This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 24, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The debate over Vietnam continues to dominate the headlines as more veterans emerge with conflicting tales about John Kerry's service. But is the debate now shifting to what John Kerry (search) did when he returned from the war?
Joining us now is the author of this new book, "Unfit for Command," John O'Neill.
Is there any truth that your book will be No. 1 on The New York Times?
JOHN O'NEILL, AUTHOR OF "UNFIT FOR COMMAND": They say it will be, Sean. If it is, it's a good thing for the folks that are getting my royalty interest, which is the military charity.
HANNITY: The second week, do you know that for sure or has it been confirmed?
O'NEILL: No, I know for sure it was No. 3 last week.
HANNITY: OK. We're hoping it's No. 1.
O'NEILL: That's what they say, Sean.
HANNITY: I've got to tell you, it's almost laughable what has been leading up to this program tonight. The Kerry campaign, knowing you're going to be here, in just a frenzied effort, shooting over talking points all over the place and information.
You're not running for president that I know of, are you?
O'NEILL: I'm not running for anything. I'm running to try and clear our unit's reputation and I'm going home, Sean, just like I did 30 years ago.
HANNITY: All right. 64 guys, according to Kerry and his shills out there, are all liars, the ones that you put in your book. Guys that you quote, the decorated heroes, they just dismiss. Just all of them are liars and only John Kerry's version matters. That's the world we live in today.
What's amazing about this is they went back and they're pitching this now to every news organization in the country. They found a quote of you from 1971 on the "ABC This Week" program where you said you weren't exactly in Cambodia.
But in a tape with Richard Nixon (search), "I was in Cambodia."
Now, first of all, did he ever resolve his Cambodia issue? Because I don't think he has. And do you want to even respond to this attack against you so they can distract from him never answering a question about the discrepancies in his life?
O'NEILL: Yes, sir. I served for three months on the Cambodian boarder on a creek called Bernique's Creek (search). I haven't seen the quote. But I believe what I would have told anyone that asked me is that I served on the Cambodian border. I might have said I was in Cambodia and I was on the Cambodian border. That's where this creek was.
HANNITY: Yes. What you said to Richard Nixon was, "I worked along the border; I was in Cambodia."
And what you said in this interview, "Our patrol was about 50 miles from Cambodia."
But what's interesting about this is we're back to the same tactics, to smear you, to smear the 250 swifties, to dismiss every guy in your book as a liar and then to try and silence you by going to your publisher and having their front groups attack the bookstores that are selling this book.
I have never seen anything like this from liberals in my life, have you?
O'NEILL: I think it's really pathetic, Sean. I don't mind them attacking me, but we have Al French, who happened to be one of the people in our ad, hundreds of e-mails that have arrived into the office that he works at in Oregon asking people to fire him.
O'NEILL: Admiral Hoffman has been smeared. Systematically, they've gone through all the same guys, many of whom were right with Kerry — smearing one after another.
HANNITY: Now, because they're attacking you and you're not running for president. And these guys, highly decorated guys — to believe John Kerry, we have to dismiss all of these guys you quote on the records in your book.
And then the idea that they're going to silence these guys, try and get bookstores not to carry it, try and get the publisher to pull the book, which is the antithesis of liberalism here, I find it amazing.
I want you to now explain what stories have changed in John Kerry's book, because this is the focus they want to divert everyone's attention from. What stories have you found, as a result of your book, have changed?
O'NEILL: Here is what he admitted so far. Some he hasn't addressed.
First he admitted he was not in Cambodia on Christmas Eve and Christmas day on this secret mission that he said was the turning point of his entire life.
Second, with respect to the major item at the Democratic convention, the no man left behind story, where he said five swift boats went. He was badly wounded by a water mine. He came back alone to rescue Rassman.
He's admitted first he actually wounded himself in a very minor way when he was playing around with a grenade that morning when he was throwing it around throwing it in a rice field. It had nothing to do with the water mine explosion.
Second, he's admitted that he is the only one that fled. Everybody else stayed because the three-boat was blown up. So he's admitted that the book is true on those.
He contests whether there was gunfire when he finally chose to come back. And it's not clear to me whether he admits authoring, actually writing a report...
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Mr. O'Neill, just in the interest of time, look, there are so many inconsistencies here, in my view, in the swift boat story.
I thank you for being on the show, and again, as you know, I admire your service, as I do all those who served their country, although we may disagree on this issue.
