Vietnam Vet Says Kerry Saved His Life

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 10, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: The swift boat controversy is dying down — thank God — but feelings are running high on both sides. Some Vietnam vets believe John Kerry (search) is a hero; others think he is a bum.

Last night on this broadcast, Steve Gardner, who served under Kerry as a gunner said he lied on two occasions. Today in "The Wall Street Journal," Jim Rassmann (search) says Kerry saved his life. Mr. Rassmann joins us now from Eugene, Oregon.

I just want to tell everybody that you are a registered Republican, a Green Beret, law enforcement officer in Los Angeles. And we believe what you said and wrote today in "The Wall Street Journal." People want to see it.

So that's not at issue tonight. I mean, we believe that Kerry saved your life. Why would we doubt a patriotic American like you? Why would any fair-minded person doubt you? I mean, it's ridiculous.

However, we had another patriot on last night, Steve Gardner (search), who's another gunner under Kerry. And he basically said that the senator was not honest about being in Cambodia. And we've tracked that down. It does look like the senator misspoke about being in Cambodia and about another incident with the sampan.

Isn't is possible, Mr. Rassmann, from your point of view, that a guy can be a hero and brave, yet screw up later? Isn't that possible?


O'REILLY: So you're not doubting the veracity of some people saying, look, Kerry was good here, he wasn't so good there?

RASSMANN: I don't know what specifically you're referring to, so I can't question that. But I think the general idea that good people can screw up is certainly true.

O'REILLY: Now when you hear all of the criticisms in the swift boat controversy, how do you filter it? What do you think is really going on here?

RASSMANN: I suspect that based on the individuals involved in supporting this and the people ramrodding it from the center, there's a political motivation. I also think that there are a lot of the people out there who have a real problem with the idea that John Kerry spoke out against the war in 1971. I think some people still have some real vested interests in preserving what they see as their rightful place in history about the Vietnam conflict.

O'REILLY: Well, I think that's accurate, but wouldn't you respect their opinion? They're veterans and patriots, just as you are, these swift boat guys. They were in the same situation you were in. This guy — it's eerie. This guy Gardner, he was a gunner just like you. He...


O'REILLY: Well, he was. He was a gunner...

RASSMANN: I was not a gunner.

O'REILLY: Oh, I thought you were.

RASSMANN: No, nor I was in the Navy. I was a Special Forces officer...

O'REILLY: Yes, you were a Green Beret. That's identified, but you were on Kerry's boat, correct?

RASSMANN: Yes, I was a passenger.

O'REILLY: Right, you were being...

RASSMANN: I don't know...

O'REILLY: But you know what I'm talking about. The situation was the same. You're in the same river. You're doing the same things.

RASSMANN: You're absolutely right. Let me speak on that.

O'REILLY: Go ahead.

RASSMANN: We have a lot of people out there that feel strongly that John is not the right man for the presidency. And they're certainly able to do that in our country and spit their opinion out. But the bottom line is those guys, just like John Kerry, put their life on the line. I'm sure I worked with a great number of them, although I don't remember them. John's the only one that saved my life, so that's probably why I remember him. But these guys are to be honored for their service. I just think that they're being used for political purposes.

O'REILLY: But they may have sincere beliefs. And that's what I mean. Here's how I read it and then I'm going to give you the last word.

I think that Kerry was brave, I think he saved your life, I think he deserves his medals, I think that all of that happened. But I also think that he made mistakes in his service. And I think that he may have embellished what happened. And I think that as you rightly pointed out, his after-war activities really teed off some people. So now we're seeing a divide. You see it one way and you're sincere and you're correct. They see it another way, but they may also be sincere and correct. I'll give you the last word.

RASSMANN: I think essentially you're correct when viewed overall. However, I think for them to come out and say that John lied about these various instances, particularly the one where he ended up with the bronze star, I think is very self-serving. What they have been saying is not true.

You know, we have a country that was founded on the ability to dissent. Thomas Jefferson not only said we have the right to dissent, he said we have the positive duty to dissent. John exercised that. He was very courageous in doing so. And I think very highly of him talking about it.

O'REILLY: All right, Mr. Rassmann, we appreciate you taking the time. I know it's been a very busy time for you. Thank you.

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