NYT Blumenthal Bombshell Was A Political Hit Job

Filed in National by on May 20, 2010

I really owe Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal an apology. I uncritically believed the New York Times article that stated Blumenthal had misrepresented his service during the Vietnam era. Blumenthal served in the Marine Corps Reserves and not in Vietnam. The NYT had a pretty damning video which backed up its story.

The campaign of Linda McMahon posted on its website (post subsequently removed) that it had given the story to the NYT and it put up the video. The problem? It put up the whole video. The whole video shows Blumenthal correctly characterizing his service as being during the Vietnam era before he later said in Vietnam. It’s clear that Blumenthal wasn’t trying to mislead this crowd of veterans.

Greg Sargent asked the NYT about the cropped video.

So why didn’t The Times publish the longer vid with the quote of him getting it right? Times spokesperson Diane McNulty emailed a response, claiming the longer vid doesn’t change the story:

The New York Times in its reporting uncovered Mr. Blumenthal’s long and well established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service, which he acknowledged in an interview with The Times. Mr. Blumenthal needs to be candid with his constituents about whether he went to Vietnam or not, since his official military records clearly indicate he did not.

The video doesn’t change our story. Saying that he served “during Vietnam” doesn’t indicate one way or the other whether he went to Vietnam.

Yes it absolutely does change the story, NYT. They should be ashamed of themselves if they were had a sense of shame left. Should we really expect more from the NYT considering they also ran with the highly edited ACORN “sting” videos?

Colin McEnroe at the Hartford Courant followed up on the allegations from the NYT and found them lacking.

The Times did not merely claim that Blumenthal was trafficking in falsehoods. The original story said that Blumenthal has been so consistently misleading that the idea of his service in Vietnam had become a widely accepted part of his public persona.

So I asked reporters, anchors and columnists to tell me (a) whether they could remember Blumenthal ever claiming to have served in Vietnam and (b) whether they had been under the impression for whatever reason, that Blumenthal had served in Vietnam. Here are the answers so far.

Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror, who may have covered Blumenthal more often than anybody else, referred me to his quote in an NPR national story: “Every time he talked about his military record, he was quite clear that he had been a military reservist and never came close to suggesting he was in Vietnam.”

Greg Hladky of the Hartford Advocate, formerly of the New Haven Register and Bridgeport Post, right up there with Paz in Blumenthal coverage: “Never personally heard [Blumenthal] say he was in Vietnam. I knew he had been the the Marine Corps Reserve, talked about that briefly during interview for a profile I did recently, and he never mentioned being in Nam.”

Daniela Altimari of the Courant: “I have not been covering Blumenthal for very long, but I do know that last month, when I asked his campaign about his military service, they said very clearly that he served during the Vietnam era but did not serve in a combat arena.”

McEnroe quotes 6 more Connecticut journalists saying they never heard Blumenthal say he served in Vietnam and were well aware that Blumenthal served in the Marine Reserves.

I think it’s clear that the NYT story is lot less than advertised. I think journalists should use this as a lesson (which they apparently didn’t learn with the ACORN tapes): beware of rightwingers bearing video.

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Opinionated chemist, troublemaker, blogger on national and Delaware politics.

Comments (23)

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  1. What left-wing media?

  2. Delaware Dem says:

    Exactly. I never want to hear a dimwit conservative say the New York Times is a liberal rag again.

  3. bamboozer says:

    The link to the ACORN tapes is hard to miss and the intent is the same: Get a big lie going and hope it takes wing. The Times also proves it’s not Liberal or anything else, just desperate for a big story even if it’s not true.

  4. fightingbluehen says:

    His first statement, about how he served during the Vietnam “era” leaves you wondering if he served. His second statement “I served in Vietnam” clarifies the issue .
    I see a man willfully misleading the audience, in my opinion.

  5. anon says:

    The story smelled funny on Day One.

    UI… it would probably be good form to link to your original post with one of those special linky-things that inserts itself into the post (whatever they are called). That way people who only see the first post will be directed to your clarification here.

  6. liberalgeek says:

    OK, so I just watched the video. Where does he say he served in Vietnam? I am missing it, I guess.

    And FBH, wtf are you talking about with this? His first statement, about how he served during the Vietnam “era” leaves you wondering if he served.

    There is no question of whether or not he served. The question is whether or not he served in a combat zone. The standard for “service” is not shooting at or being shot at.

    My Father served during the Vietnam era, just like Blumenthal. He was lucky to be stationed in West Germany, instead of Vietnam. But don’t try to say that he didn’t serve.

  7. anon says:

    Where does he say he served in Vietnam?


    The whole story is kayfabe.

  8. liberalgeek says:

    I see it now. Thanks, anon. And an excellent reference.

  9. P.Schwartz says:

    his defense is that he only lied some of the time.

