May 18th, 2010
02:59 PM ET
8 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. Willy Brown

    When democrat is lying it’s called misspoken and the media does it's best to pooh pooh it . When a republican mis speaks he's called a liar and is hounded by the party of misspoken but they never lie till the next election or when the media finds something else to drive into the ground. Hypocrites all.

    May 18, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. Nick Washington DC

    Come on...........let's be's easy to forget whether you were in a war zone or not. After all, the current Sec. of State also "misspoke" about being under enemy fire. They are both "misspeaking" a legal term.............for lying perhaps?

    May 18, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  3. vince

    I wish, as usual, that you guys would please stick to facts and not speculation, twisting of information and purposfully ommitting clarifying info which is readily available. Asise from Mr. Blumenthal's actual misrepresentation and the foul odor that that represents, do not diregard that most of what he said is factually true. Look at Wikepedia definition and explanation of Vietnam-era veteran:

    Vietnam Era veteran is a phrase used to describe someone who served in the armed forces of participating countries during the Vietnam War. The term has been used to describe veterans who were in the armed forces of South Vietnam, the United States armed forces, and countries allied to them, whether or not they were actually stationed in Vietnam during their service. However, the more common usage distinguishes between those who served "in country" and those who did not actually serve in Vietnam by referring to the "in country" veterans as "Vietnam veterans" and the others as "Vietnam era veterans". The U.S. government officially refers to all as "Vietnam era veterans".[1]

    As a matter of fact, over 8 million of us served duing that time and just over 2 million served in-country and as by definition Vietnam Veterans.

    As to his references to the vile, sickening shouts of personal threats and threats against the uniformed members of the service in general, I can forive him for expressing it in the first person. I was a member of the military reserve during the '63-'75 time and I could state that "WE(collectively) had abuse heaped on us and that WE did not have the country behind us and WE did not recieve praise and parades for our service.

    Just make your factual points and don't dig to deep in the NY Times "quotes" that do not bother to explain context. Just like you lost me as a watcher of Lou Dobbs dubious reporting about things military, so too will you lose me (a 34-year service member and Republican) if you continue to harp on things that are so negligible and non-factual. Speaking of besmearching good deeds: for Rick Sanchez to make a snide remark about Mr Rosenthal's service in the US Marine Corps Toys for Tots Christmas campaigns is the height of ugly, twisted, throw-away comedy. CNN does not need that.

    May 18, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. November

    I think the "misspoken" term has been a little over used by now. We all can tell the differnence between a "lie" and "the truth". Trying to re-label a lie into something that sounds like a mere accident just doesn't work anymore.

    May 18, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. Elect this liar and......

    get what you deserve.......

    May 18, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. leaning right....o

    you didn't mis speak! you know if you were in a war, you remember battle! you did not mis speak, you lied, you mislead for political reasons. plain n simple no mistake ! your a politician and you lied to the masses and mis represented yourself! I heard you speak today and you make me sick! so don't the 3 people that clapped for you! wow you have no shame! I hope you lose!

    May 18, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. SocialismBad

    "on a few occassions I have misspoken about my service and I regret that and I take full responsibility."

    I simply cannot believe that a person could EVER misspeak about BEING IN A WAR ZONE! Especially when he KNEWS he got FIVE DEFERMENTS! You can maybe excuse ONE error, but "a few times"???? His explanation is simply not plausible in my book.

    Just another lyin' DemocRAT...

    May 18, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  8. Bubba

    Disgusting, but at least he's manned up without a fuss. VietNam was a horror and the men/women who served were lucky to get out with their souls unshredded. Let him go join the other party if they'll have him.

    May 18, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  9. gt

    dont start lying before you get in office...ugh

    May 18, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  10. Dar

    Odumbo lies all the time and people suck it up like candy, why cant Blumenthal. I mean all Dems tha same, why just pick on him.

    May 18, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. Laura, Paulden AZ

    Boy the dems are out in the blogs does Blumenthal have anything to do with John McCain? John McCain was/is a Vietnam Vet in every way shape and form and there simply is no comparison between the two.

    May 18, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Blumenthal says he has "misspoken" about Vietnam record

    I'll say! You lied. Period.

    May 18, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. Bob Dog

    Pace yourself, Man!

    Try to control the lying, misrepresentation and self-serving hypocracy for AFTER you are elected!

    May 18, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  14. Steve

    MAD MAX TEXAN May 18th, 2010 3:23 pm ET

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


    Mad Max,

    Your post is the dumbest I have ever read. Congratulations, bud.

    May 18, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  15. John

    Misspoke????? How about outright lied!!!!
    He is not deserving to serve our country in politics. We have enough political liars in office.

    May 18, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  16. left turn

    typical Republican garbage....the kings of hypocrisy.

    May 18, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  17. Joseph Rodgers

    it's hard to support anyone who lies about serving thier country rep or dem doesn't matter. As an open minded democract I've served 10 years in the Marine Corps, loved evry minute of it, but it's hard to make the same mispoken words over and over and not know you're doing it. It creates a disservice for all how have served and for those who ar e currently serving. Sorry bloomie you just lost a lot of votes.

    May 18, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. Pam, Eugene, OR

    I think it is pretty funny that FAUX news, Limbaugh and Hannity are all over this story but not one word about a GOP Congessman announcing his retirememnt due to an extramarital affair.
    I ask you, which is the larger offense? Would it be a "family values" Republican cheating on his wife while professing to be a Christain man or a Democrat stretching the truth about his military service.
    You decide.I happen to think they are both news.

    May 18, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  19. doug

    Take note moderates, see the Democrats somehow equating Bush and Cheney into this, yet neither one has ever once lied about their service or lack there of.

    Why would one be so intentionally dishonest? Not just this sleezeball but a whole collective group known as Democrats seem to take pride in lying, they are so liberally conditioned that the truth and the facts are evil to them, and double standards, lies, decent, and cheating are staples of their ideology and being.

    There can be nothing worse to support than a Democrat. Please, just pay attention to their words and actions, its all the proof you will ever need.

    May 18, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. doug

    Linda is a strong, caring, honest, hard working woman, wonder why that is a recipe for extremist liberal hate and a desire for that person to be harmed?

    May 18, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  21. WeThePeopleofVirginia

    One lie usually covers up another.

    May 18, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. JFS

    All the hype and negativism in the world will not change the outcome...this guy will win BIG..sorry tea-baggers and Repubs. You folks are going to be in for a rude awakening in Nov...The majority of American voters are MODERATE non-extremists. You folks have once again failed to see what the middle-class is......Crist is our type of candidate. You folks have missed the boat again.

    May 18, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. David

    Bush didn't lie about his service? Please! And I love this quote, too: "There can be nothing worse to support than a Democrat. Please, just pay attention to their words and actions, its all the proof you will ever need." Simply replace "Democrat" with "Republican" (toilet cruising hypocrites!) and you've got a more legit statement.

    May 18, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. Jay

    Misspoke-code word for Lied-No difference-Just a more political correct to put it--Face it--HE LIED---

    May 18, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  25. Bubba

    MadMax, you are not supposed to SMOKE the koolade. Just drink it and be quiet now.

    May 18, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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