The Times' Blumenthal hit piece continues to unravel

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Earlier today, Media Matters' Jamison Foser noted that the Associated Press had discovered a flaw in The New York Times' reporting on Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's description of his military service. The AP noted that the Times story "included quotations and a video of Blumenthal saying at a 2008 event that he had 'served in Vietnam,'" but left out that Blumenthal began that speech by accurately saying that he "served in the military, during the Vietnam era."

In its response to the AP story, the Times stated in part:

The New York Times in its reporting uncovered Mr. Blumenthal's long and well established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service, which he acknowledged in an interview with The Times.

This is extremely misleading.

First of all, the Times did not identify any "long and well established pattern" on Blumenthal's part. In fact, they uncovered exactly one instance in which Blumenthal stated that he had "served in Vietnam" -- which occurred in the speech described above. The Times also identified two instances in which Blumenthal, according to the Times, "intimate[ed]" that he had done so. This out of Blumenthal's innumerable speeches over nearly twenty years as attorney general.

Moreover, Connecticut's reporters almost universally agree that no such pattern exists. The Hartford Courant's Colin McEnroe contacted political journalists throughout the state, and with one exception, none stated that they had ever heard Blumenthal say that he served in Vietnam.

For example, Connecticut Mirror's Mark Pazniokas -- who McEnroe states "may have covered Blumenthal more often than anybody else" -- says that "Every time he talked about his military record, he was quite clear that he had been a military reservist and never came close to suggesting he was in Vietnam."

Additionally, contrary to the Times' statement, Blumenthal did not acknowledge any such pattern in an interview with the Times, according to the Times' own report. The Times reported only that Blumenthal "said that he had misspoken about his service during the Norwalk event and might have misspoken on other occasions," and quoted Blumenthal stating, "My intention has always been to be completely clear and accurate and straightforward, out of respect to the veterans who served in Vietnam."

In yet another hit to the Times' story, one of their star sources for the piece is now stating that she was misquoted. The Times reported:

Mr. Blumenthal has made veterans' issues a centerpiece of his public life and his Senate campaign, but even those who have worked closely with him have gotten the misimpression that he served in Vietnam.

In an interview, Jean Risley, the chairwoman of the Connecticut Vietnam Veterans Memorial Inc., recalled listening to an emotional Mr. Blumenthal offering remarks at the dedication of the memorial. She remembered him describing the indignities that he and other veterans faced when they returned from Vietnam.

"It was a sad moment," she recalled. "He said, 'When we came back, we were spat on; we couldn't wear our uniforms.' It looked like he was sad to me when he said it."

Ms. Risley later telephoned the reporter to say she had checked into Mr. Blumenthal's military background and learned that he had not, in fact, served in Vietnam.

But ABC is reporting that Risley -- who appeared at Blumenthal's news conference yesterday - says she was misquoted:

"He has always been completely straightforward" about his military service, said Jean Risley, a chairwoman of the Connecticut Vietnam Veterans Memorial Inc. "I never once heard him say that he was in Vietnam."

Risley was quoted in the Times as recalling an emotional Blumenthal describe the abuse that he and other veterans received when they returned from the war.

She told today that she was misquoted.

Posted In
Government, The Senate
The New York Times
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