Much has been made already about The New York Times‘ front-page scoop alleging that United States Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal has repeatedly mischaracterized his service in Vietnam. It came out that the story was fed to the press by Blumenthal’s opponent in Connecticut, Linda McMahon, and more importantly, that the Times chose to use its most damning evidence — a speech video — selectively, leaving out Blumenthal’s clarification that he “served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps.”
And though it’s apparent that Blumenthal’s words were often misleading, the paper is doing itself no favors, as Politico is reporting that all along, the Times had “a DVD of the full Blumenthal speech,” according to editor Bill Keller, but still chose to only use the part of it that fully supported its story.
Keller also insists that the Times did not rely solely on the McMahon campaign for its information:
Though Keller conceded that video of the March 2008 speech “were being circulated by a number of people in politics, including McMahon’s campaign,” he wrote, “we did not rely on that material. Instead, we obtained a DVD of the full Blumenthal speech from a source not connected with the McMahon campaign, and reviewed the entire event and made sure it hadn’t been unfairly spliced, edited or doctored.”
Some slammed the paper’s selective “smoking gun” from the beginning, while others maintained that the essence of the story — that Blumenthal lied — remained, despite the quibbling of frightened liberals. Then, the Times followed up with more Blumenthal references to serving in Vietnam, even though he was granted multiple deferments and never left the States. But again, they quoted selectively, leaving room to wonder if Blumenthal clarified elsewhere.
In tomorrow’s edition of the paper, Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt will bring down his hammer on the whole thing, though it definitely will not be the final word. Just a guess, but he’ll probably see both sides, ultimately coming down on the side of the paper based on Blumenthal’s frequent vagueness, if not all-out lies.