WASHINGTON — A week after Senator John F. Kerry heralded his wartime experience by surrounding himself at the Democratic convention with his Vietnam ”Band of Brothers," a separate group of veterans has launched a television ad campaign and a book that questions the basis for some of Kerry’s combat medals.
But yesterday, a key figure in the anti-Kerry campaign, Kerry’s former commanding officer, backed off one of the key contentions. Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a ”terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star — one of the main allegations in the book.
Yesterday, reached at his home, Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star.
”I still don’t think he shot the guy in the back," Elliott said. ”It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I’m the one in trouble here."
Elliott said he was no under personal or political pressure to sign the statement, but he did feel ”time pressure" from those involved in the book. ”That’s no excuse," Elliott said. ”I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake."
The affidavit also contradicted earlier statements by Elliott, who came to Boston during Kerry’s 1996 Senate campaign to defend Kerry on similar charges, saying that Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star.