March 29, 2014

In Jeremiah Denton Obit, AP Twice Rips War Hero and Senator As Too ‘Rigid’

Brickbats to Phillip Rawls and his layers of editors at the Associated Press.

Vietnam war hero and former Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton died on Friday. He was an incredibly courageous and inspiring man who after his return from 7-1/2 years as a POW in North Vietnam became deeply troubled at where this nation was (and still is) headed. Unsurprisingly, he became a strong pro-life and family values advocate. Apparently following an unwritten rule at AP which dictates that a writer must take at least one parting shot at a conservative upon his or her death (see: Tony Snow), Rawls took two, twice describing Denton as “rigid” (includes video of a portion of his 1966 “torture” interview; bolds are mine):

JEREMIAH DENTON, VIETNAM POW AND EX-SENATOR, DIES

Prisoner of war Jeremiah Denton declared his loyalty to the U.S. government during a 1966 interview for what was supposed to be a propaganda film. But his enraged captors missed his more covert message: “T-O-R-T-U-R-E,” blinked into the camera in Morse code, a dispatch that would alert the U.S. military to the conditions he endured.

Denton, who would survive 7 1/2 years confined in a tiny, stinking, windowless cell at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” and other camps before his release in 1973, died of heart problems Friday in Virginia Beach, Va., at age 89, his grandson Edward Denton said.

… He said his captors never brought him out for another interview. But with the war’s end drawing closer, he was released in February 1973.

The elder Denton later became the first Republican from Alabama elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, though the iron will that allowed him to persevere in captivity gave rise to criticism he was too rigid a politician.

… He was promoted to rear admiral and retired from the Navy in November 1977. Denton then turned to politics, despite having no experience running for a statewide political office. With Ronald Reagan atop the GOP ticket, Denton became the first Republican elected to the Senate from Alabama since the Reconstruction era following the Civil War.

… “The valor that he and his fellow POWs displayed was deeply inspiring to our nation at the time, and it continues to inspire our brave men and women who serve today,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “As Senator, he served as a strong advocate for our national security. He leaves behind a legacy of heroic service to his country, and Michelle and I send our condolences to the Denton family.”

In Washington, he was a Reagan loyalist, a defender of military might and an advocate for a return to traditional family values and conservative stands on moral issues. But critics said his rigid stands left him no room for political compromise and lessened his influence, limiting his ability to help Alabama.

In this case, “critics said” really means: “We want to tell readers too young to remember that.”

Of course, Rawls provided no evidence how the “rigid” (what is better seen as “firmly principled”) Denton failed to sufficiently “help” his home state.

In researching press coverage of Denton from when he was a senator, I came across a 1981 column by the late Mary McGrory which (for her) was reasonably balanced. But those who click through will also see a cartoon by Pat Oliphant showing that hideous criticisms of the pro-life movement go back several decades. The caption reads, “Aha! Holding hands! That’s the beginning of life! Next thing you know she’ll want an abortion!” What a jerk.

I suspect that it’s the combination of Denton’s “rigid” defense of the unborn and his status as a remarkable war hero which gave his pro-life position enhanced credibility which most got under the skins of the liberal elite.

Rest in peace, Admiral.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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