Rick Reed, GOP strategist behind Kerry swift boat ads, dies at 69

Swift Boat ad
AP still shot

Rick Reed, a longtime GOP media strategist who famously crafted a series of ads in 2004 attacking then-Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s military record in the Vietnam War, died unexpectedly on Aug. 17. He was 69.

Reed was most known for designing multiple ads during the 2004 presidential campaign for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that accused Kerry, then a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, of not deserving his combat medals and betraying his fellow soldiers.

The ads were seen as a smear campaign by many, including the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and a prisoner of war in Vietnam, who called the commercials “dishonest and dishonorable.”

Beyond his involvement in the 2004 presidential race, Reed crafted ads for many Republican candidates during his career and for years served as a partner at Republican media firm Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm.

Reed also worked for McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign and former President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

When interviewed recently, Reed said he was happiest when he was with his family, being productive at work and helping others, his loved ones wrote in his obituary.

“I am happiest when I am with my family and know that everyone else is happy,” Reed said, according to his obituary. 

“Life has its ups and downs so I understand that none of us are happy every single minute of every day,” he added.

Reed also served as the political editor of White House Bulletin and a vice president at Market Opinion Research. 

He additionally worked as a deputy director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), where he produced ads on behalf of Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), according to Reed’s biography page.

Reed, who was born in Wakefield, Mass., and most recently resided in Alexandria, Va., is survived by his wife, Gayla Reed, whom he met at the NRSC, and three children.

Tags campaign advertisement John Kerry John Kerry John McCain Obituary Rick Reed Swift Boat ads

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