Connecticut Attorney General and leading Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Richard Blumenthal said a New York Times article took "a few misplaced words and impugned my record of service" in the U.S military.
Blumenthal was firing back at the Times after the newspaper said he misled the public about serving in Vietnam. At a news conference today, Blumenthal said the statement in which he inferred he had been in Vietnam was "absolutely unintentional."
The Times article quotes Blumenthal in March 2008 speaking at a ceremony honoring veterans. "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk at the time. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”
"I was unaware of those misplaced words," Blumenthal said today. He went on to say that he used "in instead of during," calling it a mistake.
"I served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves and I am proud of it," Blumenthal said. He said he believed the Times piece attempted to denigrate service in the reserves and he also said that he signed up willingly for military service -- and was not seeking preferential treatment, as the Times article suggests.
Blumenthal served six months in the Marines training at Parris Island, S.C., and six years in the Marine Reserve, none of it overseas.
The Times report found that Blumenthal received at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and records show he enlisted in the Marine Reserve -- a move that "virtually guaranteed that he would not be sent to Vietnam," according to the Times.
The military record also suggests Blumenthal made every effort to avoid going to war, the newspaper said.
That quote was among several from public events where Blumenthal spoke of his purported military service, according to the Times.The investigation also quoted from newspaper and magazine profiles of the candidate that highlighted his status as a veteran of war.
"Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk," the Times reported. "At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar."
Blumenthal, at times, has been careful with the portrayal of his service.
In January, shortly after he entered the U.S. Senate race, Blumenthal appeared on WFSB-TV and was asked about his service "in the Marines'' and whether he supported the troop surge in Afghanistan. Blumenthal said he did support the president's plans for additional troops and made it a point to say "I served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, and proudly."
Campaign manager Mindy Myers released a statement slamming the Times story as "an outrageous distortion of Dick Blumenthal's record of service."
"Unlike many of his peers, Dick Blumenthal voluntarily joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 1970 and served for six months in Parris Island, SC and six years in the reserves," the statement said. "He received no special treatment from anyone. Dick has a long record of standing up for veterans. Tomorrow, veterans will be standing up with Dick."
Blumenthal, 64, is the front-runner in the race to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Christopher Dodd. On an unrelated note, the Times story also found that the attorney general did not serve as the captain of the Harvard swim team as he was portrayed in two positive media profiles in 2004. He was never on the team, records at the college show.
His main Republican opponent, Linda McMahon, said research by her campaign team uncovered the alleged discrepancies and was fed to the Times, according to The Atlantic.
Former Rep. Rob Simmons, a GOP hopeful for the Senate seat and a veteran, issued a statement asking for clarity from his rival.
"As someone who served, I respect Richard Blumenthal for wearing the uniform, but I am deeply troubled by allegations that he has misrepresented his service," Simmons said in a statement. "Too many have sacrificed too much to have their valor stolen in this way. I hope Mr. Blumenthal steps forward and forthrightly addresses the questions that have arisen about this matter."