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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Filed under: Politics
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Ryan

    ah this guy is no different then any politician be it a democrap or resmuglican .... they are all liars and cheats.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Denise

    I am a democrat and have been one my whole life. With that being said, I think it is disgusting that this man lied about serving in the Vietnam war in order to further his career. It is a real shame because that just opens the door for some radical republican nut case to walk through. All the moderates are being beat in the primaries by the conservatives. This country is going to become so polarized that nothing will get accomplished. This is, of course, at a time when we need to work together to save this sinking ship!!

    May 18, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      I'm a moderate independent and I agree that this country is becoming so divided that nothing will get done. Your comment is proof of this, with your insinuation that all republicans are and I quote "radical republican nut case". I know that is in a singular context there, but the assumption is still the same on your part.

      So please sir, don't complain about how our country is becoming polarized when just the sentence before you said that, you showed how you are obviously part of the problem when it comes to this.

      May 18, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ruffnutt

    so he got caught lying. all politicians are liars...

    May 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. gersh

    No surprise. Vote the bum out

    May 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. brown

    Perhaps his words were misunderstood and maybe his enemies put words into his mouth.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose'

      you can't be serious.

      May 18, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Retired LE


    May 18, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. valwayne

    If you watch the video you know this guy didn't misspeak, HE LIED! He tried to trade, for personal political gain, on the Honor of those who served their nation in Vietnam. A total absolute abject heartfelt sincere apology might have reapaired a little of the damage, but this guy continues to lie! And act indignant as he LIES! Surely the people of CT have enough honor for our military and veterans to show this guy the door. We have way to many Arrogant, Conceited, Self Important, Liars like this in Washington DC already!

    May 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Guest2010

    "Misspoke" is just another word for 'LIED'.

    May 18, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. harley

    dont worry dude...service is service...look at Bush...he was stateside but all the swift people just loved him...whats good for a president is good enough for senate...notice how faux and faux lite (cnn) are totally ignoring the fact that a super right wing "moral" republicant had an lying to god and your wife is WAY WORSE

    May 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. gnc

    'misspoke'.....?? He's just a good old fashioned liar that deserves no votes.

    and 'service is not service' to all those support him... He like Bush is full of s..t

    May 18, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Carla

    The cowards now they all have been in Vietnam, and that is your common Joe, look at the tshirts vendor in NY , he was a Vietnam veteran, he went at 12! It makes me angry, I was Red Cross worker there and I can remenber back in the US HOW AMERICANS SPIT ON US!, even now veterans are ignored, all this people that got a pass thanks to their dads , they claim to be veterans, we do not see their family members in Irak or Afganistan neither.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. James Bond

    What you you expect from one of a professional liar, of "god's chosen people"? If it's a -stein, -stern, berg, or a -thal, then the truth is relative.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. seattlite

    It's over for his career. Nobody can trust him now.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Wasn't There

    I think we should all be a little more understanding. It's not like Vietnam was a really scary, traumatic event for the thousands of Americans who lived and died there...let's show a little compassion, maybe he just FELT like he was there???? Uhm, maybe he really just wants to belong to the group that did what they had to do.

    May 18, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. brown

    @Carla ... your exactly right! Here we see the privileged saying and doing anything to satisfy
    their lust for power. The people send YOUR family members off to war while their families profit
    from it. When are we going to put an end to this sh!t?

    May 18, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
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