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See also: swift boat


Alternative forms[edit]


Uncertain: Possibly, swift +‎ boat, or possibly based on an acronym for Shallow Water Inshore Fast Tactical Craft.

The use as a political term derives from a smear campaign against John Kerry when Texas tycoon Robert J. Perry hired several Navy swiftboat veterans to form the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which questioned the legitimacy of Kerry's status as a war hero.


swiftboat (plural swiftboats)

  1. A type of gunboat used by the United States military on inland waterways.
    • 1973, Glenn MacDonald, Report or distort?, page 116:
      The men narrowly missed death when the swiftboat in front of theirs took a direct hit from a Communist rocket-propelled grenade.
    • 1999, WLA: War, Literature & the Arts, page 289:
      Kilgore represents one of Willard's guides into the heart of darkness. The swiftboat captain represents another.
    • 2006, William Sargent, Writing Naturally: A Memoir, ↑ISBN, page 5:
      We felt like Athenian sailors waiting for Persian triremes to blunder into the straits of Messina, but we were probably more like Vietcong irregulars waiting to ambush American swiftboat captains.
    • 2008, Scott Swett & ‎Tim Ziegler, To set the record straight:
      When I was serving on a swiftboat in Vietnam, my crewmates and I had a dog we called VC. We all took care of him, and he stayed with us and loved riding on the swiftboat deck.
  2. (usually used attributively) A smear campaign based on specious claims.
    • 2007, Jeffrey Feldman, Framing the Debate, ↑ISBN:
      Lately, however, Republican swiftboat attacks have begun to fall short.
    • 2008, JB Azneer & ‎D R Spice, Opposition Research: Stealing The White House, ↑ISBN:
      So I saw this swiftboat TV attack on Jefferson.
    • 2011, Laura Westra, ‎Klaus Bosselman, ‎Colin Soskolne, Globalisation and Ecological Integrity in Science and International Law, ↑ISBN:
      The Swiftboat strategy aims at hitting the target at his/her perceived area of strength, to discredit and degrade what would have been a political advantage.
    • 2013, Michael E. Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, ↑ISBN:
      Morano went on to become the pit bull of the climate change denial movement, launching swiftboat-like attacks as before, but this time directed against climate science and climate scientists.


swiftboat (third-person singular simple present swiftboats, present participle swiftboating, simple past and past participle swiftboated)

  1. (US, politics, pejorative, transitive) To attack a politician with specious claims.
    • 2015, David Brock, Killing the Messenger, ↑ISBN:
      No one should have been surprised that the Republicans would try to swiftboat Hillary in 2016, turning an accomplished diplomat into a feckless bungler who lied to cover up her own failures.
  2. (by extension) To smear; to attack someone or something's reputation using slander, misrepresentation, or false accusations.
    • 2013 January 7, Sam Thielman, “The Man From Oz Finds Religion”, in Adweek:
      The Borgia family has had such a bad reputation over all these hundreds of years. Some of it is merited, and for some of it, they were swiftboated. The cardinals hired writers to write bad things about them.
    • 2014 January 27, Robert B. Weide, “The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast”, in Daily Beast:
      My wife suggested that in absence of a response by Woody, he was being swiftboated.
    • 2016, Matt Zoller Seitz, The Oliver Stone Experience, ↑ISBN, page 192:
      So you were swiftboated? I was about to be! I was about to be! No, I just said, That's bullshit—first of all, it's William Oliver Stone. And then Dale went back for the files and found them. I did have a record that they couldn't expunge.

Usage notes[edit]

  • As the term's non-political origin is still widely recognized, some refrain from using it as a verb in a political context out of respect for veterans not associated with the political group.

See also[edit]