(CNN) - A New York Times story alleging that Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal lied about serving in Vietnam added fuel to a contentious Connecticut senate race Tuesday.
Blumenthal's campaign criticized the story as an "outrageous distortion," while political opponents demanded answers.
"The New York Times story is an outrageous distortion of Dick Blumenthal's record of service," campaign manager Mindy Myers said. "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. He received no special treatment from anyone."
The New York Times story says Blumenthal, who is currently Connecticut's attorney general, never served in Vietnam but said he did in several speeches before veterans groups and military families. The story also claims that it appears that Blumenthal did nothing to correct numerous media profiles that described him as a Vietnam veteran.
Reached by phone Monday night, Blumenthal told a reporter that he had always said he was a "Vietnam-era" veteran, and that his intention was always to be straightforward about his military service, according to an article published on the website of the Greenwich Time, a newspaper in Connecticut.
"I've always said that I've served in the Marine Corps Reserve during the Vietnam era. If I said anything otherwise on very rare occasions, I may have misspoken," he said.
The New York Times story says 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.
His political opponents were quick to speak out Monday.
"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," National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said.
The campaign for Republican candidate Linda McMahon sent out an e-mail claiming credit 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.
Blumenthal is running for U.S. Senate to replace fellow Democrat Chris Dodd.
Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general for the past two decades, announced his candidacy on January 6, a couple of hours after Dodd, a five-term senator, announced he would not run for re-election this November. Dodd had been considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election in 2010.
A Quinnipiac University survey conducted in March indicated Blumenthal was up by more than two to one margins over all three of his possible Republican opponents.
The Connecticut Democratic Party's nominating convention begins in Hartford, Connecticut, on Friday.
UPDATE: Sen. Robert Menendez says that Blumenthal has been "an incredible advocate for veterans."
Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was asked by CNN Congressional producer Ted Barrett if he's concerned that Blumenthal misrepresented what he did in Vietnam.
"I will allow the Attorney General to both explain and make his own case. At the end of the day he knows all the facts, he knows all the circumstances and I'll let him develop that record," Menendez responded.
Menendez, who made his comments at a news conference on Capitol Hill, added that "the reality is we have not gotten to a full vetting of the Republican candidate. There is plenty to talk about in that respect. I think a record of standing up for Connecticut citizens, standing up as a consumer advocate, standing up for the veterans of that state, standing up against big companies that have tried to rip off the citizens of Connecticut will make a compelling argument for the Attorney General. And when the other side of the equation is viewed, I think voters will have a clear choice in Attorney General Blumenthal."
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
Is this really a surprise to anyone? This is even sicker than it appears because not only was Blumenthal taking credit for serving in Vietnam falsely, he was framing it in a way to make himself part of the victim class of soldiers who were rejected by the American public when they came back home.
"I may have misspoken,"
That's politician-speak for "I lied, but I'm going to lie about lying and hope you're too dumb to notice."
He did serve though; isn't that the point? It may not have been in the thick of the fight in Vietnam, but he eventually served. Did he claim any medals or awards that were not bestowed on him? That should be the bigger issue. Did either of the Republicans serve in the military in any way shape or form?
I am a CT veteran who was stationed at Long Binh Vietnam for 14 months. Blumenthal is undoubtedly opportunistic, but frankly almost everyone tried to obtain and protect deferments or join the reserves. I do not blame him for doing this, and he is a very qualified and ambitious politician. It is certainly wrong to cloak oneself in false light on any subject, but given the other candidates, and the fact that McMahon claims to be the person who ratted Blumenthal out, he is still the preferable choice.
It seems neither party would know the truth if it slapped them in the face. Our government is in very sad shape.
Ah, another Pinocchio runs for the U.S. Senate. Maybe some Vietnam Vets will show up at your next appearance, and you can take turns showing each other your scars.
How disappointing. If he misrepresented himself at all he should resign. Today.
No doubt conservatives will be screeching that the NY Times is out to slur veterans.
Well, he got a lot closer to serving than Cheney or Rove did. Not to mention Rush, Delay, McConnell, Kyl, Gingrich, Hannity, O'Reilly,....
Pssst, I've got a secret for the rest of you: politicians lie. Get used to it.
Gee, a lying cheating Democrat politician and also a lawyer, home run! Go figure, maybe he and John Kerry can get together and tell war stories together while eating packets of Heinz ketchup and smoking some of Bill Clinton's cigars.
Are these the best America has to offer? When political office became a well paying career paid for by the special interests is when America began to crumble.
When as voters are we going to get a clue? We have got to rid this country of these career politicians and start over. VOTE! It doesn't matter what party, there are good and bad in both. Dump em and start anew!
Special treatment... you mean like George "W"?
if mr blumenthal misrepresented his military service he needs to be called on it. if he did this intentionally, it's hard to understand how he could imagine he'd get away with it.
but it's pretty easy to disregard anything republicans might say about this situation: during g w bush's second presidential campaign they allowed party goons to completely discredit john kerry's actual combat experience and even tried to dismiss his purple heart and silver star medals!
So, what's new here? That a DemocRAT is lying? Or, that another John Kerry is caught lying about Vietnam?
When a Liar-in-Chief is in the WH, what do you expect from all other minions in that Party?
That's what commies do all the time, lie; that's what this commie "press" does all the time, it lies. That's what the gays/lesbians do all the time, they lie; that's what radicals do all the time also, they lie – nothing new here.
If Bluminthal did this it is disgraceful. But I also think that when CNN Political Contributors make comments as Paul Begala did during this mornings report "When I was landing on Omaha Beach....". They should be accountable too.
LonewolfUSMC/Viet Nam Era Veteran
And what of the great military service of George W. and of the "dodgings" of Dick Cheney!
wow...a democrat lying..now, that's Hope and Change...
what a disgusting human being!
Guess that'll be one more Senate seat the GOP picks up in November.
He was a weekend warrior, these guy's didn't go to VN, and they were looked down upon by us regular active duty Marines. Most of these guy's enlisted in the reserves so that they would not have to go to VN, same for National Guard in those day's. A lot of guy's like myself would not have missed the experience for the wealth in the world. After experiencing combat, there is nothing that could ever top that experience, nothing!! I'm glad I chose to be a part of it.
If only the media published accurate information about all politicians and prominent figures. Blumenthal's exaggeration pales in comparison to the daily propaganda fed to us by Fox News and most Republicans, like Fox News claiming there's no oil spill.
"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.
Yep, most of his peers were drafted during the Vietnam era.