Serwer falsely declares Blumenthal "lied" about being "captain of the swim team"


Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer falsely claimed that Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal "lied about Harvard" by claiming "he was captain of the swim team." In fact, there is no evidence that Blumenthal said he had been captain, and a former Harvard team captain has statedthat Blumenthal was on the team.

Serwer: Blumenthal "lied ... he said he was the captain of the swim team"

From the May 24 edition of MSNBC'S Morning Joe:

SERWER: I just don't buy it at all. I think the guy should not run. I think he should resign. I mean, this is the attorney general of the state, number one. He wants to be, you know, in this exalted position. He lied. Then he also lied about Harvard -- he said he was the captain of the swim team. He wasn't. Gee, I wonder if there's another lie there -- somewhere. I wonder. What do you think?

NY Times first forwarded dubious claim that Blumenthal was "never on the team"

NY Times cited Hartford Courant description of Blumenthal as team captain when "records at the college show that he was never on the team." The New York Times reported on May 17:

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.

Courant profile does not state that Blumenthal said he was "captain"

Hartford Courant report does not attribute swim team claims to Blumenthal. In an October 3, 2004, profile of Blumenthal, the Courant reported (accessed via Nexis):

The Blumenthals paid for their children to attend Riverdale Country School, a private school in the Bronx, and later footed the bill for Ivy League schools, all the way through law and medical schools.

In Richard's case, that meant four years at Harvard University, where he was captain of the swim team, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Crimson and a magna cum laude graduate, and Yale Law School.

Courant issued a correction to its story. On May 21, the Courant issued a correction to its 2004 profile that also did not indicate Blumenthal had supplied the Courant with false information:

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was never captain of the Harvard University swim team. A 1978 Courant story incorrectly reported that he was -- an error repeated in subsequent Courant stories, including profiles in 1980 and 2004.

Courant: Former Harvard team captain confirms Blumenthal was on the team

Courant reported that a former Harvard team captain said Blumenthal "was on the team" and that Blumenthal said he had "no idea" where the captain claim came from. The Courant reported on May 20:

I called the school earlier today and was told the registrar's office can verify attendance but could not verify an individuals participation on any athletic team. I was told to call the swim coach, who did not return my call.

But Waterbury native Peter Alter, who was the captain of the Harvard swim team in 1968, the year after Blumenthal graduated, told the Courant this morning that Blumenthal was on the team.

He was a freestyler and "was actually a pretty good one,'' said Alter, now a lawyer in Glastonbury who still on occasion talks to Blumenthal.

The Yankee Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think-tank based in Hartford, unearthed a trove of photographs from Harvard that show Blumenthal was at least associated with the team.

A photo from the 1964 Harvard College yearbook, posted on the Yankee Institute'sFacebook page, shows Blumenthal participating in a Harvard swim meet his freshman year. "However, if Blumenthal was on the Harvard swim team, he is not included in the team's group yearbook photo that year,'' Yankee's executive director Fergus Cullen noted in an email.

Blumenthal campaign manager Mindy Myers said it is her understanding that Blumenthal was a member of the freshman swim team at Harvard.

The captain of the swim team in 1967, Blumenthal's senior year, was James Seubold, who is now a doctor in the Chicago area. He could not be reached for comment.

Alter, who was a diver and only the second diver in school history to be named captain, said it is a "big deal to be named captain" of any Harvard sports team.

Alter said he talked to Blumenthal a few years ago, when both of them were at a function. The two men joked about the inaccurate references to Blumenthal being the team captain. The attorney general told Alter "he had no idea where it came from."

"He said he had tried to figure out where it had started and that he had never claimed to have been the captain,'' Alter said.

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Andy Serwer
Morning Joe, Fortune
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