This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 5, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: First, our top story tonight, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, they have launched a new television ad criticizing Kerry's record in Vietnam. The ad, well, it's going to run in Wisconsin and Ohio and West Virginia, and USA Today has called it one of the harshest ads of the campaign. Let's take a look.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have any question about what John Kerry is made up, just spend three minutes with the men that served with him 30 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served with John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served with John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is lying about his record.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star. I know. I was there. I saw what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry has not been honest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he lacks the capacity to lead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry is no war hero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He betrayed all his shipmates. He lied before the Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry betrayed the men and women he served with in Vietnam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He dishonored his country. He most certainly did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served with John Kerry. John Kerry cannot be trusted.
ANNOUNCER: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is responsible for the content of this advertisement.
HANNITY: We're going to get reaction from a veteran who is supporting Senator Kerry about that in just a few minutes.
First we're joined by one of the members of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Van Odell, who also served on a swift boat at the exact same time that John Kerry did.
Van, we have limited time. I want to get to a lot of facts here. You were there with John Kerry for three of the four months that he was there, correct?
VAN ODELL, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: That's correct. I was there from January through March the 19th, when he left.
HANNITY: And you served in close proximity to him. You saw him often.
ODELL: I served in very close proximity. We did operations on boats, usually three or four boats, up to seven boats at a time, lived on the same barracks ship he did. And I was — was involved with him throughout the time that he was there in Coastal Division 11.
HANNITY: All right. Because there's this letter that has been sent out by — by lawyers for the DNC and the Kerry campaign, saying the advertisement contains statements by people who purport to have served on Kerry's swift boat in Vietnam. But a lot of these boats were in close proximity. You were there. You saw him often, correct?
ODELL: I saw him often. And all the statements in that advertisement are true.
HANNITY: Yes. Now Senator Kerry back in 1971 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee admitted that he had committed atrocities. He admitted that he had burned down villages and violated the Geneva Conventions. Did you ever see any such thing?
ODELL: I didn't see any such thing at all. As a matter of fact, I can tell you the people that served on swift boats were honorable people and did not commit atrocities.
HANNITY: He said, "I committed" — He said, "I committed the same kinds of atrocities of thousands of others." And among other things that he admitted was burning down villages. What he said himself. I have the tape.
ODELL: I realize he said that himself, and he'll have to stand by that. I didn't see that, and I didn't see that by any other swift boat sailors.
HANNITY: All right. Now...
ODELL: The atrocities that he...
HANNITY: Go ahead.
ODELL: The atrocities that he lied about in front of the Senate didn't happen. None of the swift boat sailors that were there, and I was there 12 months. I didn't see or hear or read of any atrocities committed by swift boat sailors at all.
HANNITY: We're about to be joined by one of the veterans there that worked with Kerry, and is going to say that he saved his life.
Were you there? Is this a true story? Are we going to have conflicting stories here with Mr. Rassman and what you saw?
ODELL: I was there. I was not only there; I was at the top of the swift boat. I had 14 foot above the waterline at the very top mount. I was able to see everything that happened.
John Kerry did pick Rassman out of the water. But it wasn't under the circumstances that they both talk about.
HANNITY: So Mr. Rassman who we're going to interview in a second, you're accusing him of lying?
ODELL: He's not telling the story the way it actually happened, no.
HANNITY: Tell us what happened, in your — in your view.
ODELL: What happened was the three-boat was blown up with a mine. A very good friend of mine, Bernard Wolf was the gunner's mate on the three- boat. The three-boat was blown up as we went past a fishing weir ...
We were directly behind the three-boat on the 23-boat. And my officer, Lieutenant J.G. Chenoweth, went forward and picked up two guys that were in the water.
Now, Kerry won this Bronze Star because he picked someone up out of the water. That day four people went in the water.
SUSAN ESTRICH, GUEST CO-HOST: I have to interrupt you for one second. I think...
ODELL: Another boat...
ESTRICH: Sir — Sir, I think it's my turn to ask you a few questions. You weren't a crew mate of Senator Kerry's, were you?
ODELL: I was not.
