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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg October 4, 2018

Donald Trump: Sen. Blumenthal 'lied about his service' in Vietnam

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., brought Christine Blasey Ford to tears when he praised her courage at coming forward with her account of a sexual attack by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh more than 30 years ago.

At a rally in Southaven, Miss., President Donald Trump went from disparaging Ford to denouncing Blumenthal.

Trump dubbed Blumenthal "Da Nang Richard," a reference to a battleground in the Vietnam War.

"This guy lied about his service," Trump said Oct. 2.

Trump went on to embellish his attack on Blumenthal’s credibility, adding a couple of invented details that we rated False in a companion fact-check. 

But here, we focus on whether Blumenthal ever misled about his military service.

By his own admission, he did.

An election revelation

As Blumenthal was running for U.S. Senate in 2010, the New York Times reported that on a couple of occasions, he had talked inaccurately about his Vietnam years.

Blumenthal enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1970. Until then, five deferments had kept him out of the war. Getting a coveted slot in the reserves reduced the chance of battlefield deployment. Blumenthal went through basic training and served six years in the Washington, D.C area and Connecticut.

As Connecticut’s Attorney General, Blumenthal regularly attended Memorial Day parades and other events that recognized soldiers and veterans. The New York Times wrote May 17, 2010, that in 2003, Blumenthal had spoken at a rally supporting troops overseas. The newspaper reported that Blumenthal said, "When we returned, we saw nothing like this." That was a comparison with soldiers who came back from Vietnam.

Blumenthal repeated a similar line at a 2007 Memorial Day parade in Milford, Conn. And at a 2008 ceremony for veterans and senior citizens, Blumenthal said, "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam."  

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At the same event, he first said he served "during the Vietnam era." It was later in his remarks that he spoke of actually being there.

So, at three public events, Blumenthal clearly placed himself in Vietnam. But at other times, his words reflected his actual resume.

During a televised candidate forum March 1, 2010, two months before the New York Times article, Blumenthal distinguished between serving "during" and "in" the war.

"Although I did not serve in Vietnam, I have seen first-hand the effects of military action," he said.

Over the years, newspapers described his military service in different ways.

In 2003, the Connecticut Post referred to Blumenthal as "a former Marine sergeant who served in Vietnam." The paper repeated that in a 2008 article, but in 2009, called him "a Marine sergeant during the Vietnam era." The New Haven Register wrote in 2007 of him as, "Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who served with the Marines in Vietnam."

At the time, Blumenthal did not correct any of those descriptions.

The apology

A day after the New York Times story, Blumenthal held a news conference in West Hartford, Conn.

"I routinely describe my pride at having served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves during the Vietnam era," Blumenthal said, flanked by veterans. "On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service. And I regret that, and I take full responsibility."

Blumenthal released a statement about a week later saying, "I have made mistakes and I am sorry."

Our ruling

Trump said Blumenthal lied about serving in Vietnam. On at least three occasions, Blumenthal did say things that placed him actually in Vietnam. At other times, he was more careful, saying he served "during" the war. And while running for senator, he specifically said he had not served in Vietnam.

But at the end of the day, Blumenthal agreed that he had "misspoken."

We rate this claim Mostly True.

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Mostly True
Says Sen. Richard Blumenthal "lied about his service" in Vietnam.
At a rally in Southaven, Mississippi
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Our Sources

Donald Trump, Rally in Southaven, Miss., Oct. 2, 2018

New York Times, Candidate’s Words on Vietnam Service Differ From History, May 17, 2010

C-SPAN, Senator Richard Blumenthal military service press conference, May 18, 2010

Stamford Advocate, Blumenthal tells different story in complete video, May 19, 2010

New York Times, More Blumenthal claims of Vietnam war service surface, May 22, 2010

Hartford Courant, What Did Sen. Richard Blumenthal Really Say About His Military Record and Vietnam?,  Oct. 1, 2018

Hartford Courant, Fighting back, Blumenthal says he misspoke about his service,  May 19, 2010 via Nexis

Christian Science Monitor, Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal says story on his Vietnam service is a 'distortion', May 18, 2010

New York Times, Blumenthal Says He Is Sorry For War Claims, May 25, 2010

Connecticut Post, Rally hails U.S. troops, April 25, 2003, via Nexis

New Haven Register, Elite Guard unit prepared to roll, April 6, 2007 via Nexis

Connecticut Post, Milford parade honors sacrifices, May 28, 2007 via Nexis

Connecticut Post, Shelton pays tribute to military, May 18, 2008 vai Nexis

Connecticut Post, Bridgeport's new Korean War monument dedicated, November 11, 2009 via Nexis

Washington Post, President Trump’s 90-second rant on Richard Blumenthal and Vietnam, Oct. 3, 2018

PolitiFact, Trump wrong on Sen. Blumenthal's CNN interview and Vietnam, Feb. 9, 2017

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Jon Greenberg

Donald Trump: Sen. Blumenthal 'lied about his service' in Vietnam

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