Coined from the 2004 US Presidential campaign, where the the conservative group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth aired a commercial criticizing democrat John Kerry's reputation as a war hero in Vietnam. It has since become a popular term with leftist journalists.
Alex: Dude, stop swift boating my girlfriend!
Explanatory notes: Such accusations by genuine war heroes and former POWs undercut Kerry's claim to Vietnam hero status. They exposed how Kerry had manipulated the Navy's system to award himself three Purple Hearts in order to limit his service in a combat zone to four months. Democratic apologists blame disingenuously Kerry's flaccid and untimely response to the accusations with the knowledge that, if Kerry released his complete military records, they would show a general discharge for having met with enemy leaders while still in the Navy Reserve. Kerry was restored to Honorable Discharge status by President Carter in 1978. Kerry's supporters then coined the term "swift boating" to shift the blame from Kerry to his political opponents even though a full refutation of the accusations was avainlable if Kerry were to file a SF-180, which he has refused to do for reasons herein laid bare. The president and his campaign staff were never involved in exposing Kerry as a hypocrite and incorrigible opportunist.
"The Swift Boating of Cindy Sheehan" By Frank Rich. New York Times Op-Ed 8/22/05
Many (not all) of the swiftvets served with John Kerry and didn't believe he was presidential material. They went public with their beliefs. Among their claims was that Kerry gamed the system by receiving Purple Heart Medals for minor injuries in an effort to end his tour of duty. Kerry received three Purple Hearts in four months and shows no debilitating injury; which is most unusual. Moreover, he will not release his service medical records. The intersection of this data strongly suggests that the claims of the swiftboaters has a good foundation.
The petition from the Swiftboat Vets makes, among others, this claim against John Kerry:
". . .Upon your return from Vietnam, you betrayed your fellow veterans by accusing them of engaging in horrendous war crimes. Through your post-war activities, and during Senate testimony viewed by the entire nation, you created and nurtured the myth that American soldiers in Vietnam were involved in such crimes on a daily basis, and that such activity was sanctioned by our commanding officers. Specifically, you stated that we: "had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, and razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan."
The above is a matter of record.
But, this is the political arena. Swiftboating is defined by some as the unwarranted trashing of a good person's reputation. Those are the people who like Kerry. Others will define it as truth coming forward about a person's character.
In the end, a person can fight a swiftboating claim against them by making all their records available for public viewing. For swiftboating to work, it must be stonewalled and the truth hidden. That's what Kerry did.
The Senator refuses to disclose records concerning his duty, dismissing it as "swiftboating."