This Associated Press report about the controversy surrounding Richard Blumenthal's description of his military service raises some questions about the New York Times' handling of the story:
The crisis erupted when The New York Times reported that Blumenthal had repeatedly distorted his military service. The story included quotations and a video of Blumenthal saying at a 2008 event that he had “served in Vietnam.” The newspaper also said Blumenthal intimated more than once that he was a victim of the abuse heaped on Vietnam veterans upon their return home.
A longer version of the video posted by a Republican opponent also shows Blumenthal at the beginning of his speech correctly characterizing his service by saying that he “served in the military, during the Vietnam era.”
So why didn't the Times include Blumenthal “correctly characterizing his service” in its version of the video? That's awfully misleading, isn't it? Given that Republican Linda McMahon's campaign has taken credit for feeding the Times the Blumenthal story, you have to wonder if it gave the Times the incomplete video, as well. Either way, the Times should explain why it chose to omit Blumenthal's correct characterization of his service.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent gets a comment from the New York Times. But rather than explaining the Times' decision to omit the part of the video in which Blumenthal accurate describes his service, NYT flak Diane McNulty sounds more like a political opponent of Blumenthal's:
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. Mr. Blumenthal needs to be candid with his constituents about whether he went to Vietnam or not, since his official military records clearly indicate he did not.
The video doesn't change our story. Saying that he served “during Vietnam” doesn't indicate one way or the other whether he went to Vietnam.
Seriously: Would that first paragraph read any differently if it came from a spokesperson for one of Blumenthal's potential Republican opponents rather than from the New York Times?
Sargent, meanwhile, spells things out for the Times:
[T]he fact that he got it right, if narrowly so, earlier in the speech raises at least the possibility that he didn't intend to mislead later on, even if it doesn't prove this one way or the other.
Even if you don't believe the longer video is exculpatory in any way, as The Times says, there's no conceivable reason for leaving out the fuller context and letting readers make the call for themselves. It seems obvious that when dealing with a story this explosive, you would want to err on the side of more context, rather than less.