May 18th, 2010
03:10 PM ET

Blumenthal: I have 'misspoken' about Vietnam record

[Updated 3:52 p.m.]

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal acknowledged Tuesday that he has not always accurately described his military service during the Vietnam War - a decades-old biographical question that is suddenly threatening to derail his frontrunner's campaign for the U.S. Senate.

"On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service and I regret that and I take full responsibility," Blumenthal said while surrounded by Vietnam veterans at a news conference in West Hartford. "But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.

"I served in the United States Marines Corps Reserve and I am proud of it," he said. Any mischaracterization was "absolutely unintentional" and amounted to little more than "a few misplaced words."

A New York Times story released earlier in the week alleges that Blumenthal, a Democrat, lied about serving in Vietnam. The story says Blumenthal never served in that war, even though the candidate has claimed he did in several speeches before veterans groups and military families.

It states that Blumenthal obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war. In 1970, the New York Times says, he enlisted in the Marine Reserve and landed a coveted spot in a unit in Washington.

The story also claims that it appears Blumenthal did nothing to correct numerous media profiles that described him as a Vietnam veteran.

Blumenthal ripped into the Times story, saying that there is "virtually no mention in that article" of the six years he spent in the Marine Reserve. The story "denigrates" service in the Reserve, he argued, and wrongly implies that he used special favors to get into it.

"I looked (the Reserve) up in a phone book," he said.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the point man for Democratic Senate campaign efforts this year, sought to downplay the story, saying Tuesday that Blumenthal "has been an incredible advocate for veterans."

"I think he's corrected the record in the past," Menendez said. "And I think his actions as it relates to standing up for veterans over a long period of time speaks volumes of where his heart and his actions are."

Menendez said Democratic leaders will continue to back Blumenthal's bid to fill the seat held by retiring Sen. Chris Dodd.

Blumenthal's political opponents, however, were quick to go on the attack.

"Mr. Blumenthal owes the people of Connecticut, and particularly its veterans, a thorough explanation for the very serious questions that have been raised over what appears to be a long history of dishonest statements," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.

The campaign for Republican candidate Linda McMahon claimed credit Tuesday morning for giving the New York Times a video of a speech in Norwalk, Connecticut, in which Blumenthal allegedly said he served in Vietnam.

Republican candidate Rob Simmons released a statement Monday night saying he was "deeply troubled" by the allegations.

"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," he said.

One of the sources in the New York Times story, however, said Tuesday that she had been misquoted in the article.

Jean Risley, who chairs the Connecticut Vietnam Veterans Memorial Inc., was mentioned in the story as describing Blumenthal's comments at the dedication of the Connecticut memorial: "He said, 'When we came back, we were spat on; we couldn't wear our uniforms.'"

The story went on to say that Risley "later telephoned the reporter to say she checked into Mr. Blumenthal's military background and learned that he had not, in fact, served in Vietnam."

Risley said, however, that Blumenthal never told her he went to Vietnam. "I never heard him say that," she said. "He wasn't referring to himself."

She characterized Blumenthal's comments as descriptive of Vietnam veterans as a group rather than any single person's individual experience, including his own.

"He did misquote me," she said of the Times reporter. "They added stuff I didn't say. I never checked into Blumenthal's military background."

Risley later appeared at Blumenthal's news conference, repeating her assertion that she "never once heard him say" that he had served in Vietnam. But "I did hear him say how passionately he felt about our veterans and how we had to honor them," she said.

Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general for the past two decades, announced his candidacy January 6, hours after Dodd, a five-term senator, announced that he would not run for re-election in November. Dodd had been considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in 2010.

A Quinnipiac University survey conducted in March indicated that Blumenthal was up by more than 2-to-1 margins over all three of his possible Republican opponents.

The Connecticut Democratic Party's nominating convention begins in Hartford on Friday.

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soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. nookly23

    How does someone misspeak? Clinton misspoke when she said she was taking fire upon arriving at an airport. Is this the new political language for lying? Rangel misspoke about paying taxes. Bill misspoke about playing hide the cigar with a fat chick. Bill Jefferson misspoke about being corrupt, Obama misspoke about being transparent. Obama is very qualified in his job and is doing a fine job. I just wanted to misspeak too.

    May 18, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • EvenKeel

      Um, vote Republican do you?

      May 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Armybrat

      I grew up with a father who SERVED. Now, I work as a nurse 'serving' vets of all branches. Although Daddy was all ARMY, I know full well, a Marine NEVER says he 'served' his Country. He says he was "here" or" there," but, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine." There is no past-tense in their descriptions. Semper Fi!

