Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Did Republican Provide NYT With Tape, Evidence Of Blumenthal's Service-Record Lies? NYT Doesn't Name Source.

Today's NYT blockbuster story from Raymond Hernandez reports that Richard Blumenthal -- Connecticut's Attorney General and likely Deomocratic nominee for Senate -- lied about serving in Vietnam, and has the video tape to prove it.

No mention is made in Hernandez's story of the original source for this information. And this morning, a Connecticut lawyer who writes regularly on politics for the Hartford Courant has stated flatly that the research team for Linda McMahon, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Senate, provided the tapes and other supporting material to the NYT.

The McMahon campaign has posted the piece by Kevin Rennie on the front page of its campaign website this morning.

Rennie writes this morning on his "Daily Ructions" blog:

The piece, fed to the paper by the Linda McMahon Seante campaign, is accompanied by a chilling 2008 video of Blumenthal blithely making the false claim....

The Blumenthal Bombshell comes at the end of more than 2 months of deep, persistent research by Republican Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign. It gave the explosive Norwalk video recording to The Times. This is what comes of $16 million, a crack opposition research operation and an opponent who, in the words of the president Blumenthal worked for on a draft deferment, who gave them the sword.

The NYT story gives no indication in its 2,100 front-page story where it obtained the tape or original information about Blumenthal's military-experience claims. The story is likely to have significant repercussions in Connecticut politics, where until now Blumenthal was seen as the front-runner to replace Christopher Dodd and keep the seat Democratic.

McMahon, a former World Wrestling Federation promoter with her husband, Vince, is running as a Republican.

Of course, there's a long history of reporters gathering dirt on candidates through interviews with their opponents. If McMahon found the McMahon tape and handed it over to the NYT, it wouldn't have been the first time -- and it doesn't alter the fact that Blumenthal apparently lied about his military service. But in an era of transparency, a story this partisan might have acknowledged the source of the tip.

In response to the posting on the McMahon website, a NYT spokeswoman told Politico: "[A]nyone reading it can tell that it was the product of extensive independent reporting — including our FOIA of his military records."

Does the original source of the information matter? Should the NYT have told readers where it first heard about the tape, given that it might have been from an interested party? Or was it irrelevant to the detailed and comprehensive story the NYT finally published?


Anonymous said...

he's running for US Senate not governor

lesdmd said...

The theme of the story was Blumenthal's embellishment of his service-record. All I expect is accuracy in the reporting; and while the proof, source and provider of the evidence of the lies would have been expansive details, they in no way change the essence of the report. The fact that the tape may have come from a political opponent is as surprising as being told that Blumenthal's lips were moving when he lied.

Roberto said...

A source is a source if the information is credible and can be confirmed. If the source is the opposition, that distracts from the story (especially for people who cannot for the life of them be convinced that opposition-sourced dirt can be as true as that sourced from the candidate's mother.

And a Blumenthal cartoon here ...


Alex said...

I think the sourcing question is an interesting one. I'm not sure whether it should have been disclosed, but it does raise the issue of the paper (yet again) being used as a tool and conduit for the perspective of an interested party.

I also thought it was intriguing that in an era of "on the one hand, on the other hand" journalism, this piece actually comes right out and says that Blumenthal's claims were "plainly untrue." If only the NYT would regularly run actual journalism of this sort on weightier matters, like, uh, weapons of mass destruction, or health care reform. There are plenty of "plainly untrue" remarks made in the political sphere, but somehow when those remarks come from the administration (under Bush or Obama) they seem to be treated as credible.

Ken Burnham said...

The author of the NYT article (Raymond Hernandez) claims in interview from the 'Takeaway' that McMahon campaign did NOT provide this information. So who did?

Anonymous said...

That's pretty rich: you who writes anonymously and never discloses the sources of your information--who was it again that you said was going to be the next culture editor?--demanding others do so, even when it is irrelevant to evaluating the trustworthiness of the story.

Anonymous said...

NYTPicker isn't demanding that the Times reveal its source. It's just repeating Republican claims that they leaked it. They even raise the question of whether the source issue is even relevant. Personally, I don't think it is. I'm glad this story came out.

Anonymous said...

The reporter's comments on "Takeaway" were, if you know him, ironically hilarious. Same with the NYT spokeswoman's comment. Ken, here's a big bucket of salt you should have.
The story, by the way, is fine. But the NYT should have stopped there. Unless they think disingenuous protesting too much is so easily believed by everyone out there.

Anonymous said...

Gawker said it best:

"Yea, so? That's how most stories happen. People feed them to reporters, for one reason or another. That's called a 'tip.' Then we report it out. Duh."

Poor nytpicker never was much of a journalist.


Anonymous said...

Hello, Nytpicker-please keep following this story! The news today that the beginning of the video has Blumenthal explaining his military service correctly, is huge. Either the times didn't see the entire video or it saw the video and didn't think it was relevant.

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post got a comment from the Times: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/05/times_defends_posting_of_clipp.html

The response (quite defensive, if you ask me) does not make it clear whether or not the newspaper had seen the complete video.

Then this post, from the Hartford Courant, points out many additional flaws with the Times piece: http://blogs.courant.com/colin_mcenroe_to_wit/2010/05/the-flaws-in-the-nyt-blumentha.html

It seems like something has gone very, very wrong with this story.

Motorbike Games said...

yeah who did provide the information for the article?

Anonymous said...