We Band of (Harvard) Brothers: Connecticut Attorney General (and Senatorial Candidate) Richard Blumenthal Accused of Lying About Service in Vietnam

Connecticut Senatorial candidate and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is now the focus of a potentially disastrous scandal after journalists alleged that he has lied about his service in Vietnam. It appears that Blumenthal never served in Vietnam despite repeated references to such service and his difficulties in “coming home” from the war.

I have previously written about “stolen valor” cases (here), though such cases involve the wearing of unearned medals.

Blumenthal, 64, is accused of claiming the mantle of being a veteran when he secured a series of deferments to serve at places like Harvard. In 2003, he told an audience in Bridgeport that “[w]hen we returned, we saw nothing like this. Let us do better by this generation of men and women.” In another rally in 2008, he allegedly expressed his pain upon returning to an unthankful country: “I served during the Vietnam era. I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.”

Whatever taunts and insults he may have experienced appear to have occurred at Harvard. He asked for and received at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 — allowing him to study at Harvard, complete a fellowship in England, work for the Washington Post, and serve in the Nixon White House. In 1970, he secured a position with the Marine Reserve that performed such duties as repairing a campground and organizing a Toys for Tots drive. Of course, serving in the Nixon administration could have resulted in some posttraumatic stress with former staffers routinely waking up while screaming “No Martha [Mitchell], not the white vinyl boots!” And, by the way, as someone with four kids under 12, no actual combat experience can prepare you for Toys-for-Tots. It is ugly. Here is an account from one Toys-For-Tots veteran:

This is of course terrible news for the Democrats. Blumenthal is a very respected lawyer with an exemplary record as a public official. He could also argue that, since he was with a reserve unit, he did serve during the Vietnam War. That dog won’t hunt, however, with many citizens.

UPDATE: In one of the instances, the associated press has reported that the video given to the New York Times contained an earlier reference by Blumenthal to serving “during” the Vietnam War. Groups have objected that the original article should have included the quote, here.

For the story, click here.

57 thoughts on “We Band of (Harvard) Brothers: Connecticut Attorney General (and Senatorial Candidate) Richard Blumenthal Accused of Lying About Service in Vietnam”

  1. Oh! what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practise to deceive!

    –Walter Scott

    Marmion, Canto VI. Stanza 17

  2. And listen to his friend Chris Shays describe the way that Blumenthal’s war stories grew more and more detailed over the years with each and every embellishment. He started off with careful, humble and factually accurate statements, but the house of cards kept getting taller and taller until it collapsed in a gust of wind.

    In the NY Times, Shays said that QUOTE he and Mr. Blumenthal began their careers in politics at roughly the same time and frequently addressed the same groups. He recalled that early on, Mr. Blumenthal spoke humbly about his military record, rarely discussing it and always making clear that he had held only desk jobs and had not been in the line of fire, though he remained proud of having been a Marine.

    “But as time went on, he would mention it more often, and Vietnam would show up,” even when Mr. Blumenthal was not speaking to veterans, Mr. Shays said.

    Eventually, Mr. Shays said, he began hearing Mr. Blumenthal refer to having served in Vietnam. Mr. Shays said he assumed, wrongly, that Mr. Blumenthal had perhaps been a military lawyer there. That alone, he said, was enough for him to have had the impulse to advise Blumenthal to be careful, that people could interpret his remarks as a claim to have seen action there.

    “I felt inclined to go to him and say, ‘Dick, in your service in Vietnam, you weren’t on the firing line, you don’t want to overstate that,’ ” Mr. Shays said. “I just felt like he was raising the stakes in a way that was inconsistent with what he’d said in the past. I was actually going to go up and speak to him. And I wish I had.”

    Mr. Shays said the change occurred gradually in statements made over time.

    “More and more it kept creeping in,” he said. “And it was very different than when he first described his service. I’m not surprised, because he just kept adding to the story, the more he told it. I think what happens in a case like this, it’s a tiny increment of change, but when you haven’t heard him in years you say, that’s a big difference.”

    He added: “I understand how these things, over 30 years, you keep adding a little bit to it. And you’re on very thin ice. And obviously he’s on very thin ice right now. He walked too far out on the lake. It’s really too bad, because he’s a very good person.” END OF QUOTE

    Link to source:


  3. BIL wrote “Vince,I get the impression AG Blumenthal has rubbed you the wrong way.” Yeah, B, I guess you could sort of say that I was maybe a little bit irritated somewhat.

