Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday tried to contain the fallout from a New York Times article that accused him of making misleading statements about his military service during the Vietnam era.
The New York Times story, published late Monday, detailed statements made by the Connecticut Attorney General where he indicated he served in Vietnam when in fact he served in the Marine Reserves stateside in the 1970s.
“On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service and I regret that and I take full responsibility,” Blumenthal said at a press conference where he was flanked by Marine veterans. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”
Blumenthal said his use of “in” instead of “during” when talking about his service was “completely unintentional” but he did not specifically apologize. One of those incidents was caught in a video clip that was posted along with the story.
“I was unaware of those misplaced words when they were spoken. Only when they were brought to my attention very recently did I become aware of them,” he said.
Blumenthal said he was particularly upset by the story because he believed it denigrates service in military reserve units and because it implied that he received special help getting into the unit during the war.
“There were no special favors, no privileges involved,” in his joining the reserves, he said. “I served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and I am proud of it.”
After the Times story was published Monday evening, operatives for former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (R) first tried to take credit for the story by posting a blog entry to her campaign website, which claimed that the New York Times story was based on McMahon’s opposition research.
GOP operatives on Capitol Hill privately questioned that move Tuesday because it allowed Democrats to frame the story as a political attack and took the focus off Blumenthal having to explain his words.
The McMahon campaign removed the post Tuesday morning, and in an interview Tuesday afternoon McMahon spokesman Ed Patru tried to keep the spotlight on Blumenthal.
“The substance of this report is what’s relevant. … The process behind this story will never trump the substance behind this story,” Patru said. The story “raises some very serious questions that only Dick Blumenthal can answer.”
Asked about the blog item that indicated the McMahon camp provided research to the New York Times, Patru played down the campaign’s involvement.
“This campaign has been aware for some time as we’ve looked closely at Mr. Blumenthal’s public statements, as we’ve compared his public statements to the facts, that there were some very troubling discrepancies there. That said, clearly [reporter] Ray Hernandez and the New York Times put in the research and the heavy lifting that was needed to make this story work. … Where the research came here is a distraction.”
Meanwhile former Rep. Rob Simmons (R), who is battling McMahon for the GOP nomination, was also loath to let the story be just about Blumenthal. In his own statement Tuesday afternoon, Simmons blasted McMahon for what he said were her own misrepresentations during the campaign about her academic credentials and her actions during a federal investigation into allegations of steroid use by her former employees at the WWE.
“There are some deeply disturbing disconnects between the image she has sought to portray in her multi-million advertising campaign and reality,” Simmons said in his own statement. “Just as Blumenthal’s unscrutinized record has now caused consternation for Democrats, so will McMahon’s for Republicans.”
Connecticut’s state GOP convention is this weekend.