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Blumenthal Says He ‘Misspoke’ About Vietnam Service

Richard Blumenthal admits he misspoke about serving in the military. Photographer: Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg
Richard Blumenthal admits he misspoke about serving in the military. Photographer: Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg

May 18 (Bloomberg) -- Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he unintentionally misspoke on a few occasions in claiming he served in Vietnam when he actually was in a Marine Reserve unit based in the U.S.

“I regret that I misspoke. I take full responsibility,” said Blumenthal, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. He spoke at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in West Hartford, Connecticut, in front of a group of military veterans. He said he got no special favors when he signed up to join the Marine Reserves in 1970.

“I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country,” Blumenthal said at the press conference today. Kate Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Democratic Party, said he is “100 percent staying in the race.”

The New York Times reported that Blumenthal, 64, claimed during public appearances to have served in Vietnam. The Times, citing records, said he got at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took steps to avoid going to war. In 1970, he joined a Marine Reserve unit in Washington that worked on local projects, the newspaper said.

His campaign biography mentions his service in the reserves without referring to Vietnam.

Blumenthal spoke today of his history of standing up for veterans and his frequent appearances at their events.

‘Unconditional Support’

“We owe our military men and women unconditional support when they are in the service and when they come back to civilian life,” he said. “I mention my own military service with that message in mind.”

Veterans at the Blumenthal press conference applauded his comments and said they were standing by him.

“He doesn’t deserve to be slandered like this,” said Bill Anderson, 57, of Somers, Connecticut, who said he served in the Navy during Vietnam.

Blumenthal, who entered the race after Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd announced his retirement, was favored to win the November election by the three Washington-based publications that rate congressional contests: Congressional Quarterly, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report.

He led Linda McMahon, the former chief executive officer of Stamford, Connecticut-based World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., and Republican former U.S. Representative Rob Simmons by more than 30 points each in a March poll by Quinnipiac University of Hamden, Connecticut.

‘Often Deadly’

The Times report could change that. “Lying about your military service is a bad and dishonorable thing and often deadly politically,” said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the controversy over Blumenthal’s military service “is quite a blow to his political candidacy” and “makes the prospects better” for a Republican to win the seat.

McMahon posted an article on her campaign website claiming credit for leaking the story to the Times. She later removed it.

Simmons, who served in Vietnam as an Army intelligence officer, said at a press conference today that Blumenthal should apologize “to those whose heroism he has undeservedly capitalized on for his personal political purposes.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Peter S. Green in West Hartford, Connecticut, at psgreen@bloomberg.net; Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tackett at mtackett@bloomberg.net.

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