    But I have seen this story before. Back in 1952, I watched the compelling story of another heroic war hero public official on the Ralph Edwards “This Is Your Life” TV show. Wiki has the history, but Time the Weekly Fiction Magazine had a vivid contemporary account of the crash and burn, QUOTE

    Monday, Oct. 25, 1954
    VETERANS: The Hoax

    Utah Congressman Douglas R. Stringfellow, 32, supporting himself with canes and leg braces, made his way painfully into a studio at Salt Lake City’s television station KSL-TV one night last week. He had come to talk about his war record.

    Stringfellow had been talking about the same subject for years. A paraplegic veteran of World War II, he got a job as an Ogden, Utah, radio announcer. In his spare time he made scores of speeches to Mormon church gatherings and civic groups. The story, as it evolved after hundreds of repetitions, was that he had been assigned to the OSS, parachuted behind German lines with 29 other men and kidnaped a German atomic scientist named Otto Hahn. Every other member of the mission, Stringfellow said, was later killed. He said that he was captured and tortured, then escaped to France, where he was crippled by a land mine.

    The story was so good that Stringfellow began to get speaking dates far and wide. He collected a mantelful of awards from civic and veterans’ organizations, and this year he was named by the junior chamber of commerce as one of the ten most out standing young men in the nation. He ran for Congress as a Republican in 1952 and won easily. Up for re-election this fall, he looked a sure winner. This year his story was told on nationwide TV programs (This Is Your Life and Suspense).

    But persistent reports began to be heard that Stringfellow’s story was not true. When reporters tried to check with the Defense Department, they were met by a strange reticence, which turned out to be fear of offending a Congressman. Last week the Army Times, an unofficial military journal, said that the Stringfellow story would not hold water. He blustered about a libel suit and asked President Eisenhower to open secret CIA files. Next day Stringfellow was called into a huddle with Utah’s two Republican Senators, Arthur Watkins and Wallace F. Bennett (both fellow Mormons). Under their questioning, he caved in, and that night he told the TV audience the truth.

    He said that in his early speeches he was repeatedly asked for more details about his war record. Said Stringfellow: “Somewhere along the line, the idea . . . was integrated in introductions that Doug Stringfellow was a war hero . . . Like many other persons suddenly thrust into the limelight, I rather thrived on the adulation and new-found popularity … I began to embellish my speeches with more picturesque and fanciful incidents. I fell into a trap, which in part had been laid by my own glib tongue.” The facts, he said, were these: “I was never an OSS agent. I never participated in any secret, behind-the-lines mission … I never captured Otto Hahn or any other German physicist … I wish before my Heavenly Father that I might undo this wrong.” Stringfellow offered to withdraw from the election if the party asked him.

    After the program he sobbed in the arms of his wife, while kindly old Arthur Watkins looked on. This week the Utah Republican leaders called a meeting to decide what to do about Doug Stringfellow. [UQ]

    You can google and read the wiki article on him to find out about his sad end.

    Blumo? Been there, seen that. BFD.

  4. I’m a law student and Marine Reservist. In Blumenthal’s defense, the annual Toys for Tots drive (aka The Tot Offensive) is nearly as unpleasant as combat. Sorting toys in a warehouse is mind-numbingly boring. It’s also a horribly inefficient form of charity. More like charity for retailers, actually. Then there’s the shame of knowing that your active duty counterparts will never be reduced to wrangling Barbies. May Mr. Blumenthal find peace after his Toys for Tots experiences.

  5. A quote from a commenter at Huffington Post.

    “Semper Fib”

  6. Mespo and Swarthmore Mom,
    I too lived through the Vietnam era(just barely)and I was arrested while watching a demonstration against the killings at Kent State. I recall Mespo’s flower in the gun picture and I also can’t recall seeing or hearing any slurs to individual soldiers, but there may have been some that weren’t reported. My brother served in Vietnam and I have had this discussion with him on a few occasions, and you can’t convince a Vietnam vet that he/she wasn’t abused when they came home. I can attest that people who did serve in Vietnam did not have the luxury of being hailed by their hometowns as they returned like my town does now for Iraq or Afghanistan vets.

  7. Vince,

    I get the impression AG Blumenthal has rubbed you the wrong way.

    And you’re right. That looking like Prince Charles isn’t helping him in the PR department. It’s one thing to act like a lying elitist snob but another all together to look like one on top of it.

  8. This shows the pathology of too many who are drawn to the power of government.

    These individuals will lie, cheat, and even use the power of government to steal… all in order to get their next hit.

  9. In the real world on an job application there is a small paragraph that says if you are lying on app you can be terminated.
    Well lets see what happens here.

  10. FFLEO — Thanks for the clarification and your service.

    My Dad was a Viet Nam Era veteran, serving in the Marine reserves (no deferments). He did his basic training at Camp Pendleton and served in Arizona.

