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Times defends posting of clipped Blumenthal video

The New York Times, in a statement sent my way, is now defending its decision to run a shorter version of an explosive video of Richard Blumenthal in 2008 falsely claiming service in Vietnam -- even though a longer version shows he accurately represented his service during the same speech.

When The Times first broke the story Monday night, it included a clip of Blumenthal claiming he "served in Vietnam." But today the Associated Press unearthed a longer video showing that he earlier described himself as "someone who served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps."

So why didn't The Times publish the longer vid with the quote of him getting it right? Times spokesperson Diane McNulty emailed a response, claiming the longer vid doesn't change the story:

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.

I agree that Blumenthal getting the quote right earlier in the speech doesn't change the fact that he misled about his service later in that same speech. And it's true that The Times uncovered other examples of Blumenthal appearing to mislead about his service, or at least not doing anything to correct misimpressions about it.

But the 2008 speech is by far the single most damning piece of evidence against Blumenthal.

The other quotes are just not quite as conclusive. And the 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.

By Greg Sargent  |  May 19, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Political media , Senate Dems  
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Next: Happy Hour Roundup

Comments

Nice Greg. They should be feeling the heat on this. I haven't seen a piece of garbage like this at NYT since Judy Miller.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 19, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Is the implication here that the NYT followed McMahon's lead too closely? If so, it's really lazy reporting. They should have been skeptical of the source and worked hard to present everything they could get.

Our failed media experiment.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 19, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

@Greg: "There's no conceivable reason for leaving out the fuller context."

They just gave you the "conceivable reason" for leaving out the rest of the clip! "The longer vid doesn't change the story."

?????

Please stop the "yeah, but" juvenile argument. Are you really so desperate to have the last word? The NY Times trumped you with the fuller context ALREADY PROVIDED: Blumenthal has a "long and well established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service."

Posted by: sbj3 | May 19, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Shorter Diane McNulty: Up next, the Times will do in-depth reports on Dan Rather's despicable smears of the heroic military service of George W. Bush, followed by an expose of John Kerry's secret collaboration with Ho Chi Min to undermine the Vietnam war effort. Paper of Record!

Posted by: john7 | May 19, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

sbj, that's pure BS. That one 2008 quote is by far the most damning piece of evidence. Since that was exhibit A -- the subject of their lede, no less -- the larger context OF THAT SPEECH should clearly have been included.

Why NOT include it?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 19, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I think the Times is right on this one, Greg. I've watched the full clip and the comment you highlight -- "I served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps" -- is simply a neutral statement; i.e., it doesn't say one way or the other whether he was IN Vietnam. Seems to me, however, that you're reading that comment as CONTRADICTING the later incorrect statement -- "I served in Vietnam." Doesn't change anything in my mind.

BTW: This is precisely WHY things like this are so grave for politicians. Once you begin parsing words there is no end to it. Like I said earlier, Blumenthal should -- just like Gene Robinson wrote today -- apologize and ask CT voters to forgive him or excuse him or whatever. Then it will all be laid on the table and it will be behind everyone before the election.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"someone who served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps."

So why didn't The Times publish the longer vid with the quote of him getting it right?

--

Because that first statement DOESN'T change the story, that's why. It was true regardless of where he served. The second statement clarified where he served - and that was a lie.

There seems to be a slightly desperate effort so spin Blumenthal out of his lie with the focus on the larger video.

Posted by: JamesSCameron | May 19, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

It seems rather ironic that the NYT is being slammed for essentially the same thing as Blumenthal - ostensibly promoting a misleading impression of the facts by the selective omission of pertinent facts.

The NYT probably should have provided the entire 2008 video, but Blumenthal should have also been consistent about his record and not parsed his words at all.

Unless the NYT article about Blumenthal is factually incorrect in asserting that he "misspoke" consistently over many occasions over a period of years, Blumethal is indeed a liar. That Graham is also a liar is no defense. It is cowardly and loathsome to lay claim to military honors that you do not deserve. This kind of intentional fraud is a deal breaker in my book. If he really had any honor, he would resign.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 19, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

And I suppose it really doesn't matter much what we think about this. It is the CT voters who count:

"Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general running for U.S. Senate, has lost his strong lead amid controversy that he may have exaggerated his military record, a poll said on Wednesday. Blumenthal edged out Republican Linda McMahon by 48 percent to 45 percent, according to a telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports of 500 likely voters taken on Tuesday. Two weeks ago, Blumenthal was up 13 points over McMahon, a political newcomer and former chief executive of professional wrestling company World Wrestling Entertainment."

We lost Teddy'd seat to the Male Scott Brown and now we might lose Chris Dodd's to the WWF? Cannot happen.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne -- I'm not saying it definitely changes the story. I meant to be clear on that. I'm just wondering why you wouldn't include the fuller context when reasonable people can disagree on whether it's exculpatory or not.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 19, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Oops. Forgot the link. Reuters:

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1926460120100519?type=marketsNews

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

@Greg: "sbj, that's pure BS...the larger context OF THAT SPEECH should clearly have been included. Why NOT include it?"

