Fact Check

John Kerry Rudeness

Does John Kerry behave rudely towards others around him?

Published Mar 12, 2004


Claim:   John Kerry is known for behaving rudely towards others around him.

Status:   Undetermined.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

First Hand Account re: John Kerry

I would like to add my two cents about my John Kerry experience. During my career as an Air Force pilot, I spent two years flying a small twin engine prop plane around the Pacific from my base in Okinawa, Japan.

On one trip we had to fly Senator Kerry, his congressional aide, and a Navy Captain (Vietnam, A-4 fighter pilot) who was also in Kerry's party to various locations in Vietnam and Cambodia as part of the MIA/POW talks.

When I met him, he was wearing a shirt with a picture of his sailboat on it. I told him I had a small 27 foot sailboat in Okinawa, he remarked "Oh I never sail on anything less than 135 feet."

When we first flew him into Phnom Penh, he went to the back of the airplane and grabbed the pizza that was put aside for the crew and passed it around to his staff. He was never offered any pizza because they were supposed to have lunch with the Cambodian government once we landed. The pizza would have been our only meal that day. When we picked him up in Cambodia, he was an hour late getting to the
airport. We could not start the engines and therefore the air conditioning until he arrived. Phnom Penh at that time was over 100 degrees with 95% humidity and we were basically sitting in a greenhouse behind the cockpit windows.

When he finally did arrive, we were wringing out our clothes from the perspiration. He walked out of the air conditioned car, into the airplane and asks us "Could you guys get the air conditioning running, I'm a little warm?" The other pilot had to physically restrain me from going back there and picking a fight.

Then we took him into Noi Bai airfield in Hanoi. After we picked him up the next day (he stayed the night in Vietnam, we stayed in Bangkok) we taxied out, ran up the engines for takeoff, and noticed that our prop was vibrating all over the place. We taxied off to the side to look at it, but there was a good possibility that there was an engine malfunction and the engine may fail if we took off with it. Well, Mr. Senator sticks his head up in the cockpit and says "This plane WILL take off, I have a press conference in Bangkok in three hours!" (Maybe this is an indication of how he will run the FAA).

We ran the engines again, and did not have the problem, so we took off and made it back. During the flight, he told everyone how he had taken a Cessna (a small General aviation plane) up with a fighter pilot, and the fighter pilot remarked that Kerry was one of the best pilots he had ever seen. I don't know about other pilots out there, but it's hard to imagine a little, single-engine prop plane pilot being able to show the "right stuff."

After Kerry left the plane, the Navy Captain came up to us, apologized and said basically that "he knows Kerry is a jerk" and that we should be glad we don't have to deal with him every day.

Origins:   This piece about Senator John Kerry appeared in mid-February 2004, just as the Massachusetts senator was beginning to emerge as the front-runner in the race for the Democratic party's presidential nomination. Although several names have been attached to the text, it

John Kerry

is most frequently attributed to Hal Cranmer.

Independently verifying whether some informal conversations which took place at an indeterminate time in the past, possibly several years ago, are accurate as reported is a rather difficult task. We asked the putative author if he could provide additional details or identify others who may have witnessed the events he reported, but we have yet to receive a response. If such an interaction occurred, it would have had to have taken place in April 1992 during Senator Kerry's visit to southeast Asia as a member of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs.

One aspect of the account isn't holding up to scrutiny. Senator Kerry's purported remark of "Oh I never sail on anything less than 135 feet" is at odds with his history. In 1992 he was the skipper of 68-foot yacht American Eagle in the Opera House Cup, a race held annually off Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.

Whatever the probity of the e-mailed account, the larger issue isn't whether this specific piece is true, but whether the sentiment it expresses — that Senator Kerry goes through life with his nose in the air, oblivious to the hoi polloi who inhabit his immediate surroundings — is accurate. In regards to that issue, we can confirm that others have reported experiencing similar encounters with Senator Kerry.

