Connecticut Attorney General and leading Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Richard Blumenthal never served in Vietnam -- a revelation that contradicts a central claim in Blumenthal's political narrative, according to a new report.
A New York Times investigation found that Blumenthal received at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and records show he enlisted in the Marine Reserve -- a move that "virtually guaranteed that he would not be sent to Vietnam," according to the Times.
The military record also suggests Blumenthal made every effort to avoid going to war, the Times found. The embarrassing findings are fully against what has become an accepted belief about the State's top prosecutor: That he served as a Marine Sgt. during the war.
“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Blumenthal said to a pro-military group at an event in Norwalk in March 2008, the Times reported. “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.”
That quote was among several from public events where Blumenthal spoke of his purported military service. The investigation also quoted from newspaper and magazine profiles of the candidate that highlighted his status as a veteran of war.
"Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk," the Times reported. "At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar."
In an interview with the Times, Blumenthal acknowledged that he had misspoken about his service but denied intentionally lying about it.
"My intention has always been to be completely clear and accurate and straightforward, out of respect to the veterans who served in Vietnam,” he told the paper.
Later, campaign manager Mindy Myers released a statement slamming the Times story as "an outrageous distortion of Dick Blumenthal's record of service."
"Unlike many of his peers, Dick Blumenthal voluntarily joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 1970 and served for six months in Parris Island, SC and six years in the reserves," the statement said. "He received no special treatment from anyone. Dick has a long record of standing up for veterans. Tomorrow, veterans will be standing up with Dick."
A news conference is planned for Tuesday afternoon, where Blumenthal will be joined by veterans.
Blumenthal, 64, is the front-runner in the race to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Christopher Dodd. The Times story also found that the attorney general did not serve as the captain of the Harvard swim team. He was never on the team, records at the college show.
His main Republican opponent, Linda McMahon, said research by her campaign team uncovered the alleged discrepancies and was fed to the Times, according to The Atlantic.
Former Rep. Rob Simmons, a GOP hopeful for the Senate seat and a veteran, issued a statement asking for clarity from his rival.
"As someone who served, I respect Richard Blumenthal for wearing the uniform, but I am deeply troubled by allegations that he has misrepresented his service," Simmons said in a statement. "Too many have sacrificed too much to have their valor stolen in this way. I hope Mr. Blumenthal steps forward and forthrightly addresses the questions that have arisen about this matter."