We got several emails throughout the day and night yesterday from readers who wanted us to weigh in on the latest developments with the NYT's blockbuster scoop on Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal.
You remember the juicy story that landed on the NYT website on Monday night. It reported exclusively that now-Senate candidate Blumenthal looked into a camera and said the words "I served in Vietnam," when it turned out he'd been in the Marine reserves. We watched the 58-second video of Blumenthal lying into a camera, on the NYT website. A grand-slam scoop, and props to Raymond Hernandez for nailing it down.
Now it turns out that the NYT didn't release the whole videotape -- just a damning excerpt. Elsewhere in his March 2008 remarks, he made a different sort of vague reference to his military service. The Associated Press posted the original, and quoted the new passage as evidence of a NYT omission. All of a sudden, stories questioned whether the NYT had deliberately cut out a relevant part of the tape -- and whether the story fairly represented Blumenthal's behavior.
Next, ABC News reported that one named source in Hernandez's piece now claimed she was misquoted. Later a Hartford Courant blog gathered several local journalists to say they never heard Blumenthal lie about his record. Several recalled him specifically mentioning his Marine reserve status. Pulling together the mounting media questions, a Courant political blogger called the NYT story "overreaching."
NYT spokeswoman Diane McNulty blasted back late yesterday afternoon with a strongly-worded reaction, one that perfectly distills the NYT's defensive nature under the leadership of executive editor Bill Keller:
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. 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. The longer version of the video doesn't change the story. Saying that he served "during Vietnam" does not contradict or override his later, more specific, statement that he served in Vietnam.
McNulty's statement went too far, and not far enough. We don't need the NYT to lecture us on Blumenthal's responsibility to voters. And we could have used an explanation of the reason the paper didn't run the full version of the speech.