May 18th, 2010
02:59 PM ET
4 years ago

Blumenthal: 'I have misspoken' about Vietnam record

(CNN) - 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."

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. Dodd himself said Tuesday that Bloomberg is "the most honorable of people."

"My support for him is unwavering," Dodd added.

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.

Updated: 4:16 p.m.

– CNN's Ted Barrett, Alan Silverleib and Allan Chernoff contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2010 • Connecticut • Popular Posts • Richard Blumenthal
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Duck Fallas

    Stupid, stupid, stupid. Bloomie blew it. Left the door wide open for the nutty wrestler lady. Thanks a lot.

    May 18, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. Karen Baker

    This man was quoted as saying "on a few occassions I have misspoken about my service and I regret that and I take full responsibility" He did not serve in Vietnam as he claimed several times and that is not misspeaking, It is a lie. I personally don't want to elect an admitted liar.

    May 18, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  3. PalmReader

    As long as voters are willing to continue voting for these lying fools, nothing much will change politically one way or another.

    May 18, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. Mike McKenzie

    First of all, are we shocked? Congressmen lying? No way.

    Secondly, a Democrat lying about serving in the military. Seems as redundant as Republican men and their devout family life.

    May 18, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. Dena

    "misspoken"? I'm so sick of politicians and other (unelected) officials who sorta/maybe/kinda admit they lied/cheated/stole from the electorate! This is about as believable as Geitner forgetting to pay his taxes. What hogwish….

    May 18, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  6. Dan

    Liar! We don't want you in the senate.

    GIVE IT UP, LIAR!

    May 18, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  7. WhatAJoke

    Nice reporting CNN: "NY Times alleges...that he lied" Couldn't get your hands on the tape?? If he were a Republican you would already have a tally of how many time he said it. Was he on the Harvard swim team, perhaps the Captain of the swim team?

    May 18, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  8. RanDe

    Because its true who cares how the story came to light The fact that this man did not resign from his job or the Senate race says one thing. He has no integrity and you can not trust anything he says. His reasoning for not resigning only disgraces Vietnam veterans those who have served the Marine Corps, anyone associated to him as well as himself. The fact that he did not resign indicates that this man is probably pathological and has no place in public office. Lying, misrepresenting themselves denying the facts, and ignoring the majority more and more seems to be "The Democrat Way".

    May 18, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  9. malabar

    Hypocrisy of politics

    May 18, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  10. Wake UP

    Honestly, where do these people come from? Is it a shock when we have this guy dem bleumantal running, and that scum souder resigning....why America is running defiicits and are lost?

    This is why we believe in LESS government. Obama is the biggest crook of them all, and all he does is want more and more bigger govt.

    Stop this madness! will we ever learn. That is why the constitution demands limited federal govt.

    May 18, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  11. Dan

    When they tell the truth campaigning, they start lying once in office.
    This guy is "out of protocol" lying already on the campaign trail.
    It shows he is not a reliable guy, but the people of the commonwealth of connecticut will be tested here: if they choose another crook like the one they have in Chris Dodd, we will all suffer.

    May 18, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  12. Nigel

    This story was reported leaked to the Times by Republican senate candidate Linda MacMahon. From rajah.com

    Political blogger Kevin Rennie sheds more light on how the story broke – it was apparently the result of a $16 million effort on Linda's part to dig up dirt on Blumenthal, the man who would most likely be her Senate race opponent, should they both get nominated by their respective parties:

    "The Blumenthal Bombshell comes at the end of more than 2 months of deep, persistent research by Republican Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign. It gave the explosive Norwalk video recording to The Times. This is what comes of $16 million, a crack opposition research operation and an opponent who, in the words of the president Blumenthal worked for on a draft deferment, who gave them the sword."

    May 18, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. MAD MAX TEXAN

    This is what you get with OBAMA in office. LIES, and more LIES!!!

    May 18, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  14. Ben

    If Blumenthal "mispoke" about his Vietnam record, then I have to wonder what else he may have "mispoke" about. Sounds to me like he's not trustworthy enough to be a Senator.

    May 18, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  15. rita

    I read the New York Times report and it was stunning to say the least. I would have searched my soul for more respect for Blumenthal if he had defended himself alone instead of bringing a wall of Vietnam war veterans to seemingly intimidate those news agencies with questions regarding this story. Even with their interruptions of questions and Hoooahhhhs, the press was not intimidated and did its job in questioning this long-term questionable behavior. He did more to defend the marines who actually served than to defend his obvious pattern of deceit.

    May 18, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  16. Pete S

    Rick,

    I agree with you most of the time, BUT when you try to disparage anyone who has served this country, to make a story more than what it is, I cannot roll with you. Blumenthal may have mispoken a couple of times and that is regretable, but to try to tear down people who have served our country, Vouluntarily no less, is beyond me. Those who think joining the reserves is any less service to our country ought to go out and join the reserves and then tell us about it. Going through Marine boot camp alone is enough to earn my respect. Blumenthal fighting for the rights of veterans and in particular those who served during the vietnam era, deserve our support. The way they were treated during that time is dispicable, I know, I saw it happen first hand. Anyone associated with the military in any way back then, were subjected to ridicule, harrasment, and much worse. Before you go beating them down as in the past, take a few minutes to look up how things were back then. Serving our country on the front lines or doing a toys for tots engagement certainly do not have the same dangers involved in that service, but the results of wearing the uniform of any service brought about the same "piss on you" attitude that many Vietnam era service men had to endure. They All deserve our gratitude, not our disdain.

    Pete S

    May 18, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  17. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    Yeh, that is what democrats call it when they are caught in a lie. Republicans resign and are prosecuted.

    May 18, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  18. Bob

    Funny how this story isn't getting a lot of attention on CNN or other mainstream media, but the story about the Republican congressman who cheated is.

    May 18, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  19. jm for sc

    This no misspoke-it's a straight up lie.

    May 18, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  20. GI Joe

    Hey - at least he didn't crash several multi-million dollar planes and leave a disabled wife for a wealthy hottie.

    Maybe if he switches to republican he can one day be president for the Greedy Obstructionist Part.

    May 18, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    There was no spoken, misspoken or misplaced words heard around the world when my brother, a decorated Vietnam Veteran died Januaruy 4, 2010. He lived and died in Arizona the same State that the distinguished, honorable Vietnam Veteran Sen. John McCain lives in. Thank you Mr. Blumenthal for misspeaking or misplacing words of the forgotten.

    May 18, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  22. Naqib

    Stolen Valor...

    Shame on you

    Resign

    May 18, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  23. Chris - Denver

    Sounds more like a lie to me. I would worry most about his lack of judgment, if he actually thought he could get away with a whopper like that. And I'm a Democrat.

    May 18, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. GI Joe

    He was NOT a 5 time draft dodger like Cheney and he didn't have a father that bought him coke-addicted military service state-side and then turn him into King George.

    May 18, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  25. Holding Up A Mirror

    It's called a LIE. Either you were in Vietnam or you weren't. It's kinda of hard to get those two things confused.

    Hillary Clinton landed under sniper fire .... it was a LIE.

    George Bush ducked service in Vietnam ... He was a PUNK.

    May 18, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
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