ESTRICH: You were not a crewmate of his. Right. All of the men on his boat are supporting his bid for the presidency, aren't they?
ODELL: No, that's not true.
ESTRICH: One is deceased, but all the rest are...
ODELL: Steve Gardner is not supporting him at all.
ESTRICH: But as I understand it all of the men on his boat...
ODELL: When I was in Vietnam — when I was in Vietnam, the people there on his boat crew did not have the same take on what he is like now.
ESTRICH: So all but one who were on his boat are supporting him. Is that right? And you weren't on his boat. Is that right?
ODELL: I was in close proximity. I was right behind his boat.
ESTRICH: You were half a football field away; is that right?
ODELL: Oh, no, it's closer than that. Sometimes we laid alongside many times. We were close together.
ESTRICH: But you weren't on the boat, correct? All of the people in your ad...
ODELL: I'll say it again, I was not on his boat. Right.
ESTRICH: And were any of the people in your ad on the boat?
ODELL: Most of the people in our ad were in close proximity in the same division and were right around with him.
ODELL: He wasn't — he wasn't encapsulated in a boat and kept separate from all the rest of us. He was around us all the time.
ESTRICH: The doctor — but the doctor in your ad who said he treated him, did he not in fact sign the medical treatment report, did he?
ODELL: He signed the medical treatment report that he pulled a small piece, fragment out of his arm, yes.
ESTRICH: But he didn't sign Senator Kerry's treatment report, did he?
ODELL: Not that I'm aware of, no.
ESTRICH: Right, he did not. And who financed this ad? Did you pay for it yourself?
ODELL: I have put quite a bit of my own money in expenses. Yes.
ESTRICH: But did you...
ODELL: No, I did not pay for the ad.
ESTRICH: Who did pay for the ad, sir?
ODELL: We did. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth paid for the ad.
ESTRICH: Well, I think the ad cost about $158,000 and according to my notes, $100,000 came from a Texan Republican, a big Bush supporter, Mr. Perry. Are you familiar with him?
ODELL: Yes, I bought one of his houses.
ESTRICH: Bought one of his houses. And he's a major...
ODELL: Years ago.
ESTRICH: ... Bush supporter, yes.
If Mr. Bush himself asked you to stop running this ad, would you?
ODELL: No, we're not affiliated with the Republican Party. We are a completely separate group. We accept money from anyone under the provision. This is our message.
ESTRICH: But if they were to ask you...
ODELL: And if they asked us not to do it we would still put it out because it's our contention to put out the truth about what happened.
We're not affiliated with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or Republican Party or anyone else. This is a separate group and don't take direction from any of them.
ESTRICH: So if the president said to you this is — if the president said to you, as John McCain has said, that this is one of the harshest tricks he's ever seen, that this is, in some people's words, a dirty trick, you would simply ignore the president and keep doing it anyway.
ODELL: We are a private group and we would keep doing it anyway. Yes, that's true.
HANNITY: Van, thank you for serving your country. Thank you for all you do. Appreciate your being with us.
ESTRICH: Sorry to see you doing this.
Our next guest, unlike our last guest, actually served with John Kerry in Vietnam and says that Kerry saved his life.
Joining us now is Vietnam veteran Jim Rassman.
Jim, our last guest, Van Odell, I think is his name, who didn't serve with John Kerry on the crew boat says you are a liar. Is that true?
JIM RASSMAN, SERVED WITH JOHN KERRY: No, it's not. He couldn't quite bring himself to directly call me a liar.
ESTRICH: It was close. It was close, wasn't it?
RASSMAN: It was close. It's a shame. You know, this happened a long time ago. People's recollections fade.
But the bottom line is, I submitted John Kerry for the Silver Star, because he pulled me out of the water under fire. Mr. Odell doesn't remember it that way. I think he's wrong. I think he has partisan motives, that will have to be explored by other people. What is disappointing is that Mr. Odell, Roy Hoffman, Admiral Hoffman, John Kerry and all of those men in the Navy that served on the swift boats served admirably. They were very courageous. They were in a very difficult situation, and they all did well.