      May 18, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      actually you told the truth, and you misspoke about misspeaking, twerp.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Speaking as a Democrat here, I agree with nookly. Politicians are like children, who never take responsibility when they lie, only when they're caught, and even then give b.s. excuses for it.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Sal

      This is EXACTLY why I'll take a corrupt businessman ANY DAY over a corrupt politician! A corrupt businessman can't put me in jail. Politicians with their abuse laws can. It's simple. If I don't pay taxes, I go to jail. If I don't pay a businessman's invoice all he can do is affect my credit rating or take me to civil court, which is meaningless anyways since liberals are all about helping people go bankrupt so they can screw over more business.



      May 19, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • qirin

      Sal...We already know what you'll take and where you'll take it, but proper decorum prevents us from posting it here.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sal

    Look, is this REALLY such a surprise? Politicians lie all the time! Republican or Democrat! HOWEVER, the difference between these two groups is that Democrats actually WANT these idiots to control more aspects of our lives! Health Care, Banking, Automotive, Environmental, etc. No matter how many politicians lie, cheat, steal and make phony promises, liberals still protest in the street pushing for these liars to make MORE laws! Why??? LIBERALS ARE SO DUMB!

    May 18, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      I'm sorry but you misspoke about liberals, but what would you expect from a repub.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • huxley

      We have the same problems in CANADA. There all liarers . We should not even be at war with these animales in KABULE. BRING ALL THE TROUPS HOME. We need to take care of our own people.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Huxley is an idiot


      Dude, please do a spell check before posting, or better yet, how about get back in school???

      May 19, 2010 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • qirin

      Yeah, let's keep government out of banking, health care and insurance so that these large, wealthy, private industries can continue to SCREW the general public with no oversight whatsoever. SAL IS SO DUMB!

      May 19, 2010 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Scuttlebud

      Liberals may push for greater government administration, but do you think Republican politicians want any less control of people's lives? Look at the textbook changes in Texas. Republican politicians are now altering the future generations knowledge of history in order to better reflect their conservative ideals. If that's not control to the nth degree tell me what is.

      May 19, 2010 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Sal

      @qirin said....

      "Yeah, let's keep government out of banking, health care and insurance so that these large, wealthy, private industries can continue to SCREW the general public with no oversight whatsoever. SAL IS SO DUMB!"

      Look, liberals like you don't like private industry simply because you want handouts. You see, private industry won't give you a handout and that bothers you. It bothers you because you are jealous of successful people and you feel that some of their hard earned money should be in your pocket! However, the government has no problems giving you that handout, as long as you agree to give them the power to control your life. I'm sorry, I'd rather work for a living and not rely on other people's wallet to live, you're more than welcome though to sit home with Obama's welfare check and buy yourself some McDonald's hamburgers along with your new car that I chipped in for with the $4000 you got from Obama's Cash For Clunkers handout!

      May 19, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • qirin

      Sal...Your baseless insults fail to answer the points that I bring up. Stop flaunting your ignorance.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. GeorgeVT

    Speaking of misspeaking Nookly, I guess then George Bush misspoke about the WMDs in Iraq, that he would get Bin Laden dead or alive, that the US would not be "involved in nation building", that the economy was fine... I could go on for days... you're the pot calling the kettle black

    May 18, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanantonio

      just cant get over bush. you do recall that there were several US senators (Clinton comes to mind) that agreed with him???

      May 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • UK Sheeple

      GeorgeVT- The guy got caught lying about his service record.

      May 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Why is it the CNN his not covering this story on its front page? When did integrity stop counting? Very sad.

      May 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sal

      I know, I know... It's all Bush's fault. According to liberals, If a liberal politician farts and it was caught on tape the smell would be blamed on George W. Bush! It's unbelievable!

      I must say, It's getting quite sad that this really pathetic excuse is all these dumb granola head liberals can come up with?? Bush this, Bush that?? Bush could be dead and buried and they'd dig the guy up from the grave to blame him. Liberals have zero sense of humility and the zero common decency to admit when they screwed up! THE MAN SAID IT RIGHT ON VIDEO, NUMEROUS TIMES, THAT HE WAS IN VIETNAM WHEN HE CLEARLY WASN'T! Besides, it was the New York Times who broke the story!! Not Fox News!! But oh no, this is still not good enough for liberals. They have to find a scape goat every time without failure because the embarrassment alone hampers their ability to keep collecting welfare checks and Cash for Clunkers handouts from these Robin Hood wannabes.