Because, as wbgonne says, "I served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps" -- is simply a neutral statement; i.e., it doesn't say one way or the other whether he was IN Vietnam."

Showing the full speech is not only unnecessary, it also allows folks like you to (incorrectly) read "that comment as CONTRADICTING the later incorrect statement." They did not deceive anyone by not showing the full speech - it's you who are now (some might say) in the business of deception.

Posted by: sbj3 | May 19, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

"...There seems to be a slightly desperate effort so spin Blumenthal out of his lie with the focus on the larger video..."

No, there’s an energetic effort to point out the willingness of the media to go along with each and every story promulgated by the right seeking to portray the military service of Democrats as a dishonorable sham. When we see the same treatment of Lindsey “Gulf War veteran” Graham and George “never went AWOL” Bush, then we’ll calm down.

Posted by: john7 | May 19, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Greg: You're probably right about that. It would be preferable not to have to go through this reconstruction and analysis. The Times had no reason to cut the clip. The sooner this story goes way, the better for the Dems. The problem is I don't think it's going away until Blumenthal does the right thing. I hope Blumenthal's people are busy analyzing the entire history of this business and that Blumenthal will explain and apologize.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

The NYT should have put the entire video up and not just the worst part.

This makes it look more like they are trying to do a hatchet job on the Attorney General.

Posted by: maritza1 | May 19, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I daresay that this would all be rather less exaggerated as an issue if US culture were less of an imperial enterprise which, in aid of that imperial enterprise, found it convenient to portray its military endeavors and personnel as sacred.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 19, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The Times had it right.

Blumenthal, in saying that he is someone "who served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps," isn't being clear.

Let me put it this way: If you were a reporter, in the audience, you would not write "Blumenthal didn't serve in Vietnam," in your story, based on that statement alone. You would need to ask because the quote isn't categorical on the point.

The NYT story showed that Blumenthal, a person who is precise with words and arguments, at best created a cloud of ambiguity about his actual service.

(I write as someone who likes Blumenthal a lot, but I have to admit being torn by this.)

Posted by: smoke111 | May 19, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't trust the polling of this race, or won't until I see results from a variety of pollsters.

As I said above, imho, this issue is dead. It's just spin and politics from here on out.

The candidates' records will speak for themselves.

I hope NYT runs a follow-up with the full video. They certainly should.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 19, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Blumenthal should be prosecuted under the Stolen Valor Act. By claiming to have served in Vietnam he's in effect claiming to be a recipient of a Vietnam Service Medal, and that's against the law. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. The law addresses the unauthorized wear, manufacture, sale or claim (either written or oral) of any military decorations and medals.

Posted by: bandido1 | May 19, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Stolen valor. I hate that. Which is why I applaud the right for having rose up en masse when Reagan claimed he'd been part of WW2 operations which he was a continent distant from. They did rise up, didn't they? They still hold a grudge against him for this, don't they?

Posted by: bernielatham | May 19, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

"I daresay that this would all be rather less exaggerated as an issue if US culture were less of an imperial enterprise which, in aid of that imperial enterprise, found it convenient to portray its military endeavors and personnel as sacred."

Best comment on this topic I've heard so far.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

bandido, you think he'll be able to see to the front of the line over the heads of the GOP liars?

Good luck with that.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 19, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne, agree on Bernie's comment. Leave it to the Canuck....

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 19, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

"I daresay that this would all be rather less exaggerated as an issue if US culture were less of an imperial enterprise which, in aid of that imperial enterprise, found it convenient to portray its military endeavors and personnel as sacred."

Which might also explain WHY this faux pas happened in the first place. Double Bull's-Eye. Bravo!

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I am experiencing some form of cognitive dissonance as I read the Blumenthal comments and see Gasman of all people giving what are some of the most insightful and cogent explanations of the fracas, both from a psychological and a moral/political aspect.

I will be watching the skies for other signs of the apocalypse, but my compliments on this rare occasion to the fellow.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 19, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"If US culture were less of an imperial enterprise which, in aid of that imperial enterprise, found it convenient to portray its military endeavors and personnel as sacred."

Oh snap! If only the Democratic Party and John Kerry had taken that advice when he was running for President...

Posted by: sbj3 | May 19, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

"I daresay that this would all be rather less exaggerated as an issue if US culture were less of an imperial enterprise which, in aid of that imperial enterprise, found it convenient to portray its military endeavors and personnel as sacred."

Bernie has moved from, "It's the GOP's fault" to "It's the American Military Empire's fault" that Blumenthal is a craven liar and stealer of others' valor.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 19, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

As far as Mr. Blumenthal goes...