    LG, does your dad claim to be a Vietnam Vet?

  10. The New York Times is right. He said during the Viet Nam Era then went on to say in Viet Nam. In English the specific statement modifies the general not the other way around. I could accept it as a misstatement. Everyone who speaks enough slips up. The problem is that he has done it multiple times. The only political hit is the one done by the AG on himself.

  11. a. price says:

    “There is no question of whether or not he served. The question is whether or not he served in a combat zone. The standard for “service” is not shooting at or being shot at.”

    Especially if you are George W Bush and attacking the service record of a man who ACTUALLY SAW COMBAT.

    I think it is important to look at what he has done in the past few years. If he exaggerated his record a bit, BUT was able to use that exaggeration to advocate for Vets… is that a really bad thing?
    Embellishing military cred is a long American tradition.

    … right down to the man who very well have saved the Continental army during the winter at Valley Forge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Wilhelm_von_Steuben

  12. anon says:

    I’m more pissed about Blumy pandering to a veterans group with the urban legend about spitting on returning troops. If he hadn’t been pandering none of this would have happened.

  13. MJ says:

    Anon – I actually have friends that were spat on and called “baby killer” when they returned from Viet Nam. It’s not an urban legend.

  14. anon says:

    The problem is, all the anecdotes are about “friends,” never with any detail. And never with any explanation of how the protesters got onto the bases where the troops returned to.

    I’m not going to challenge you here.

    But based on a Google News archive search of actual news archives, I didn’t find any press references to spitting on troops until after 1982:

    Rambo: Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don’t turn it off! It wasn’t my war! You asked me, I didn’t ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn’t let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me? Who are they? Unless they’ve been me and been there and know what the hell they’re yelling about!

  15. MJ says:

    It wasn’t reported back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s because many newspapers and local media outlets still supported the war. They refused to show hippies/yippies/war protesters in a positive light. I just missed the draft (turning 18 the year after the war ended in 1975). If I had been drafted, I would have been on the first plane/train/bus to Canada.

    I opposed the Viet Nam war just as I opposed the invasion of Iraq. But I didn’t take out my opposition to either of these by dishonoring those who were forced to serve. Many people did, however.

  16. anon says:

    They refused to show hippies/yippies/war protesters in a positive light.

    MJ, think about what you just said. If the press had it in for protesters, why would they self-censor news of spitting incidents?

    I did find news stories of protesters spitting on politicians (Birch Bayh). Maybe that is the origin.

    The youth movement had a clear skepticism and sometimes a hostility about one’s choice to go to Vietnam. This was in keeping with the values of the nation that hanged Nazis for “just following orders,” which was still in living memory (and revived by the trial of Eichmann in 1961-62). But even so I don’t recall any spitting incidents, nor can I find news of them today.

    America used to pride itself on not being “good Germans.” I was just barely old enough to be aware of the point where America shed its Nuremberg values and took on its Rambo values.

  17. The revelation of the full video and the work by Colin McEnroe changes the whole story, IMO. The impression I got from the original story is that Blumenthal went around talking about when he was in ‘Nam and that this is what was understood about him.

    This is not true. The video showed that Blumenthal was not trying to mislead this group, otherwise he would not have stated that he served during Vietnam. McEnroe’s story showed that the fact that Blumenthal served in the Marine Reserves is well-known in Connecticut.

    This move the Blumenthal story to a “misspeak” type of story and that certainly isn’t worthy of a NYT alert that I got on my Twitter. The NYT was sloppy at best on this story.

    I am amused at all the conservatives here defending the NYT.

  18. What? You are surprised by “gotcha” hit pieces by the NY Times? Isn’t that what they spent the last 8 years doing during the Bush Administration?

  19. Larry Walker says:

    Blumenthal lied, misrepresented, misspoke, whatever you want to call it he lost his credibility and should fade back into the shadows. What a shame. What a disgrace. Why don’t you show all the other clips where he misspoke as well if you really want to see where the NYT is coming from. Let’s have full transparency. Post them all, or you know someone else will.

  20. Geezer says:

    A list, please, of all the “gotcha” pieces against Bush administration officials.

    It should also be noted that NYT spent more time and resources on Whitewater than anyone except the government.

    BTW, if misrepresentation is the issue, why isn’t LInda McMahon in the docket with her husband for building a business based on steroid abuse?

  21. nemski says:

    LOL, the NYT was a eager waterboy for Bush’s ill-conceived attack on Iraq. Please, transparency. Just because the Right lumps the NYT as part of the “liberal media elite” doesn’t make it so.

  22. P.Schwartz says:

    Jane Fonda spent more time in Vietnam than Blumenthal

  23. pandora says:

    Careful, Schwartz, or I’ll bring up St. Ronnie’s whopper about service.