Look, this issue of Cambodia, you said, on George Stephanopoulos' show over the weekend that you knew that Kerry was not in Cambodia, that you could not have been in Cambodia on a swift boat, that he didn't go north of Sadak. They just didn't go that far. You were 15 miles away.
There's a tape of you, as you now know, in the Oval Office, saying you were in Cambodia, you said to Richard Nixon. You worked along the border or you were in Cambodia.
That seems very different than being 15 miles away and saying the swift boats didn't go to Cambodia. So they can't both be true.
O'NEILL: Alan, yes, they are, Alan. It's two different places, Alan. One place is along the Mekong River, right in the heart of the delta. The second place is on the west coast of Cambodia at a place called Ha Tien, where the boundary is right along that border.
Where Kerry was in Christmas of 1968 was on this river, the Mekong River. We got about 40 or 50 miles from the border. That's as close as we ran.
Later, Kerry went, and I went, to a place called Bernique's Creek — that was our nickname for it — at Ha Tien. That was a canal system that ran close to the border, but that wasn't at Christmas for Kerry. That was later for him.
So it's two separate places, Alan, and the story is correct.
COLMES: All right. Well, either you were in Cambodia or Kerry was in Cambodia and you claim he wasn't in Cambodia. You claimed at one point you weren't and then you claimed you were. This is very confusing to people.
O'NEILL: Well, it shouldn't be confused. I was never in Cambodia and Kerry lied when he said he was in Cambodia.
COLMES: You said to Richard Nixon you were in Cambodia.
O'NEILL: And it was the turning point of his life.
COLMES: You said to Richard Nixon, "I was in Cambodia, sir."
HANNITY: On the border.
COLMES: There's a tape of you saying that to Richard Nixon.
O'NEILL: What's the next sentence? I was along the Cambodian border. That's exactly right. What I told Nixon and was trying to tell him in this meeting was I was along the Cambodian border. As Sean clearly read...
COLMES: "I was in Cambodia," Those are your words.
O'NEILL: Yes, but you missed the next sentence. You're not reading the next sentence, Alan.
COLMES: Yes, along the border. But you're in Cambodia or you're not in Cambodia.
O'NEILL: Well, I'm sorry, Alan. I was talking in a conversation. And the first thing, by the way, I told him in the conversation, as you know, was that I was a Democrat and I voted for Hubert Humphrey.
COLMES: All right. Let me show you something you said on this program when you were on last week. Let me roll that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'NEILL: This is a 75-yard wide creek that these boats are on. They were on this creek, rescuing the three-boat for a period of an hour and a half. Not a single person was wounded after the original mine explosion. There's not a bullet hole in any of those three or four boats, not one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLMES: Now, that's at variance with a number of reports that's come out. Let me show you what the Los Angeles Times reported: "A damage survey filed with the Navy report said that three of the five boats involved sustained 'battle damage,' and Thurlow's boat had 30 caliber bullet holes about super structure."
And other reports, damage reports and after action reports, similarly say that there was damage to those boats.
O'NEILL: Here's the problem, Alan. The boats were damaged the day before on March 12. If you studied page 304 of Kerry's book, "Tour," you'll see that the three windows are blown out on each of the other two boats the day before.
With respect to the bullet holes on the turret, Thurlow's gunner was wounded the day before. And that's right. That's what happens in ambush. There wasn't a single piece of damage on the 13.
COLMES: Mr. O'Neill, on your Web site at one point you showed a photo of 19 officers from your division. You said that only one man in the picture that supported Kerry. A couple of others were neutral, you said. Two of those have come forward. Let me show you what they have said.
One of them said, Rich McCann, says, "I was never neutral about Kerry as president. If the question is whether John Kerry is fit to be commander in chief, my answer is absolutely."
Another guy named Rich Baker comes forward and "USA Today" reports today that Baker says he was never contacted by your group: "Kerry is very well fit for command. He was one of the most courageous and aggressive swift boat captains in the division."
I know you've since taken their pictures down. But why did you put them up in the first place if their stories don't confirm with what you say?
O'NEILL: We did exactly the right thing. We showed them as neutral. That was the best information they had. As soon as they announced for Kerry, we could.
The current count is of 23 officers there, there are 17 who condemn Kerry as unfit. There are four, by our count, that are for Kerry and indicate that he's fit. So the current count is about four and a half to one. And those guys are entitled to their opinion. But isn't it remarkable that when those few guys come out, they get a headline everywhere, whereas the 17 get no headlines anywhere?
