BobThis partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, April 26, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
GUEST HOST JOHN KASICH: Today former Senator Bob Kerrey admitted that, during the Vietnam War, he led a Navy SEAL mission that led to the deaths of more than 20 unarmed civilians, and a lot of women and children, unfortunately. Senator Kerrey was awarded the Bronze Star for the mission and had this to say about the incident earlier today.
BOB KERREY, NEW SCHOOL UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: I led a squad of U.S. Navy SeALs on an operation in which we received fire, returned it, and then found that only apparently innocent civilians had been killed. For more than three decades, I have carried this deeply private memory with a sense of anguish that words cannot adequately convey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KASICH: There are conflicting memories of the incident. Many people feel that it's unfair for those who were never in Vietnam to make judgments about incidents that took place there.
Joining us from Capitol Hill is someone who served in Vietnam, a friend of mine, a congressman from California, Duncan Hunter.
Hey, Duncan, let me just start off by saying I happen to know Bob Kerrey, and I could just imagine how difficult it has been for him to carry this around. I think you and I know he's a — he is a hero. I — he likes to say now, you know, "I'm not a hero." He is a very courageous man.
Tell me your reaction to the media onslaught against Bob Kerrey today. What — what is your sense about that?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, first, John, I did serve in Vietnam, but I — I didn't do anything special like Bob Kerrey did in terms of being a hero. In fact, Bob Kerrey won the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is extremely rare.
And you know, I think he's given his version of what happened here, and I think, when you have a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, that he should be accorded some honor, and that means giving him the benefit of the doubt.
And — and the other thing that I think we have to remember is that, in all wars, all conflicts, civilians are unfortunately killed. There has never been a major bombing mission over an area that had large populations — even though the bombers were trying to hit factories and strategic targets and — and enemy troop concentrations, there's never been one of those missions that didn't, in fact, kill some civilians. When — when you and I were in Congress and we struck Qaddafi and we supported that mission that Ronald Reagan authorized, in fact, civilians were killed. So it — so civilians are killed in almost all military operations.
And unfortunately, the — the people that know the American character, and that included the Vietcong and the NVA would put themselves in positions where, if you did return fire, you often returned it to a village or some other place that was inhabited by folks who weren't military people, and — and they did that partly because they knew of the American reluctance to involve themselves in hostile situations or fire fights where civilians were around, and...
KASICH: Well, Duncan, let me — let interrupt you just briefly here.
KASICH: Senator Kerrey says that they were fired upon and they were only returning fire. It was at night. Tell us about a situation like that. How difficult is it, particularly in a place like Vietnam where there were no clear lines that separated one — one from another, the other one being the enemy?
HUNTER: Well, you know, I think in the case — and I haven't read the details of Mr. — of Senator Kerrey's situation, but the Vietcong, obviously, operated from the villages. That is they operated from villages where women and children and old men and old women resided, and if they were going to — to disperse fire into an American military unit where they thought that fire might be returned, they would, as a practice, do it from inhabited areas, because they knew there was a chance that there would be a restriction and that no fire could be returned.
So if it's Vietcong — and that's not NVA — who operated in more of a military fashion and operated in some of the more unpopulated sectors, the Vietcong operated from within the civilian population. I think that's a lot — a lot — it's a lot like Somalia where, when our American Rangers were trapped, the people that came forward putting automatic-weapon fire into those Rangers did it by pushing human shields, that is women and children, in front of them, and, in fact, our return — return fire from those Rangers in Somalia killed a lot of civilians. But there was no — there was no alternative to doing that if they were going to keep from being killed themselves.
KASICH: So the questions at the press conference about Bob Kerrey being a father, issues like that — do you think that's an awful lot about media hype and really misses the point of what Bob Kerrey talked about?
HUNTER: Yeah, and I think it's — I do think that's — those are unfair questions. You could ask that question of any person who served on a bomber in World War II that was sent on — on bombing missions over Berlin or other centers of industry or over Japan or like the people that wanted to make a holocaust type of a demonstration at the American Air and Space Museum who claimed that we did terrible things by — by dropping nuclear weapon — nuclear weapons in to end the war in Japan.
That's kind of unfair for folks who — who send other people out in uniform to defend their freedom to criticize, especially in a situation where — and I've seen just the basic facts, so — with Bob Kerrey where it was at night, where fire was delivered, and they — they could — they didn't have the capability of knowing what was behind that fire, and — and they responded in a way that was — that they thought was necessary to save their lives, and that's from the information that I've seen.
So, yeah, John, I think that that's somewhat unfair, and I think the real — the real Vietnamese referendum on the American — the way American GIs treated people in Vietnam, civilian populations, is that, after we left, after we came home, according to the evil press, the Americans left the Vietcong and their friends in Vietnam, the Vietnamese people tried to swim after us, and literally hundreds of thousands of them went into the South China Sea in leaky shrimp boats trying to get to the United States from which those GIs like Bob Kerrey came, and I think that's more of a referendum on how we treated those people than — than the press and the comments that have been surrounding this issue.
KASICH: Duncan, let me ask you this. There are some people today who are saying that Bob Kerrey should return the medal that he received. What would your sense be of that? Do you think that — that maybe he should return it? I know it's his decision. What would your opinion be on that?
HUNTER: Well, I — I don't think that's — he obviously was — the writeup — if you read the writeup on his — on his medal, I'm sure it doesn't say that — that he received a medal for — for shooting civilians. He received a medal for the mission, and the mission was to — was to penetrate into territory that — that — which was populated by Vietcong, into dangerous territory and — and undertaking the — the goal of that mission — and I haven't read the mission statement, but the point was the — the medal was for going for the — on the mission.
That would be like saying that a — a bomber pilot who flew a low- level flight over Berlin and dropped bombs should return his medal on the basis that, years later, they found that some of his bombs struck civilian areas...
KASICH: Hey, Duncan...
HUNTER: ... and that's not fair.
KASICH: Just one — one quick comment. We're running out of time, but does this...
KASICH: Is this maybe going to give us a chance to review Vietnam and try to get it right, try to give people a real understanding of what really went on over there?
HUNTER: Well, you know, probably not because I think you're going to hear that there — that revelation through the same — the same statements of the press who are mobbing Bob Kerrey right now, but I — I think a lot of us have got the real — the real image of Vietnam, and that is that — that was — that was one of the contests against communism like Korea that finally culminated in the Soviet empire coming to shreds a few years ago while you and I were in the House of Representatives.
KASICH: Duncan — Duncan, you've helped us to understand it better. Thanks for being with us.
And up next, a Fox exclusive. Tim McVeigh answers questions to our own Rita Cosby. We'll have the startling responses, and you aren't going to see this anywhere else. You need to stay with us.
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