Hartford - Attorney General Richard Blumenthal began a speech he gave to a group of senior citizens in 2008 by noting he had served in the U.S. Marine Corps "in the Vietnam era" - not, as he said moments later, in Vietnam itself.
The latter remark has triggered a firestorm of criticism locally and nationally, as the New York Times and Blumenthal's political opponents accused him of exaggerating his military record.
But those reports do not mention that Blumenthal accurately described his military service at the beginning of his address to residents at The Marvin, a nonprofit center in Norwalk that provides housing for the elderly and day care for children.
Blumenthal was one of an array of guest speakers at the March 2008 event, said Mary R. Windt, the organization's executive director, at which residents were being honored for having made 1,000 felt blankets for use by wounded troops and military veterans.
At the very outset of Blumenthal's remarks, he describes himself as "someone who served in the military during the Vietnam War, in the Marine Corps," before going on to say that the efforts to support veterans of current American conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are in contrast to the disrespect shown to returning veterans in the Vietnam era.
In the video, Blumenthal also appears to differentiate himself from combat veterans near the end of his remarks, a section not included in the video excerpt cited by his opponents, including Republicans Rob Simmons and Linda McMahon.
Without the efforts of previous generations of veterans, the attorney general says, "I wouldn't be standing here."
Windt said Blumenthal had not spoken of himself as a veteran of combat in the March event.
"He wasn't making a big thing about himself," she said, adding that those present in the room, including residents of The Marvin and state officials like Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and then-Rep. Christopher Shays, didn't seem to notice the misstatement that has now landed Blumenthal in political peril.
"He definitely said it," she said, "but it was taken out of context."