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Rick Reed, creator of 'Swift Boat' political ads, dies at 69

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Rick Reed, an advertising and issues advocacy consultant who worked for Donald Trump, John McCain, George W. Bush and other Republican politicians, died Aug. 17 at 69. Photo courtesy of Reed Media Partners
Rick Reed, an advertising and issues advocacy consultant who worked for Donald Trump, John McCain, George W. Bush and other Republican politicians, died Aug. 17 at 69. Photo courtesy of Reed Media Partners

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Longtime Republican strategist Rick Reed, best known for a series of ads questioning John Kerry's Vietnam War record that helped George W. Bush win a second term as president in 2004, died on Aug. 17 at 69.

Reed's daughter Mackey Reed said while his death was unexpected, she believed the renowned GOP operative died from a heart ailment.

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Kerry's military record, where he won combat medals, was seen at the time as the strong suit of his campaign. Reed's Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads sought to seek Kerry as undeserving of the honors and betraying his fellow soldiers.

Kerry, who was serving in the Senate representing Massachusetts at the time, struggled to recover from the ads' criticism despite many of the claims being debunked in the media. Bush went on to win the 2004 presidential election.

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Despite criticism of the attack ads, after which similar commercials are now often referred to as "swiftboating," Reed constantly defended them as veterans simply telling their own stories about Kerry.

"The thing that struck me was that these people were not political people. You could have produced an ad based on the first press conference," Reed told political scholar L. Patrick Devlin, according to The Washington Post.

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"Their inexperience gave them veracity. These people were the real deal. We wanted them to speak for themselves."

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Even fellow Republican John McCain, a Vietnam prisoner of war, had called the ads "dishonest and dishonorable."

Reed had worked for McCain during his Republican primary presidential run in 2000.

He also worked as former President Donald Trump's senior media adviser in 2016 and a score of other prominent Republicans during his career, including Sen. Lindsey Graham and former senators George Allen and the late John Warner III.

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