For example, humorist Dave Barry (a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist whose work is carried by more than 500 newspapers in the U.S. and abroad) concluded a 2003 article about potential presidential candidates with the following observation:

In conclusion, I want to extend my sincere best wishes to all of my opponents, Republican and Democrat, and to state that, in the unlikely event I am not elected, I will support whoever is, even if it is Sen. John Kerry, who once came, with his entourage, into a ski-rental shop in Ketchum, Idaho, where I was waiting patiently with my family to rent snowboards, and Sen. Kerry used one of his lackeys to flagrantly barge in line ahead of us and everybody else, as if he had some urgent senatorial need for a snowboard, like there was about to be an emergency meeting, out on the slopes, of the Joint Halfpipe Committee. I say it's time for us, as a nation, to put this unpleasant incident behind us. I know that I, for one, have forgotten all about it. That is how fair and balanced I am.

This paragraph from an August 2004 Weekly Standard article echoes both the previous stories:

Granted staggering wealth on the basis of marriage, Kerry seems to believe he deserves it, and perhaps always has. Such, at least, is the popular perception among the voters who know him best. "One of the
surest ways to get the phones ringing on any Massachusetts talk-radio show is to ask people to call in and tell their John Kerry stories," says Howie Carr, the Boston Herald columnist and radio host. "The phone
lines are soon filled, and most of the stories have a common theme: The junior senator pulling rank on one of his constituents, breaking in line, demanding to pay less (or nothing), or ducking out before the bill
arrives. The tales often have one other common thread. Most end with Sen. Kerry
inquiring of the lesser mortal: 'Do you know who I am?'"

Is Senator Kerry a man who cannot be trusted around a pizza or a snowboard? In reading about him, one encounters the labels "aloof" and "arrogant" applied to him at a number of turns, certainly often enough to conclude that no matter who John Kerry really is, a great many people see him as possessing those attributes. But the e-mailed tale, the Dave Barry snippet, and the Weekly Standard quote spotlight a different fault: that of the Senator's acting upon a sense of entitlement, presumably one fueled by his wealth and social position. Is that who he is, or who we should believe he is on the basis of these tales? Such an assessment is hard to get to the bottom of because to do so requires knowledge of what was going through the man's head at the time of the incidents described. And, barring his telling us, we're left in the


Once when I was out with my sister, she marched directly to the first taxi parked in front of a hotel, completely oblivious to the lengthy line of folks waiting patiently to one side of the entranceway. It took my stopping her in mid-stride and pointing out the queue for her to perceive others were also waiting for cabs, but as soon as she came to that realization she immediately (and shamefacedly) headed for the back of the line. Her sin was not one of entitlement (that is, she was not feeling she was a far more worthy person than those lesser beings whose duty it was to uncomplainingly forebear while she absconded with the first taxi) but of being sorely unaware of her surroundings. Yet to an uninvolved onlooker who had seen her hoof straight to the first cab, it would have appeared she was deliberately placing herself ahead of others.

While inhabiting a similar state of unawareness, my husband's best friend once helped himself to the contents of a plastic-wrapped platter of cookies I had intended as a gift for someone else. His faux pas was in presuming the homebaked goodies were free for the taking and confidently acting on that assumption. In this I see a potential echo to the "John Kerry ate my pizza" story — did Senator Kerry chow down on the pizza knowing it was meant for the pilots, or did he operate under the belief that it had been thoughtfully supplied as a snack for him, a visiting dignitary? Either, of course, would be a transgression worthy of sending Miss Manners into a fit of the vapors, but the underlying message about the character of the person involved would be different. "Fails to realize there are other people in this world" is a different shortcoming from "Knows there are others, but considers himself a higher class of critter."

Whatever the veracity of various stories about Senator Kerry or what they could potentially tell us about him, character has a way of displaying itself provided sufficient time is allotted for the viewing, and November is still a long ways off.

Barbara "time will tell" Mikkelson

Last updated:   2 September 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Barry, Dave.   "Staying Fair and Unbalanced for the Election Season."

    The Miami Herald.   13 September 2003.

    Emery, Noemie.   "Yes, He Has More Money. Lots More."

    The Weekly Standard.   2 August 2004   (Vol. 009, Issue 44).

    Lloyd, Barbara.   "The Wood Will Meet the Wind."

    The New York Times.   15 August 1993   (p. H5).

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