Blumenthal Defenders Challenge New York Times in War Record Controversy

What if the bombshell report got it wrong?

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Most pundits were skeptical of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's defense against the New York Times report that he lied about serving in Vietnam. The war record scandal isn't going away, with the Stamford Advocate and others digging up other incidents where Blumenthal suggested, deliberately or not, that he had served in the military in Vietnam, which is false. But some pundits are rising up to challenge the New York Times' reporting of the incident, which critics say skewed the story and selectively edited video to give readers a one-sided version of events. Here's their case.

  • NYT Missed The Full Story Associated Press reporter Susan Haigh investigates. "Blumenthal, who was in the Marine Reserve, said Tuesday he meant to say he served 'during' Vietnam instead of 'in' Vietnam. He said the statements were 'totally unintentional' errors that occurred only a few times out of hundreds of public appearances. A longer version of the video posted by a Republican opponent shows Blumenthal at the beginning of his speech correctly characterizing his service by saying that he 'served in the military, during the Vietnam era.' A spokeswoman for the Times says the longer video does not change the story about a 'long and well-established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service.'"
  • 'The Flaws In The NYT Blumenthal Story' The Hartford Courant's Colin McEnroe knocks down "the overreaching by Raymond Hernandez and the New York Times in claiming that Blumenthal's fictional service in Vietnam had become a widely embraced trope. It's just not true here in Connecticut. Meanwhile, several aspects of that first story have crumpled a bit." McEnroe speaks to ten prominent Connecticut journalists, nine of whom agree that Blumenthal was consistently clear about his lack of service and made the true story well-known.
  • The One-Sided Presentation The Washington Post's Greg Sargent says the Times' video was "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."
  • 'Over-Selling' The Columbia Journalism Review's Clint Hendler writes, "Blumenthal's presentation is messy here, meaning that the Times has a story. But they're doing everyone a disservice by over-selling it. ... the Times failed to present valuable context that would help voters weigh a potential candidacy-ending charge."
  • Did They Mislead or Were They Misled? Media Matters' Jamison Foser asks, "So why didn't the Times include Blumenthal 'correctly characterizing his service' in its version of the video? That's awfully misleading, isn't it? Given that Republican Linda McMahon's campaign has taken credit for feeding the Times the Blumenthal story, you have to wonder if it gave the Times the incomplete video, as well. Either way, the Times should explain why it chose to omit Blumenthal's correct characterization of his service."
  • The Times Really Got Sloppy  Daily Kos chief Markos Moulitsas fumes, "I trusted the NY Times to get the story right, and believed the paper when it claimed Blumenthal had a history of misrepresenting his service history. As a veteran, it pissed me off. Now I'm pissed at the NY Times for not properly doing its job, and denying its readers the available information necessary for its readers to properly assess the situation. I trusted the newspaper. You'd think I would've learned my lesson after Judith Miller."
  • Bad Journalism We've Seen Before  Liberal blogger DougJ shakes his head. "Leaving out how one feels about Richard Blumenthal possibly misreprenting his military record, I just can't see how this is good journalism on the part of the Times," he writes. "I don't like the way the Times is handling this. It reminds me a lot of their story about John McCain and that foxy lobbyist in 2008. Again, it's too much of a hit piece focusing on topics that aren't that closely related to any important governmental issues."
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