Oh My Dodd! Dem Senate Candidate Misrepresented Himself as Vietnam Combat Vet

Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd looked at his polls and decided to retire, so Democrats were buoyed by the hope of replacing him with the state's Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal. Credit should go to The New York Times and Raymond Hernandez for digging up something embarrassing. Blumenthal's not a Vietnam combat veteran, as he has implied:

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

Five deferments -- just like the liberals forever reminded people about Dick Cheney. (The Times website offers a clip of Blumenthal's speech on video.) Will the rest of the national media notice?

Hernandez spoke to Blumenthal, who admitted he misspoke but claimed he's always tried to be clear about his service -- limited to stateside service in the Marine Corps Reserve. But the media have routinely printed mistakes about his Vietnam record, which he has not corrected:

But an examination of his remarks at the ceremonies shows that he does not volunteer that his service never took him overseas. And he describes the hostile reaction directed at veterans coming back from Vietnam, intimating that he was among them.

In 2003, he addressed a rally in Bridgeport, where about 100 military families gathered to express support for American troops overseas. “When we returned, we saw nothing like this,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Let us do better by this generation of men and women.”

At a 2008 ceremony in front of the Veterans War Memorial Building in Shelton, he praised the audience for paying tribute to troops fighting abroad, noting that America had not always done so.

“I served during the Vietnam era,” he said. “I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.”

Mr. Blumenthal, 64, is known as a brilliant lawyer who likes to argue cases in court and uses language with power and precision. He is also savvy about the news media and attentive to how he is portrayed in the press.

But the way he speaks about his military service has led to confusion and frequent mischaracterizations of his biography in his home state newspapers. In at least eight newspaper articles published in Connecticut from 2003 to 2009, he is described as having served in Vietnam.

The New Haven Register on July 20, 2006, described him as “a veteran of the Vietnam War,” and on April 6, 2007, said that the attorney general had “served in the Marines in Vietnam.” On May 26, 2009, The Connecticut Post, a Bridgeport newspaper that is the state’s third-largest daily, described Mr. Blumenthal as “a Vietnam veteran.” The Shelton Weekly reported on May 23, 2008, that Mr. Blumenthal “was met with applause when he spoke about his experience as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam.”

And the idea that he served in Vietnam has become such an accepted part of his public biography that when a national outlet, Slate magazine, produced a profile of Mr. Blumenthal in 2000, it said he had “enlisted in the Marines rather than duck the Vietnam draft.”

It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes.

This clearly shows that the press in Connecticut (and the New York papers, including the Times until now) do not exactly look like deep diggers when it comes to rising Democratic stars. Hernandez added this whopper:

On a less serious matter, another flattering but untrue description of Mr. Blumenthal’s history has appeared in profiles about him. In two largely favorable profiles, the Slate article and a magazine article in The Hartford Courant in 2004 with which he cooperated, Mr. Blumenthal is described prominently as having served as captain of the swim team at Harvard. Records at the college show that he was never on the team.

Mr. Blumenthal said he did not provide the information to reporters, was unsure how it got into circulation and was “astonished” when he saw it in print.

This Vietnam story looks especially bad when one of his Republican opponents (the one that hasn't made a fortune from fake fighting) -- Rep. Rob Simmons -- is an actual Vietnam combat veteran. He put out a statement:

As someone who served, I respect Richard Blumenthal for wearing the uniform, but I am deeply troubled by allegations that he has misrepresented his service.  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.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis