Fact Check

John Kerry Front Porch Speech

Were streets closed and Bush/Cheney signs removed during John Kerry's 'front porch' stop on Labor Day?

Published Oct 20, 2004


Claim:   For John Kerry's Labor Day 'front porch' stop in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, neighborhood streets were closed and residents told to take down their Bush/Cheney signs.

Status:   Multiple — see below.

  • Neighborhood streets were closed:   True.
  • Residents were ordered to remove their Bush/Cheney signage:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

Good Tuesday morning!

John Kerry brought his "front porch meeting" to our Canonsburg, PA neighborhood on Labor Day morning. Since you will never hear the truth from the TV or print media I thought that you should know from someone who was 'almost' there.

The residents who live on the street where the event took place were not allowed to attend. Kerry shipped in approximately 90 invitation only VIPs. In addition, there was a hard luck case who was about to lose her job at USAIR and another was an elderly woman who was having health care
problems. Neither one was from this neighborhood.

The street was closed to all traffic the night before and all residents on the street were REQUIRED to remove their Bush/Cheney signs. The sympathetic police officers on duty told us that Kerry used imminent
domain to claim the street for his purposes. Residents who have homes within the perimeter (approximately 1 full block) were kept behind a line away from the partisan crowd. The rest of us were not allowed within the 1 block cordon.

A neighbor from across the street came to the line where we were being kept and asked us to come onto his property. The police told us that we could stand on this mans FORMERLY private property! This was set up so that Kerry's views could be heard - but not the neighbors. About 30 peoples (mostly neighbors) shouts echoed down the street "Let the neighbors in". We could barely hear Kerry speaking with his microphone because press buses were used to block us off from view!

This mornings papers are reporting how hecklers tried to interrupt Kerry as he spoke to the neighborhood gathering, but he turned our chants to his favor by calling us rude. Even though most of the media was there to record our stories of not being included in the neighborhood forum, not one of them printed or aired the truth.

This is what America will look like if Kerry becomes president. Get registered and get all of your friends registered to vote if they have not already.

Kerry thinks that he is better than the rest of us and he has the media on his side to make him out to be what he is not!

Finally, last night as I drove down the street where the rally was, I was shocked to see Bush/Cheney signs in almost every yard on the street! Please send this e-mail on to as many people as you can.


Origins:   On Monday, the 6th of September 2004, John Kerry took his campaign to Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a working class neighborhood near Pittsburgh. That day's schedule began with a front-porch question and answer session with supporters on West College Street at the home of Dale and Jody


It is that session of politicking which is the subject of the e-mail quoted above. Although not every claim made in the report can be substantiated or dismissed, some can.

Statements made in two articles that appeared in the Observer-Reporter, the newspaper from the nearby town of Washington, Pennsylvania, after the 'front porch' meeting support the e-mail's claim of the street's being closed all night to traffic: "The 200 block of West College was shut down for the visit" and "On Sunday morning, the Rhomes and Kerry campaign workers went door-to-door on the street, alerting neighbors of Kerry's upcoming visit. [Said Jody Rhome] 'We also told them they had to get their cars off the street because the street was being shut down.'"

However, its next assertion, that "all residents on the street were REQUIRED to remove their Bush/Cheney signs," appears to contradict a line from an Observer-Reporter article two days after the event: "In an effort to block out the few dozen Bush supporters on one end of the street, Kerry officials provided volunteers with various Kerry signs in key positions to block Bush signage." Had neighbors been made to take

John Kerry
From left, Karen Fortney, Beth Soucie and Traci Fortney hold up signs supporting President George Bush during a visit by Democratic
candidate Sen. John Kerry to Canonsburg yesterday.

down their Bush/Cheney signs, nothing would have remained that required screening from sight. Yet the Observer-Reporter's statement might have referred to placards brandished by demonstrators rather than signs erected on people's lawns. However, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette account of the day makes it clear that fixed signs were not removed, saying: "Beth Soucie, who stood in a yard filled with Bush signs, said she will stick with the Republican incumbent." The description of the Soucie yard stands at odds with the claim of removed signs, as does the photo on this page of Mrs. Soucie and two other women standing in the Bush/Cheney-festooned Soucie yard.

