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Republicans Attack Blumenthal’s Service Record

May 18, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: The leading Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut defends his military record against reports he embellished it over the years.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has been seen a strong hope for Democrats to hold a U.S. Senate seat. But he was rocked today by this story in The New York Times about repeated claims that he served with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam.

The newspaper’s Web site posted a clip of Blumenthal at a March 2008 ceremony to honor veterans.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D, Connecticut attorney general: We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam. And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it, Afghanistan or Iraq, we owe our military men and women unconditional support.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in fact, Blumenthal never served in Vietnam. Instead, he obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970. Then he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves. He spent six months in boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, and then six years in the Reserves, none of it overseas.

This afternoon, the attorney general appeared at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Hartford, Connecticut. He said he had chosen his words poorly, but he insisted it was totally unintentional.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Now, on a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service. And I regret that, and I take full responsibility.

But I will not allow…

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, on a number of occasions, Blumenthal has correctly stated his record, including at a debate last March, seen in this clip posted on YouTube.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Serving in the United States military gave me a perspective as well, even in the Reserves. Although, I didn’t serve in Vietnam, I have seen firsthand the effects of military actions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: By day’s end, it was far from clear how all of this will affect the Senate race in Connecticut. But there was little doubt that Blumenthal will have to answer more questions about his service going forward.