Public Editor Checks Out Complaints on Blumenthal 'Vietnam' Expose, Concludes: 'The Times Was Right'
In his Sunday column, "The Candidate and the War," Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt defended his paper's front-page scoop that has so angered the left last week: Connecticut Attorney General and Democratic candidate for Senate Richard Blumenthal's lies about having fought in Vietnam. His conclusion? The paper's story was flawed but solid and "the Times was right" to give its readers the information.
The Times reported last week that Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the bright hope of Democrats to retain a critical seat in the United States Senate, has sometimes falsely claimed to be a Vietnam veteran. Predictably, in an election year with control of Congress in play, the report sparked plenty of outrage - much of it directed at The Times.
The paper cited several instances when Blumenthal made "plainly untrue" statements about his service, and posted a video excerpt of him saying in 2008, "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam." The article at the top of Tuesday's front page said that on other occasions he used ambiguous language that could have left the wrong impression. In fact, The Times said, after receiving five deferments and finally facing the prospect of being drafted, Blumenthal joined the Marine Corps Reserve and avoided combat.
Hoyt variously accepted and rejected various left-wing criticisms, including complaints the Times didn't reveal enough about how the story originated.
In the end, through all the swirling sand the article has kicked up, a clear set of facts remains uncontested: On more than one occasion, Blumenthal said he had served in Vietnam when he had not.
Did people The Times talked to have agendas? Sure. Did The Times independently verify the information? Yes, and that's what counts.
Were there flaws in the story? Yes: It should have said more about how it originated; it should have provided mitigating information far higher; it should have noted that his official biography was accurate. The full video should have been posted so readers could make their own judgments.
It is true that Blumenthal often correctly described his military experience. But he has sometimes flatly misrepresented it - a new example surfaced Thursday - and that matters. How much, the voters of Connecticut will decide. The Times was right to give them the information.
Blumenthal's latest apology ("I have made mistakes and I am sorry"), released to a Connecticut paper Sunday evening, would also seem to validate the Times' treatment of his statements as misleading.