ABC News' Charles Gibson interviewed U.S. Sen. John Kerry on "Good Morning America."
The following is an unedited transcript of the interview that aired on April 26, 2004.
ABC NEWS' CHARLES GIBSON: Now joining us from West Virginia is himself Sen. John Kerry. He is in the town of Glen Easton, West Virginia, today. Senator, good to have you with us.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Charlie, I'm glad to be with you. I really am.
GIBSON: [From] 1984, Senator, to the present, you have said a number of times — as recently as Friday with the Los Angeles Times, you've said a number of times that you did not throw away the Vietnam medals themselves. But now this interview from 1971 shows up in which you say that it was the medals themselves that were thrown away.
KERRY: No, I don't. That's wrong, Charlie.
GIBSON: Can you explain the discrepancy?
KERRY: Absolutely. That is absolutely incorrect. Charlie, I stood up in front of the nation. There were dozens of cameras there, television cameras. There were, I don't know, 20, 30 still photographers. Thousands of people. And I stood up in front of the country, reached into my shirt, visibly for the nation to see, and took the ribbons off my chest, said a few words and threw them over the fence. The file footage, the reporter there from The Boston Globe, everybody got it correctly. And I never asserted otherwise. What I said was, and back then, you know, ribbons, medals were absolutely interchangeable. Sen. Symington in asking me questions in the committee hearing, looked at the ribbons and said, "What are those medals?" The U.S. Navy pamphlet calls them medals. We all referred to them as the symbols, they were representing medals, ribbons. Countless veterans threw the ribbons back, Charlie. Everybody did. Veterans threw back dog tags. They threw back photographs. They threw back their DV214s. There are photographs of a pile of all of those things collected on the steps of the Capitol.
GIBSON: But —
KERRY: So the fact is that I have, I have been accurate precisely about what took place. And I am the one who later made clear exactly what happened. I mean, it's just, this is a controversy that the Republicans are pushing, the Republicans have spent $60 million in the last few weeks trying to attack me, and this comes from a president and a Republican Party that can't even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. I'm not going to stand for it.
GIBSON: Well, Senator, I was there 33 years ago. I saw you throw medals over the fence and we didn't find out till later that those were …
KERRY: No, you didn't see me throw. Wrong.
GIBSON: Those were someone's medals.
KERRY: Charlie, Charlie, you're wrong. That is not what happened. I threw my ribbons across. And all you have to do is go back and find the file footage.
GIBSON: And someone else's medals? And someone else's medals, correct?
KERRY: Later, after, excuse me. Excuse me, Charlie. After the ceremony was over, I had a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart given to me, one Purple Heart by a veteran in the VA in New York and the Bronze Star by an older veteran of World War II in Massachusetts.
GIBSON: But, but …
KERRY: And I threw them over 'cause they asked me to. I never, never —
GIBSON: But, Senator, let me, let me come back to this, the thing you just said which is that the military makes no distinction —
KERRY: This is a phony, Charlie, this is a phony controversy.