WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday he had "misspoken" in claiming more than once that he served in Vietnam, dismissing the furor that threatened to endanger a seemingly safe Democratic seat as a matter of "a few misplaced words."
At a news conference backed by veterans, the popular Connecticut attorney general and front-runner to replace the retiring Sen. Christopher Dodd, said 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.
The campaign crisis erupted after The New York Times reported that Blumenthal had distorted his military service.
Blumenthal underwent six months in boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., and served six years in the Marine Reserve, beginning in 1970, none of it overseas. Between 1965 and 1970, he got five deferments to avoid going to war.
"On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and I regret that. I take full responsibility," Blumenthal said. "But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country."
Blumenthal is widely known for his dedication to veterans issues.
The Times story said Blumenthal has intimated that he suffered the mistreatment Vietnam veterans received. At a veterans event in Shelton, for example, he said, "When we returned from Vietnam, I remember the taunts, the verbal and even physical abuse we encountered," according to a 2008 Connecticut Post story.
The misstatements persisted for years, even though Blumenthal is known to pore over press clips and call reporters to clarify or correct points.
Yesterday, he defended his military record and his commitment to veterans. Veterans who stood behind him on a podium at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Hartford said his commitment was without question.
"I'm here today because I couldn't let these malicious, deceptive charges against my good friend Dick go unanswered," said Peter Galgano, spokesman for the Marine Corps League of Connecticut.