updated 8/18/2004 1:53:43 PM ET 2004-08-18T17:53:43

John Kerry, Bob Kerrey. It’s easy to get confused.

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At least that’s how the Kerry campaign is explaining claims that Kerry — the Democratic presidential candidate — served as vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Oops. Make that Bob Kerrey — the former Democratic senator from Nebraska who did serve as the panel’s vice chairman.

In news releases and postings on Kerry’s campaign Web site as recently as last Friday, the Massachusetts senator is touted as the panel’s former vice chairman. However, according to the Senate Historical Office, Kerry never had the seniority to hold a leadership position on the committee — though he was a member from 1993 until 2001.

“John Kerry, Bob Kerrey — similar names,” said Kerry campaign spokesman Michael Meehan, adding that any reference to Kerry as vice chairman was an error.

Republicans were less willing to see the misstatement as an innocent mistake.

“It’s difficult to take John Kerry’s claims about his intelligence experience seriously when one of his credentials is completely made up,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson. “If he had shown up for Intelligence Committee hearings he would notice he wasn’t vice chairman.”

Kerry’s failure to attend three-fourths of the committee’s public hearings was criticized by RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie in a memo Tuesday to members of Congress.

The Kerry campaign has not denied he missed meetings but has said the criticism relies on accounts of 65 open hearings and doesn’t note that the panel held more than 329 meetings.

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