COLMES: What I want to know, this is all about credibility, and you have put people up on your site who have since come forward. A number of people have changed their stories. Last time you were on, I confronted you with some of those people.
And now more people come forward and say, "We were never contacted." Or "I'm not neutral about John Kerry," as your site suggests."
So what does that say about the credibility of the Swift Boat Vets?
O'NEILL: I think we showed those people as having no opinion. That was based on our best information. As soon as they expressed an opinion and decided to, we shifted and showed them favorable to Kerry.
The count now, Alan, of the people who served right with him is 17 think he's unfit, and only four, with these guys, think he's fit.
COLMES: All of the people who were actually on his actual boat, as we pointed out many times, with the exception of one, Gardener, support him.
O'NEILL: That's not right either.
COLMES: ... new information comes out tonight that a lawyer for President Bush's re-election campaign disclosed today that he has been providing legal advice for your group. And there have been lots of stories circulating about the relationship between your group and the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign.
This attorney, Benjamin Ginsberg, now has acknowledged he was providing advice to your group. Doesn't that hurt your case that there's no relationship between the two groups?
O'NEILL: Not at all. He's an independent lawyer to our group. He's with a huge law firm in Washington.
We've been sued by or had complaints filed by two large Washington firms, by any number of other people. I think we have a perfect right to retain Ginsberg's firm on behalf of our group.
I mean, what are we supposed to do, walk in with nobody?
HANNITY: You know, the Kerry campaign is showing themselves to be like Clinton every day. Attack and try and silence 250 highly decorated men that went to serve their country honorably with this blanket accusation you're all liars.
I have some questions. He's asking you questions. He demanded answers about the president's service in the National Guard.
Well, maybe we could start with, “What atrocities did you commit and why, Senator? Did you burn down villages of innocent people and why, Senator? You said you threw your medals, all of them, and then you contradicted your own statement. Why did you take that back, Senator? Why did you give a pass to Bill Clinton and not one to George W. Bush in the National Guard service? Were you in Cambodia at Christmas time, that memory seared in your mind, or not? Was it a self-inflicted wound or not? Will you sign form 180 and release all records or not? And will you apologize about what you said about your fellow veterans?"
I think these are some good questions; that's a good start. Don't you think, John?
O'NEILL: I do and I have one, Sean. My question would be, "Aren't you finally going to apologize for calling all the guys that you served with and people we left behind there, calling us all war criminals and saying we're the Army of Genghis Khan? Isn't it finally time, even after you repeated the charges in 'Tour of Duty,' to finally admit to all the relatives of the people that died there and the people in our unit, that just wasn't the truth, that we served honorably?"
HANNITY: I want that apology. And you know what's sad? Is I can tell, because of the Kerry campaign trying to plant stories here today. They're trying to plant stories. The New York Times takes everything that they say, all the talking points from the Kerry people. And they have never had the courage to ask the questions that I am asking here.
So there's got to be some brave journalist out there that has access to Kerry, because he won't come near me, that will have the courage to ask him these legitimate questions.
This is the same John Kerry that demanded on multiple occasions that President Bush prove whether he showed up for duty in the National Guard and answer questions about that.
If he's asking questions about you and your service in Cambodia, we ought to be able to get answers from him. We find ourselves in the middle of a media crises here, John.
O'NEILL: It's pretty sad, Sean. I'm here. I don't claim to be a hero, but I'm here to answer any questions.
O'NEILL: Isn't it pretty sad that a guy who pretends to be a war hero won't even answer the basic questions raised by this book and by his comrades?
HANNITY: Where are we now with the issue of the Kerry campaign? They tried to get the TV stations to stop running your ads. They were unsuccessful there.
And as I understand, they also went to your publisher and they tried to get your publisher to pull your book. Some liberal group is comparing your book to the Hitler diaries and they want your book pulled from bookstores.
Apparently, I'm hearing a rumor that your second week may be No. 1 on The New York Times.
O'NEILL: They say it may be, Sean. I think people have a real sense of fairness.
I mean, look we have a little group. We don't have very much money, but we all served there. We got 60 or so people who were wounded over there. We have a right to defend the reputation of our unit. We have a right to speak on this matter and I think people, Democrats, Republicans, everybody thinks...
COLMES: Mr. O'Neill, thank you for being with us.
O'NEILL: I think it's crazy what they're doing.
COLMES: Thanks for being with us once again tonight.
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