According to a blogger called ilja who posts on the RightNation.us forums, his conversation with Stan Soucie, the husband of the Beth Soucie interviewed and photographed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, further argued against the 'sign removal' aspect of the account. In his 18 September 2004 post to the "Kerry Campaign Stop Angers
Pennsylvania Neighborhood" thread, he reported:

He said that I could cite him [Stan Soucie] and that they were not told they had to take their Bush/Cheney signs down because there was a yard down the street from where they were standing with a whole lot of Bush signs in the yard. He did state that whenever the TV cameras would move to where a Bush sign was that the Democratic organization would hold their signs in front of the Bush signs to block out the view. However, since they were standing on a porch, the Democrat signs were not tall enough to block them.


John Kerry at the home of Dale and Judy Rhome in Canonsburg, PA

e-mailed narrative states, "The sympathetic police officers on duty told us that Kerry used imminent domain to claim the street for his purposes." If members of the police force said that, they were in error, because Senator Kerry could not have invoked "eminent domain." One block of West College was cordoned off by the Secret Service, who are charged with protecting the nominee. The Senator would not have had much, if any, say in this.

John Kerry was heckled during his remarks that morning and did dialogue back and forth with his detractors, which means the e-mail's "This was set up so that Kerry's views could be heard - but not the neighbors" should be viewed with skepticism. Also, that the Senator was heckled shows that the assembled crowd couldn't have been composed of only hand-picked VIPs, else there wouldn't have been that sort of sparring. This is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's account of some of those exchanges:

With a friendly crowd in Canonsburg lobbing softball questions yesterday, Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry could have ignored a pocket of hecklers that tried to disrupt his campaign.

Instead, Kerry pulled the detractors into his Labor Day speech, part of the "front-porch discussions" he's been holding across the country. He told them their shouts and taunts couldn't cover up facts — namely, that America has had a net loss of 1.6 million jobs under President Bush.

Gasoline prices are up 31 percent since Bush took office, and college tuition has grown more expensive by the year, he said.

At the same time, he said, wages are down by $1,500 for "the average family."

One heckler then shouted, "Yeah, Kerry, you're really average."

Kerry pounced on the comment, replying: "No, I'm privileged, and my tax burden went down. I don't think that's right."

Kerry said Bush, also a man of money and privilege, has worked hard to lessen tax payments for the wealthiest Americans. Otherwise, Kerry said, Bush has presided over an economy that is in disarray.

Income for all Americans fell 9.2 percent in 2001 and 2002, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

In addition, Bush has rung up record budget deficits, and he will be the first president since Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression to have lost more jobs than he created, Kerry said.

"Franklin Roosevelt, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all created jobs during their presidencies, even though they had wars to contend with," Kerry said.

The jobs developed under Bush's administration are nothing to shout about, Kerry went on.

He seized on a just-released Bureau of Labor Statistics report that said new jobs in growing industries pay $8,848 a year less than jobs that were lost, either because of shrinking industries or exportation of work to foreign soil.

"If you think that's moving in the right direction, go vote for the other guy," Kerry said to the hecklers.

According to the e-mail, "This mornings papers are reporting how hecklers tried to interrupt Kerry as he spoke to the neighborhood gathering, but he turned our chants to his favor by calling us rude." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a different take on what was said and why:

Patricia Romano of Canonsburg told Kerry that she has had 11 throat surgeries and must pay so much for prescription drugs that she had to get a part-time job at age 70.

Hecklers drowned out Romano at one point. That prompted Kerry to say, "While the Bush people were rudely shouting, we had a 70-year-old woman trying to speak" about runaway costs of prescription drugs.

The identity of the person who wrote this by now much-traveled account remains a mystery. Roughly three of every four copies that found their way to us were prefaced: "Received this from a very good friend in PA. She wants everyone to know what she saw." Yet in none of those forwards was the 'very good friend in PA' identified by name or her e-mail address provided; other than her gender and state of residence, nothing is known about the purported authoress of this chronicle. Paradoxically, about one-quarter of the narrations bears the name "Ken Armstrong," and about one-twentieth "Charles A. Walter." Both are decidedly male names, further muddying the question of authorship.

Barbara "front porch remarks, back fence gossip" Mikkelson

Last updated:   20 October 2004

  Sources Sources:

    Hazlett, Terry.   "Prepping a Porch for Kerry."

    [Washington] Observer-Reporter.   8 September 2004   (p. A1).

    Simonich, Milan.   "Kerry Jousts with Hecklers."

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.   7 September 2004   (p. A3).

    Walters, Patrick.   "Heinz Kerry Visits Pittsburgh, Philadelphia for Labor Day Parades."

    The Associated Press.   7 September 2004.

    Warco, Kathie.   "Rendell, Hoeffel Stump in S. Strabane."

    [Washington] Observer-Reporter.   7 September 2004   (p. A1).

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