      Blumenthal could have pulled out a gun and shot 3 people and some moron liberal would come out and say that Bush was hiding behind him with a gun! Liberals love to blame the other guy. It's never them, because they are always so perfect. I guess the honesty is the reason why Obama's poll numbers are dropping like a rock and his liberal handout pals in the Senate and Congress are absolutely going to lose in the 2010 election, because Americans are not as stupid as liberal politicians want them to be.

      May 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JackAllan

    The Attorney General, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is the oath that he expects every witness and person testiying to take. Thiis is not just another politician. He lied about a significant part of his service record to get into office. Not right, not cool, and not ethical. Please have the decency to just not run for reelection.
    Really, is it that hard to just tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about yourself, Mr. Attorney General.

    May 18, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      actually he would fit nicely into the political field, he has all the qualifications to be one, he lies.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jerry

    The man lied. What else is he lying about?

    May 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Andy

    Lying sack of cow dung. He should resign his current office also,

    May 18, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      why would you insult a nice bag of cow dung- fertilizer in your comparison? perhaps you misspoke.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tom miller

    This man is a sack of cat poo

    May 18, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      cat poo, or cow dung, make up your mind.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Elliott Pitzer

    He "misspoke?" That's just an euphemism for lying. The guy is a liar ... simple and clear. And he
    has no business holding public office.
    Another disgusting phony American politician. We need to turn our government over to the
    computers. At least they won't lie to us constantly.

    May 18, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      lies in lies out a computer can be fooled.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tom

    Misspoke my A$$. you lied and you knew it. You have people working for you that reads everything printed about you. You are only looking for votes. And now I hope it comes back to BITE you in the A$$.

    May 18, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sofrito


    May 18, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. john

    Dem I am, but this guy is damned and just needs to fade away. Lets get some good honest, even if you did a bad thing, and were honest, your points ahead from fools like this.

    If God lied, he'd need the boot too.

    May 18, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ricardo

    send him and all other fonnis to Afganistan for a full year to the front, with a pistol and then they can say " I'M
    a VETERAN, they dot not have the right to tarnish the vetereans right's of all conflicts

    May 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      you misspelled Phony, was it not red underlined on your computer?

      May 18, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sick of CNN readers' ignorance

    And the nuts emerge.

    I'll bet money each of us over the age of 35 has, on more than one occasion, pondered whether somebody who stated they served with the Marines during Vietnam actually served IN Vietnam, and in every case, we let the person get away with the implication, whether we thought they did or not. Either way, they qualified for the G.I. Bill, and they have a house from it, and I do not.

    Some old Democrat implied something to make himself feel better. So what? Republicans lie right to the cameras and not only get away with it, they get elected for it. Worse has been done, and this individual has spent his life doing right by veterans to make up for his guilt. Let him go if it bugs you, but don't pretend both sides don't engage in this and don't pretend a certain right-wing side of the aisle isn't about 110% more guilty of it than the other side.

    Worse, 1000% guilty of exploiting any hint of a scandal to scare their own idea-poor and vision-less selves back into office. The real crime in any of these stories, is a system that allows the power hungry to win for winning's sake only, and ride out their time in office accomplishing nothing.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      It's one thing to vote for a politician whom you think might lie, quite another to vote for somebody whom you know lies. Besides being a liar he is really dumb to think he would not be caught. So, maybe a dumb liar. What else has he lied about?

      May 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Richelle

    If he has a NDSM for Vietnam-era service then he isn't he technically a Vietnam veteran? There are many support personnel that don't go into a war zone but are crucial to their success.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB Cooper

      Vietnam era. I was a Vietnam era veteran although I was never in Vietnam. I would never say I was in Vietnam. How can anyone misspeak about being in Vietnam? During the Vietnam era being in the reserves was for weenies trying to avoid Vietnam. Nowadays the reserves are bearing the brunt of the fighting, but back then–not hardly. I would never brag about being in the reserves back then. I enlisted in the regular Army in 1971 and stayed 22 years, but I was never in Vietnam.

      May 19, 2010 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  15. don finklebeath

    What wrong with being a vietnam- era vet? He was on the planet earth the same time the war was happening.. So was I, even though I was only around 5 years ago.. I am still a vietnam-era vet..

    May 18, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      I was a vet during the Korean war, but I would not make it seem like I fought in Korea. If his conscience dose not bother him to to mislead people, then democrats do not need him. Maybe the repubs could use him.

      May 18, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
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