"the Associated Press points out today, in a longer version of the speech -- which has been posted on the YouTube page of one of Blumenthal's Republican opponents since the Times story broke -- the attorney general also describes his military service more accurately, saying he "served in the military during the Vietnam era, in the Marine Corps."

The more accurate description comes a couple minutes before the incorrect "I served in Vietnam.""

small potatos in my opinion, if he handles it and sticks to his guns he can out last the New York Times, who was spoon fed this story by the opposition research team.

Yawwn!
I'm so bored with it already.

Posted by: steve_real | May 19, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

"Oh snap! If only the Democratic Party and John Kerry had taken that advice when he was running for President..."

Ouch.

"John Kerry, reporting for duty . . . ."

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 19, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

How bout liars IN the Senate? I can't wait to hear everyone condemn that person right?

Harry Reid, after losing vote on Financial reform, says "a Senator broke his word with me." He was talking about Scott Brown.

http://twitter.com/jonkarl/status/14316214464

Will NYT be writing a hit piece on Sen Brown?

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 19, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Breaking News and OT. It's been chaos on the Senate floor for a couple of days trying to get finreg to debate. Progressive Dems are not happy because their amendments won't be heard, thanks to the obstructionists. No cloture today.

"The plan was for the financial-regulation reform bill to have a vote for cloture -- that is to say, a vote to end debate and move to a final vote -- at 2 p.m. today. But a handful Senate Democrats angry that their amendments haven't been considered derailed that. At 3:15 p.m., Democrats called an emergency caucus meeting. About 30 minutes after that meeting, Majority Leader Harry Reid called for a cloture vote.

He lost; 57-42.

And he lost because he lost Democrats. Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins actually voted for cloture. Their votes were canceled out by Democrats like Maria Cantwell and Russ Feingold, who aren't ready to give up on their amendments."

That was from Ezra.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 19, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

It's not just Scott Brown Ethan. Reid couldn't get Cantwell and Feingold on board yet either. Republicans played their stall cards very well with a Senate deadline looming by refusing to hear any more amendments, the best of them really. It'll be interesting to see what happens now. David D. called Lord of the Flies on the Senate Floor.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 19, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Edit: that would be to end debate.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 19, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

We should believe Harry Reid because?

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 19, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

lmsinca, that's all well and good, but opposing the bill is much different than telling the Majority Leader you're ready to vote for it and then breaking your word.

From what I've read, Feingold and Cantwell have opposed the bill as-is for at least 24 hours.

Scott Brown, on the other hand, LIED to Leader Reid.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 19, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Listen, people, when you hear "I served in the military during the Vietnam era", you ought to understand that the speaker did not see combat. Certainly under the circumstance of a politician addressing veterans, I think most attentive listeners would get that. "Served during the Vietnam era" is a well-known circumlocution for "was in the military but didn't go to Vietnam." Were you all born yesterday?

Now, saying "when I served, in Vietnam" certainly conveys a different understanding, but if a man uses the more careful vague version a lot, and only uses the clearer phrase once or twice, I'd still conclude that he wasn't actually in the fight. It hardly looks like a calculated deception to me. What else you got?

Posted by: J_Whick | May 19, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

All, happy hour roundup posted:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/05/happy_hour_roundup_11.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 19, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

One might propose that libertarians, in there sense of autonomy and distance from any governmental authority and in their distrust of what such governmental authorities might get up to, would pretty immediately reject invitations or legal stipulations which would result in them being blown to hell in some foreign land. But that's not the sort of sentiment most evident in the tea party world. I suspect the "movement" doesn't welcome principled pacifists with open arms. One could find this odd.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 19, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Ethan, a Republican lied? Reid wouldn't have had enough votes anyway, 58?

Posted by: lmsinca | May 19, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

The NYT seems to in fact be incorrect about this. In an editorial today, the Times refers to 'at least one' misstatement, which pretty clearly says that they're not aware of any more. And I haven't seen any other false statements from Blumenthal quoted anyplace.

If you think that this is an area where it's impossible and unforgivable for Blumenthal to have erred, even if he only did it once, then he shouldn't be forgiven. But if it has any weight that he seems to have correctly described the nature of his service in every public speech before and after (and, of course, during) the 2008 speech where he falsely said 'in Vietnam' rather than 'during Vietnam', that does appear to be the case.

Posted by: LizardB | May 19, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, lmsinca, I don't know if he would have had the votes and it doesn't even matter. What burns me is the blatant permissive attitude among the press and in Washington DC that it is OK for Republicans to blatantly LIE because that's what they're known for. But a man with an excellent record as a public servant gets TRASHED in the press and on the blogs by both parties for basically no reason whatsoever. It pisses me off. This is serious stuff. Scott Brown was elected to do a job. He is paid taxpayer money to do that job. He is NOT paid to lie to ANYONE.

