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. The Marines’ motto is Semper Fidelis, Latin for Always Faithful. Blumentahl’s motto is Semper Falsus.

  2. Well, I couldn’t wait to get the Rush answer. On Wikipedia, it says Rush got a 4-f because of a pilonidal cyst.


    The wiki article on pilonidal cysts lists Rush as the only “Famous Sufferer” of this malady. I hardly see why this would have gotten him a 4-f.

    Interestingly, another article I saw mentions that Ken Starr got 4-f’d for psoriasis and that Pat Buchanan got 4-f’d for bad knees, even though he continued to be an avid runner after getting this deferment.

  3. I am curious-what was Rush Limbaugh’s “rectal deformity” that got him his deferments? His head up his ass? Seriously. All these rightwingers who never served… I’d like more info on how Rush got his deferments.

    If I remember correctly there was a Chief of Naval Operations or someone of similar rank in the Navy who blew his brains out in the parade ground of the Washington Naval Yard because he falsely claimed a valor star on one his bars. Obviously, this was tragic, but military people take these sort of false valor claims very seriously.

    There are lies and there are lies. An attorney general who is running for senator should be held to a higher standard of truthfulness. Also, the subject of the lie matters. Lying about your military service when you are an attorney general running for senator is much more heinous than inflating your resume or lying about an affair. I have more sympathy for Eliot Spitzer than this guy.

  4. My brother served in Nam … he wasn’t wounded there, nor did he die there but in the end, Nam killed him. (Nam vets know what I mean)

    You see Blumenthal, each time you took a deferment, another guy was sent in your place. So, 5 deferments means 5 guys. Were any of them killed or wounded there? You’ll never know.

  5. ” It is a way of instantly giving yourself a better image — perhaps becoming the person you wish you were.”

    … and never will be

  6. JT comments further in the New York Times: “Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s reported exaggeration of his military record is a shock to many supporters. But the irresistible temptation to invent or exaggerate military service is common to politicians and non-politicians alike.

    “Whether it is a pick-up line in a bar or a boast on Memorial Day, people often learn that a little fib of military service can go along way in achieving certain advantages. It is a way of instantly giving yourself a better image — perhaps becoming the person you wish you were.”

    Read more at the link:


    Very good point.

  7. I want to state that serving in the Reserves in any branch of the military was honorable service and that those service members ‘could’ have been sent to Viet Nam. However, it was less likely than active duty personnel. Many Reservists provided critical support roles. My comment regarding the “easy way out” was just the way it was viewed by those of us who became active duty, especially those who had no means of securing deferments.

    What makes Blumenthal’s situation reprehensible is that he only joined the Reserves after his numerous deferments lapsed and yet he stressed in his recent statement that he joined the Reserves without mentioning his many deferments.

  8. In fact, the Times has explained.


    QUOTE Late update: A spokesman for the Times says the video doesn’t change anything.

    “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,” said Diane McNulty. “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.”

    She also urged Blumenthal to “come clean:”

    “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,” she said. UNQUOTE

    Saying that he served “during” the Vietnam war is inherently ambiguous. I could mean that he served in Vietnam, or that he served somewhere else. He should have repeated what he did say on some other occasions, that he did not serve in Vietnam.

    The problem is wider than a single video. As Chris Shays noted, he built up the impression of his service in Vietnam repeatedly over the years. It was a long and well established practice. He left a lot of reported misinformation standing. He did not avail himself of the “corrections” functions at Slate or other outlets. The tape is just the trap that nailed him.

    Blumo, repeat after Chris. I am a Vietnam era veteran. I trained for six months. I then served in the Marine Corps reserves in the US for 5 1/2 years. I did not serve in Vietnam. I am sorry that I stated on those occasions that I did serve in Vietnam and that I came back from Vietnam.

    Then Blumie can move on.

    How hard is that?

    [His only active duty was his six months of training. It did not qualify for GI Bill education or housing benefits under the law at the time].

  9. Nal,

    Former Rep. Chris Shays, whose name Mr. Blumental mentioned twice in the “full video,” has acknowledged that over the many years he has known Mr. B that his Viet Nam story has changed (see VT’s previous post above).

    Mr. B., even in the video, did not mention that he was a MC Reservist. All of us in the military or in college with low draft lottery numbers during that time know who got into the reserves, National Guard, or secured those numerous deferments until Nixon stopped deferments because of the outrage of the double standard expressed by the populace.

    Mr. Blumental—according to his longtime good friend Mr. Shays and others—clearly lied about his service *in country* within Viet Nam during the Viet Nam Era.

    At time 2:41 Blumental stated, as he pointedly emphasized with his right hand gesturing toward his chest, “…since the day(s) that I served in Viet Nam.”

    I do not know what else to say except that you had to have lived in that era with a low lottery number, knew college friends who took the Reserve/NG “easy way out” to fully appreciate why those of us who had to go into the military—often with the catalytic impetus of The Draft Lottery—fully understand now that Mr. Blumental is lying—unequivocally so.

    Therefore, I do not think that the NY Times has any explaining to do and I applaud them for exposing a fraud, who is otherwise—by all accounts—a decent man and a brilliant attorney. There are some things about which that you do not lie; assuming a fraudulent, assumed role alongside combat veterans who sacrificed their lives is one of those unpardonable lies.

  10. Linda McMahon campaign accidentally posts video of Blumenthal telling the truth

    The Associated Press found the full video of Richard Blumenthal’s 2008 speech in which he claimed to served “in” Vietnam. In the same speech, though, he also correctly characterized his military service. You’ll never guess where the AP found the video! (Unless you read the headline.)

    The other night, the New York Times ran what looked like a bombshell story: Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal lied about serving in Vietnam. Except it really was more like Richard Blumenthal allowed people to believe he served in Vietnam, and once or twice he said things that could’ve been construed as claiming to have served there.

    Muddying the waters further, the campaign of Blumenthal’s Republican opponent, wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon, initially took credit for the Times story as the product of its opposition research. Which is, politically, dumb. (And also perhaps not even true — some people seem to think the story actually came from GOP candidate Rob Simmons. And today the Times ran an even odder story about how Blumenthal’s “friend” Chris Shays, a former Republican congressman who still may have political ambitions, wishes he’d said something about Blumenthal’s history of almost-lying sooner.)

    The McMahon campaign eventually removed the claim from its site. But today, the official Linda McMahon campaign YouTube channel posted the full, six-minute version of the 2008 video. Not the short one the Times had. It posted the one in which Blumenthal correctly says he served “during the Vietnam era.”

    And so Linda McMahon’s campaign has now completely undermined its best chance at derailing the candidacy of Richard Blumenthal.


    Seems like someone has some ‘splainin’ to do … and it’s not Lucy …

  11. The New York Times has some explaining to do

    A longer version of the video posted by a Republican opponent also shows Blumenthal at the beginning of his speech correctly characterizing his service by saying that he “served in the military, during the Vietnam era.”

    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.

  12. I have no problem telling that I got almost as many deferments as Dick Cheney, though didn’t have a phony physical rectal deformity like Rush Limbaugh. My cousin “served” in country by running a PX, which made him a millionaire. Blumenthal made a slip about actually being in country. We all lived.
    Of all of the above, who’s the biggest disgrace?

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