updated 8/24/2004 1:07:49 AM ET 2004-08-24T05:07:49

Barnes & Noble Inc. said Monday it has been pinched by strong demand for a new book that questions the Vietnam-era actions of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

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The nation’s largest book store chain also said Republican and Democratic critics have lodged thousands of complaints accusing it of both favoring and suppressing “Unfit for Command,” which accuses the Massachusetts senator of distorting his military record.

The book, which went on sale Aug. 11, has already sold out and is not available, Barnes & Noble said.

Its publisher, Regnery Publishing Inc., won’t have more books available until later this week, and that order also will not be able to meet demand, Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio said in a release.

Riggio said Barnes & Noble has no political agenda.

“The fact is Regnery has not been able to keep up with customer demand for this title,” he said. “Further, the publisher cut our original order for the book in half. We’ve been put in the difficult position of having to defend ourselves over a title we can’t seem to get enough copies of from the publisher.”

Washington-based Regnery, which also publishes conservative commentators including Steve Forbes, Patrick Buchanan and G. Gordon Liddy, did not return a call for comment late Monday.

“Unfit for Command,” by John O’Neill and Jerome Corsi, accuses the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his decorated wartime record and betraying comrades by returning from Vietnam and alleging widespread atrocities by U.S. troops.

The book claims Kerry earned his Silver Star not in a barrage of enemy fire, but rather by killing a fleeing Viet Cong teenager. It also questions the three Purple Hearts that Kerry earned, saying that none was for serious injuries and two wounds were self-inflicted. The same charges have been leveled in television ads by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, of which O’Neill is a member.

According to medical records from his naval service, Kerry still has shrapnel in his thigh from a war injury.

Several of Kerry’s fellow servicemen have attacked the book as inaccurate and politically motivated to help President Bush’s campaign.

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