If he wanted to vote one way, fine. But be HONEST about it like Cantwell and Feingold were and EXPLAIN why you oppose the bill. What Scott Brown did is unacceptable.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 19, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

@qb:"Oh snap! If only the Democratic Party and John Kerry had taken that advice when he was running for President..."

Ouch.

"John Kerry, reporting for duty . . . ."

I think that playing up Kerry's service in the Vietnam war was a mistake. It is definitely part of his career, but it doesn't by itself qualify him to be president. That doesn't in any way excuse the swiftboating of his military service, (which certainly is far superior to Bush's support for the war while hypocritically hiding in the reserves and then not completing his commitment) by a bunch of partisan hacks and their Repiglican financial backers.

Posted by: srw3 | May 19, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

The NYTimes doesn't want to admit they got caught taking dictation from McMahon's oppo research.

If Blumenthal had been regaling voters with tales of tramping through the jungle with his platoon I might be inclined to trash him.

This BS is just nonsense. Anyone who has been either in the military or around it knew exactly what he meant.

Posted by: lcrider1 | May 19, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

What are people more likely to believe?

"Not giving all the information doesn't actually change anything."

...or...

"The media and my opponent are slurring me with deliberately out-of-context quotes."

Considering that Linda McMahon, one of the republicans running in the CT GOP primary, has taken credit for feeding the story to the NYT, this gives the democratic party a rather easy handle to push back against this. If the NYT's story *is* correct, they were really sloppy in how they presented it. They should have included the entire video.

Unless, of course, they really *were* trying to push a political angle against Blumenthal.

Posted by: edta | May 19, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

"By Greg Sargent | May 19, 2010; 4:20 PM ET"

Hey, Greg -- Doncha have something better to do at 4:20 in the afternoon?

Posted by: jzap | May 19, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

What the NYT doesn't want to admit: the reporter just reprinted the oppo-research from the Blumenthal's Republican opponent without checking it.

It's getting to the point where believing that reporters do their own investigations instead of just reprinting the work of "sources" is in the same category as believing that movie actors write their own lines.

Posted by: tyromania | May 19, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

The objection by Blumenthal supporters that the Times left out his later quotation is completely lame.

First he said he "served in Vietnam."

Then he said he "served in the military, during the Vietnam era."

So the sum total of his message to his audience was that he served in the military, in Vietnam, during the Vietnam era.

Liar.

See the discussion at Jon Turley's blog.

http://jonathanturley.org/2010/05/18/we-band-of-harvard-brothers-connecticut-attorney-general-and-senatorial-candidate-richard-blumenthal-accused-of-lying-about-service-in-vietnam/#comment-134067

Posted by: vtreacy | May 20, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

So, we're supposed to ignore the fact that Blumenthal has relentlessly feigned service in Vietnam, to plump up his support, over and over again? Even more laughable, he appeared onstage with another man who is also another known and discredited liar about service in Vietnam. You want us to ignore his grave disrespect to all who have served our country, especially our brave Vietnam veterans? I lost a much loved cousin in Vietnam. Unlike Mr. Blumenthal, he wasn't some spoiled, wealthy brat, whose daddy purchased him endless deferments. He was blown to pieces, and would never have the chance at a future. No marriage, no children, no growing old. Blumenthal cheapens and demeans that sacrifice, and owes the US Veterans of foreign wars a very public apology. He does NOT deserve to be rewarded by being given the public trust and higher office. There is no right to lie.

Posted by: jenn3 | May 20, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Vietnam-era veteran. I always make it clear in any conversation about my military service that I didn't serve in Vietnam.

Blumenthal lied on numerous occasion, no matter what excuses his sycophants are urging us to swallow.

Posted by: ElmerStoup | May 20, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Where's the evidence that he did this "over and over" again, jenn?

That's right, there isn't evidence of that!

And Jenn - there's NO evidence he lied, and ALL the available evidence shows that he told the truth over and over again, including explicitly in a statewide debate this past March. Why would you assume that he was stupid enough to tell the truth ALL the time except once when he lied? That makes no sense. The ONLY thing that makes sense is that he told the truth ALL the time except once when he misspoke!

Posted by: slouise217 | May 20, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I guess slouise had not yet seen his Stanford statement that he wore the uniform in Vietnam.

For a guy who was the top lawyer in the state, this is not good.

On the stand, the witness was asked if he had served in Vietnam.

Answer: No.

Please read the following statement from your speech in 2008.

Answer: In that speech I said “I served in Vietnam.”

What is your explanation?

Answer: I told the truth at other times.

Your witness.

Posted by: vtreacy | May 20, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

We're up to at least five "misstatements."

http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Critics-weigh-Blumenthal-s-words-491848.php

Isn't he at the lying stage?

Posted by: ElmerStoup | May 20, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

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