The New York Times‘ initial story about Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal’s Vietnam exaggeration scandal is an abysmal effort from the standpoint of accuracy and context.
The situation developed when the Times reported that Blumenthal had repeatedly distorted his military service. The story included quotations and a video of Blumenthal saying at a 2008 event that he had “served in Vietnam.” The newspaper also said Blumenthal intimated more than once that he was a victim of the abuse heaped on Vietnam veterans upon their return home.
A longer version of the video posted by GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon 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.”
Blumenthal getting the quote right earlier in the speech doesn’t change the fact that he misled about his service later in that same speech, as Greg Sargent points out. And its true that The Times uncovered other examples of Blumenthal appearing to mislead about his service, or at least not doing anything to correct misimpressions about it.
But the 2008 speech is by far the single most damning piece of evidence against Blumenthal.
The other quotes are just not quite as conclusive. And the fact that he got it right, if narrowly so, earlier in the speech raises at least the possibility that he didn’t intend to mislead later on, even if it doesn’t prove this one way or the other.
BUT even if you don’t believe the longer video is exculpatory in any way, as The Times says, there’s no conceivable reason for leaving out the fuller context and letting readers make the call for themselves. It seems obvious that when dealing with a story this explosive, you would want to err on the side of more context, rather than less.
You don’t have to be a Medill graduate to figure that out.