NEW YORK – A Vietnam veteran shown in the new documentary "Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal" (search) filed a libel lawsuit Monday against the movie's producer, saying the film falsely calls him a fraud and a liar.
Kenneth J. Campbell (search), now a professor at the University of Delaware, said in the lawsuit that the film combines footage of him appearing at a 1971 war protest with narration that claims that many of the supposed veterans who took part in the event were later "discovered as frauds" who "never set foot on the battlefield, or left the comfort of the states, or even served in uniform."
The lawsuit said viewers would be left with the perception that Campbell had lied about his military service. It names film producer Carlton Sherwood (search) and his company, Red White and Blue Productions, as defendants.
"The defendants' malicious, reckless and scandalous misrepresentations and falselight presentations of Dr. Campbell were done with the specific intent to defame Dr. Campbell and place him in a false light, and with a reckless and outrageous disregard for the truth," Campbell's attorney wrote in the lawsuit.
Campbell attached copies of his military records to the lawsuit, showing that he received the Purple Heart medal and eight other medals, ribbons and decorations for his service as an artillery forward observer in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.
The 42-minute film, described in online marketing as "a documentary exposing John Kerry's (search) record of betrayal," explores his 1971 testimony before the Senate and links him to anti-war activist and actress Jane Fonda. Vietnam prisoners of war and their wives claim in the film that his testimony demeaned them and led to prisoners being held longer.
In the film, former POWs tell stories of their "brutal" life as prisoners of war in North Vietnam and the additional suffering and extended captivity they endured after their North Vietnamese captors read to them Kerry's words accusing American soldiers of atrocities and demanded the POWs confess to Kerry's "war crimes" allegations.
"Everyone knows about this … this is the elephant in the room — no one wanted to talk about it," Sherwood told FOX News on Monday.
"All we're doing at this point is asking [Kerry] to be accountable for what he did ... there were direct and dire consequences for what he did in 1971 and he's never been made to answer for those consequences," Sherwood told FOX News.
For its part, the Kerry campaign argues that the film is just more propaganda stemming from the Bush campaign aimed at smearing their candidate.
The producer said that no one has ever asked Kerry for proof of the claims made in his Senate testimony, in which the Democrat inferred that the 2.5 million men who served in Vietnam were akin to "Genghis Khan’s barbaric hordes," who wantonly plundered the Vietnam countryside, murdering, raping and bombing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians every day.
Sherwood said he has interviewed many former Vietnam POWs who link Kerry's comments directly to their treatment in prison and that in some cases, Kerry's testimony was piped into their cells, demoralizing them and leading their captors to threaten them with war-crime trials and possible execution.
"Certainly all of them … they were all pawns in Paris peace negotiations so anything at all — and here you have a naval officer coming forward saying he and all of us were war criminals — anything at all would place their lives in greater peril than it already was," Sherwood said.
But Amb. Pete Peterson (search), a former Vietnam POW and former Democratic Florida congressman, questioned the content and motivation behind the film.
"I think the title itself says a lot, in fact, the idea of the title being 'Stolen Honor,' I think is correct — I think Mr. Sherwood is stealing the POWs' honor and using it for political purposes" and to take focus off the Iraq war, Peterson told FOX News. "I'm shocked that Mr. Sherwood would say his testimony was beamed into us in our cells — give me a break — I didn't know anything about John Kerry until years after I returned" from the war.
Peterson said that he believes Kerry actually helped save lives with his testimony and perhaps shorten the war.
Asked if the POWs in the film are therefore lying, Peterson said: "I think they're either stretching or they're having some memory lapses, frankly, because none of us that I can recall ever talked about John Kerry while we were in prison."
The film will be aired by Sinclair Broadcasting Group (search), based near Baltimore, Md., which has asked its 62 television stations to pre-empt regular programming to air the film. Many of the stations are in swing states that could decide the outcome of the Nov. 2 election.
Campbell's lawyers have threatened legal action against Sinclair. The Kerry campaign has requested time on each station to refute claims made in the film. It wants the response to be broadcast at an hour when an audience of similar size could be expected to be watching.
But the Federal Communications Commission (search) has said that the "equal time" rule of campaign advertisements and the media doesn't apply in this case, because Bush doesn't actually appear in the film; therefore, Kerry isn't automatically guaranteed a chance to rebut the film on those stations. The Democratic National Committee has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (search) contending that airing the film should be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush campaign.
Sherwood said he's received no political money whatsoever for the film, and said he went knocking on doors to raise the nearly $220,000 for the project.
FOX News' Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.