* By Clark Hoyt New York Times *
The Times reported last week that Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the bright hope of Democrats to retain a critical seat in the United States Senate, has sometimes falsely claimed to be a Vietnam veteran. Predictably, in an election year with control of Congress in play, the report sparked plenty of outrage — much of it directed at The Times.
The paper cited several instances when Blumenthal made “plainly untrue” statements about his service, and posted a video excerpt of him saying in 2008, “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.” The article at the top of Tuesday’s front page said that on other occasions he used ambiguous language that could have left the wrong impression. In fact, The Times said, after receiving five deferments and finally facing the prospect of being drafted, Blumenthal joined the Marine Corps Reserve and avoided combat.
Reaction to the story was strong and immediate. Blumenthal said at a news conference that he took “full responsibility” for misspeaking about his service on occasion but said he never intentionally misled anyone and called the false claims “misplaced words.” A source in the article joined him at the news conference to contradict what The Times quoted her as saying. Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called the article a “hatchet job” planted by the opposition. Some Connecticut journalists who cover Blumenthal said they were never misled about his military service. And The Times was criticized for selectively editing the video, which was its strongest evidence.
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