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Key Words: Creator of notorious ads that ‘swift boated’ John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign has died at 69


“‘Swift boating.’”

That was the term applied in 2004 to the legendary-in-political-lore series of political ads that sought to portray Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, famously a decorated Vietnam War veteran who had captained a Patrol Craft Fast (also known as a PCF and, most frequently, a swift boat), as unpatriotic and duplicitous.

The delivery mechanism for that voter-persuasion message was testimony from scores of Kerry’s fellow Navy veterans from the Vietnam era, who accused Kerry, then a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, of exaggerating his heroism. It later turned out that a not insignificant number of the 200-odd Swift Vote Veterans for Truth who came out against Kerry had little or no firsthand knowledge of him or his service or had partisan or other motivations for denigrating Kerry’s qualifications. (Kerry, notably, had come out against the war upon his release from active duty in 1969, when he launched his first congressional campaign.)

George W. Bush secured re-election over Kerry by a popular-vote margin of 50.7%–48.3% to open a 286–251 gap in the Electoral College, and the ad campaign’s reputed architect, Rick Reed of the political advertising agency Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, stood by the political-action-committee-funded ads, based in large part on the book “Unfit for Command,” authored by John O’Neill and the now-well-known conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, and the accounts of the naval vets.

Reed died last week in Virginia at the age of 69, the Washington Post and others reported.

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry participates in November 2021 in a plenary session of COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Kerry returned to the Senate and went on to serve as President Barack Obama’s second secretary of state and is now President Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate.

Reed later was reported to have worked on campaigns for candidates including Sen. Lindsey Graham; created ads for John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000; and, after launching his own consulting company, served as a senior media adviser to Donald Trump in 2016. Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, the Washington Post recalled, described Reed as “the smartest political consultant I know.”

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