The New York Times has always been an active cheerleader for mendacious or false stories about Democratic candidates, usually staying just short of outright lying, if only through allowing third parties to lie for them, followed up by halfassed denounciations. But their smear campaign against senatorial candidate Richard Blumenthal crosses that line completely. Their story is that Blumenthal, who served in the Marine Reserves during the War on Vietnam, but not in that war itself and who has been a staunch supporter of war veteran causes, has been fibbing about his service to create the impression that he did go to ‘Nam:
But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthalâ€™s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veteransâ€™ ceremonies or other patriotic events.
Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.
Along the article they provide video fotoage of a speech in which Blumenthal says he was in Vietnam”, specifically “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam”. But they don’t provide the whole video, which soon makes it clear that actually, apart from that quoted sentence he makes quite clear he served during, not in Vietnam. And if Blumenthal was so eager to fudge his record, you’d also expect him to mention it during the recent Democratical senatorial debate, but no:
The original story has been followed up with several new stories and editorials, none of which bring new evidence for the NYT’s allegations, but which do keep repeating them. The effect wasn’t long in common, with Blumenthal’s lead over likely Republican opponents dropping quickly after the original story was published. Pushback from the campaign as well as bloggers, once it became clear how false the story was has been fierce, but the paper stands by its now disproven accusations:
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.
Local reporters meanwhile — the ones actually in Connecticut having followed Blumenthal for years — are puzzled over these allegations:
So I asked reporters, anchors and columnists to tell me (a) whether they could remember Blumenthal ever claiming to have served in Vietnam and (b) whether they had been under the impression for whatever reason, that Blumenthal had served in Vietnam. Here are the answers so far.
Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror, who may have covered Blumenthal more often than anybody else, referred me to his quote in an NPR national story: “Every time he talked about his military record, he was quite clear that he had been a military reservist and never came close to suggesting he was in Vietnam.”
Greg Hladky of the Hartford Advocate, formerly of the New Haven Register and Bridgeport Post, right up there with Paz in Blumenthal coverage: “Never personally heard [Blumenthal] say he was in Vietnam. I knew he had been the the Marine Corps Reserve, talked about that briefly during interview for a profile I did recently, and he never mentioned being in Nam.”
It goes on like that, with half a dozen or so prominent local journalists saying that, no, they never got the impression served in ‘Nam, knocking the stuffing out of the idea that Blumenthal consistently lied about his service. The question remains why the New York Times went for this smear campaign on such slender evidence. Smearing happens all the times, but usually a supposedly unbiased newspaper like the NYT is careful not to be too transparant…