Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general and presumed favorite to replace retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), never served in Vietnam, despite frequent campaign trail references to his days serving in-country during the Vietnam War.
The revelation comes from an exposé in The New York Times
, which details Blumenthal's 1970 enlistment in the Marine Reserve after receiving five previous deferments to attend Harvard College, attend graduate school in England, work for the Nixon administration and briefly work for The Washington Post. According to the Times, Blumenthal's Washington-based Marine unit performed local projects during the war, such as a Toys for Tots drive.
But Blumenthal, a Democrat, has spoken about his time in Vietnam during multiple campaign appearances around the state of Connecticut, including to a veterans group in Norwalk in 2008, when he said, "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam."
He also once lamented the treatment Vietnam veterans received when they returned from service. "I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse," he told a Bridgeport rally that same year. At a rally in 2003 where family members gathered to express support for American troops overseas, Blumenthal said, "When we returned, we saw nothing like this. Let us do better by this generation of men and women."
The Times interviewed Blumenthal for the article, who said he usually tries to make clear he served in the military in the Vietnam era, but not in combat in Vietnam. "My intention has always been to be completely clear and accurate and straightforward, out of respect to the veterans who served in Vietnam," he said.
On Tuesday, Blumenthal told the Associated Press
that the Times story was an "outrageous distortion." He said he misspoke on a couple of occasions, and clearly stated in a televised debate in March that he had not served in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, his Republican opponent, Linda McMahon, took the unusual step of taking credit for the story. A blog post on the campaign's website says the campaign "fed" the story to the Times, and the author confirmed to The Daily Caller
that McMahon's campaign is indeed taking credit for the story.
Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senate Committee, said Blumenthal owed Connecticut voters an explanation. "If you can't trust him to tell the truth about whether or not he served in Vietnam, you have to wonder what exactly you can trust about Richard Blumenthal," he said.
A Rasmussen poll
conducted last week showed Blumenthal beating every other candidate by double digits, including his closest rival, McMahon, whom he led by 13 points.
Reaction to the story on Capitol Hill Tuesday varied.
Sen. Chris Dodd, whose seat Blumenthal would fill, stood by the attorney general, saying, "I know Dick Blumenthal. My support for him is unwaivering and I think he'll be a great United States senator."
Connecticut's other senator, Joe Lieberman, took a more muted approach. "It just happened, we need to give him time to respond," Lieberman said.
Republicans called the news "a blockbuster revelation."
Sen. John Cornyn, the GOP's top Senate recruiter, said the news would absolutly make the Connecticut Senate race more competitive for his party. "I haven't heard his explanation, but I think its got to be very damaging and I hope there is a good explanation for it," Cornyn said.
But Dodd took Cornyn's and other Republicans' predictions of Democratic demise in Connecticut reaction in stride. "Well they think that about every seat."
Mari Fagel contributed to this report.