(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