I'm a little upset that, in addition to calling me a liar, these people are now calling the United States Navy a liar. All of these decorations are vetted at every link in the chain of command. The time to have questioned this request for a medal was 35-years-ago, not now.
I think the timing is very suspicious. I find it a little upsetting, but I can live with it. What I do have great difficulty with is that I have heard that on the Web site that the swift boat veterans operate, they have referred to the my ... Chinese soldiers as assassins. I take great offense to that. I think whoever wrote that should retract it.
Those men are mostly dead. They're not here to defend themselves, and I'd love to defend them.
ESTRICH: Mr. Rassman, can I ask you a question? You're not a Democrat, are you?
RASSMAN: I turned Democrat in January. Previous to that, I had been a Republican for 33, 35 years. I didn't always vote Republican. But much of the time, I did.
HANNITY: I noticed that Senator McCain, who was himself a former prisoner of war called this dishonest and dishonorable.
Why are these guys doing this?
Why are they reopening these wounds, in your view?
RASSMAN: You have to talk to them directly about that. I suspect it has strictly partisan motives, but I'm not an investigative reporter.
HANNITY: Mr. Rassman, welcome back. Sean Hannity here.
I think these guys earned the right to give their recollections, having they served — they having their country, just as you have the right to tell your story. And I think the American people are going to have to vet this out. I wasn't there. I don't know if what you're saying is true or what he's saying is true. That's why we have both of you on, so our audience can decide.
But we do know that a lot of these guys served with John Kerry and served closely with him in Vietnam. And John Kerry himself brought some of these other guys, the swift boat guys, Elliot and Lonsdale, for example, to campaign for him. Now they've — now they're against him, but in 96. You're upset that they're calling the U.S. Navy liars, you said, and the use of the word assassin. Well, John Kerry when he got back before the Senate committee, accused hits fellow Vietnam vets of being rapists, people that cut off heads and limbs and taped wires from portable telephones to genitals, turned on the power, cut off limbs and blew up bodies and razed villages.
He himself admits he violated the Geneva Convention and, quote — and by the way, I misspoke earlier. I said the Senate Committee when he was and he said he admitted he committed atrocities and burned villages and violated the Geneva Convention. Does that bother you?
RASSMAN: No. From my own experience I know some of these things occurred. I never saw any of the swift boat people do it. I did have a problem with the idea of a free fire zone and shooting at any fisherman who ran about in sampan in the free fire zone. Beyond that, I never witnessed anything.
HANNITY: Well, Mr. Rassman, I'm just going to say I appreciate you serving your country and John Kerry for that extent, too. But I do have concerns, and I mean this sincerely.
And I wrote in my first book how I praise Kerry for this service to this country, even though he disagreed with the war. I have concerns about his attacks against his fellow soldiers. I have concerns that he admitted he committed atrocities. In this new book that is coming out, and I am told and I just got a copy earlier today, that he shot and killed a teenage Viet Cong. He admits he burned down villages.
Should we not vet these things through and find out what the truth is, let all sides be heard and let the American people decide?
Shouldn't we try to get to the truth?
RASSMAN: I think so but I think the time is long past to have done that. I think the timing now is suspicious.
HANNITY: Maybe the timing is, but he never ran for president before. And he admitted he committed atrocities. Those are his words, Susan. He said it. "I committed the same kinds of atrocities." Those are his words. I'm concerned about that. I think we have a right to vet this out now. I am more concerned, I've got to tell you politically, with his record on defense issues after he got out of Vietnam. I'm concerned that he was on the wrong side of history in the Cold War and wanted a nuclear freeze when Reagan was winning the war. I'm concerned about the Kerry amendment that would have cut $7 million from our intelligence community after the first Trade Center attack. I'm more concerned about his votes cutting major weapons systems.
But I think we out to — I think for the benefit of our country, we ought to go through this and let the American people hear all sides. Is that fair?
RASSMAN: The American people certainly will be the final arbiters of this and that's as it should be.
ESTRICH: I would like to thank Mr. Rassman, who I would point out did serve on the swift boat with Mr. Kerry unlike our previous guest. Thank you for being here and for your service to our country.
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