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Bias Claimed As Anti-Kerry Book Sells Out

August 24, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) _ The nation’s two biggest bookstore chains, Barnes & Noble and Borders, say angry customers are accusing them of political bias as the retailers struggle to keep up with demand for a best seller that questions John Kerry’s military service in Vietnam.

``Unfit for Command,″ which went on sale Aug. 11 with a first printing of 85,000, will have 550,000 copies in print by next week, according to Regnery Publishing.

Sales have soared as allegations about the Democratic nominee’s wartime actions dominate the presidential campaign.

A co-author of the book, John O’Neill, is a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has run a series of commercials claiming Kerry distorted his past. Kerry and fellow Democrats say the spots are untrue and have demanded that President Bush condemn them. Bush replied Monday that broadcast attacks by outside groups, no matter which side, should have no place in the race for the White House.

``Unfit for Command,″ by O’Neill and Jerome Corsi, accuses Kerry of lying about his decorated wartime record and betraying comrades by returning from Vietnam and alleging widespread atrocities by U.S. troops. Kerry has made his military service a central part of his campaign.

Copies of the book are scarce. Barnes & Noble said that ``Unfit for Command″ is out of stock and that thousands of complaints have been received, with some customers saying the book was deliberately not being sold and others saying it shouldn’t be sold.

More copies will not be available until later this week, and that order also will not meet demand, Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio said Monday. ``We’ve been put in the difficult position of having to defend ourselves over a title we can’t seem to get enough copies of from the publisher,″ Riggio said.

Borders said Tuesday that ``available stock is limited right now″ and that it has received hundreds of calls accusing the superstore of bias against the book.

``The misunderstanding among customers seems to be that we are somehow taking an ideological stand,″ Borders spokeswoman Jenie Dahlmann said Tuesday. ``We would gladly sell the book, but ... can’t get an adequate supply.″

Regnery spokeswoman Kelley Keeler said Tuesday that the company _ a longtime publisher of conservative authors such as William F. Buckley Jr. and Pat Buchanan _ can’t keep up with the ``huge″ demand, in part because the book’s September publication date was moved up as interest in the book grew.

``We’re trying to get more copies out as fast as we can,″ spokeswoman Keeler said.

Amazon.com, where ``Unfit for Command″ has been No. 1 on the best-seller list for days, said Tuesday that it was also out of copies. A spokeswoman said she knew of no complaints, but added that customer reviews have been so frequent (more than 900 as of Tuesday) and so political, that a special message was posted on the book’s Web page announcing a suspension of ``normal customer review policies and rules.″

``We usually prohibit ad hominem attacks,″ the message reads. ``That policy in particular seems to be incompatible with presidential election year politics. Therefore, short of obscenities, reviews on this book are now a free-for-all.″

The book claims Kerry earned his Silver Star not in a barrage of enemy fire, but by killing a fleeing Viet Cong teenager. It also questions the three Purple Hearts that Kerry earned, saying that none were for serious injuries and two wounds were self-inflicted.

According to Kerry’s medical records from his naval service, he still has shrapnel in his thigh from a war injury.

Several of Kerry’s fellow servicemen have attacked ``Unfit for Command″ as inaccurate and politically motivated, and a Kerry campaign spokesman, Chad Clanton, said Tuesday the book had ``blatantly false accusations that have been disproved by Navy records.″

Keeler said Regnery was ``proud to have published the book″ and that no revisions were planned for future editions.

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