    I’m named after his best friend and the person who introduced my parents: CPL George Arthur Salcido. He died in Vietnam. Here’s the information from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall website (www.thewall-usa.com):

    CPL – E4 – Marine Corps – Regular
    His tour began on Mar 3, 1968
    Casualty was on Jul 17, 1968
    Body was recovered

    In his name, I condemn Blumenthal’s lies.

    Can you believe this piece of trash is the chief law enforcement officer of the great state of Connecticut?

    It’s disgusting. He’s a proven lair with no reason to be trusted again with the public confidence.

    Lastly, honor, truth and integrity are not campaign anecdotes, they are a way of being.

  11. And why does he have to look like Prince Charles?

    That is fraud right there.

    But he won’t give up. As Bluto said, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no. It ain’t over till he says it is.

  12. Blumie is a lot like Spitzer in another respect. Spitzer was a PitBullRottWeilerDobermann when it came to other folks errors.

    It came right back at him when it was his turn to stray.

    It looks like Blumenthal really liked to pile on when anyone made a misstatement in the State of Connecticut:

    The Blumenthal Rules
    Why should anyone give Richard Blumenthal a break?
    By William Saletan
    Posted Tuesday, May 18, 2010, at 5:36 PM ET

    Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut, has a problem. He’s running for the U.S. Senate, and he’s been caught on video implying falsely that he served in Vietnam. He’d like your understanding as he explains that he simply “misspoke” about his service. He’d like you to give him a break.

    But Blumenthal has never given anyone a break. He has made a career out of holding others to the strictest standards of truth—and mercilessly prosecuting them when they fall short.UQ

    Full story at

  13. I would be interested in your opinion on whether Blumenthal’s transaction should result in action by the state’s attorney disciplinary commission.

  14. I lived through the Vietnam Era and I do not recall any instances of returning soldiers being spit upon or taunted by peace activists. I do recall a daisy being placed in an open gun barrel by a precocious lass, but even that “affront” merely amused the guardsman in question who appeared tome to be trying to get a date. Living right next to the Army’s largest logistical base with a high school populated by Army brats should have revealed something. It didn’t.

    Kent State Professor Patrick G. Coy agrees with me. According to Coy:

    The fact is, there is absolutely no record of any peace activist taunting or spitting upon returning veterans. It is myth, and like most myths it is hard to dislodge.
    In 1995 sociologist Thomas Beamish and his colleagues analyzed all peace movement-related stories from 1965 – 1971 in the NY Times, LA Times, and SF Chronicle (495 stories). They found no instance of any spitting on returned troops by peace movement members, nor any taunting. Indeed, they found few examples of negative demonstrations involving returning troops of any kind, or even of simple disapproval of returning soldiers. Three years later, sociologist Jerry Lembcke conducted a similarly exhaustive study for his book, The Spitting Image, with like results. He discovered war protesters being spat upon by war supporters, and hostile acts toward Vietnam veterans by conservative, pro-war groups like the VFW, but no taunting or spitting on returned veterans by peace movement members. Returned veterans and in-service GIs were welcomed in the peace movement, and many assumed leadership roles. Yet the myth endures.

    So Blumenthal may be criticized for both pseudo-false valor and slander of the anti-War movement. All may not be lost for Blumenthal however, as H.L. Mencken reminded us,“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

    Amen, Henry. Amen.

  15. I made a mistake Bush was appointed once and elected the second time through voter suppression. He actually beat a real Vietnam Vet. He had him swift boated.

  16. @Swarthmore mom;

    Paul D Wasn’t that Bush that lied about his military back round?

    To this day there’s still no proof that Captain Texas ever completed his duty bravely protecting Texas or Alabama from the Vietcong. A $10,000 reward offered for any witness or anyone providing such proof went unclaimed. Then again, there probably won’t be much in the way of any new discovery since Karen Hughes’ little document dumping spree at Camp Mabry.

    Kinda takes the air out of such proclimations like “I’ve been to war.” or having ‘Firsthand’ experience with war.

    -Bush was elected twice.
    Proving that PT Barnum was wrong. There’s one born every second.

  17. There is no excuse for this. I was a 1967 draftee and ended up doing most of my tour in Korea. When it was over, I was proud to have served, but I would consider it disgraceful to pretend that I saw combat. Not only would it be a lie, it would be the ultimate insult to those who lived and died under fire.

    Blumenthal’s attempts to brazen this out and deflect blame to the press only make him more of a scumbag. If he had an ounce of shame, he would withdraw from the race. But then again, if he had an ounce of shame, he never would have tried to palm himself off as a Vietnam combat vet in the first place.

    If the Connecticut Democratic Party had any class (or sense), they’d kick him off the ticket immediately.

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