a video titled "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-eyed," on June 24 that Kerry's aides denounced the use of Hitler in a political ad. The Bush campaign's video included clips from the MoveOn ads.

"The Bush campaign should immediately remove these hateful images from its website and apologize for using them," Kerry spokesman Phil Singer said on June 25. "The use of Adolph (sic) Hitler by any campaign, politician or party is simply wrong."

The Kerry campaign has been on the attack for a week in an attempt to paint the Bush campaign as a front for the anti-Kerry group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The veterans' group has released two television ads and a best-selling book questioning Kerry's accomplishments during the Vietnam War.

Kerry's surrogates have repeatedly called on Bush to denounce the veterans' ads, including Wednesday when former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) entered the mix.

"It's time for the commander-in-chief to show the courage and guts to stand up and denounce these ads," Cleland said in Crawford, Texas, after unsuccessfully attempting to hand-deliver a letter to the president at his ranch.

Bush, however, has stood firm in his opposition to 527 political groups. When asked by reporters Monday if he would denounce the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad questioning Kerry's military service, Bush was emphatic.

"That means that ad, every other ad. Absolutely," Bush said. "I don't think we ought to have 527s. I can't be more plain about it, and I wish, I hope my opponent joins me in ... condemning these activities of the 527s ... I think they're bad for the system."

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