On Blumenthal and Reporting

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s ‘misspoken words’ have become talk show fodder for the entire country.  Glenn Beck, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, et. al. are having an absolute field day with this.

Here in Connecticut, the story – to some media junkies – has much to do with how Blumenthal has been covered throughout the years.  Everyone has heard the jokes about Blumenthal and his love affair with television cameras, how he gets a rise out of seeing his name in print.  After yesterday, the relationship between Blumenthal and the media will never be the same again.

Connecticut media have been hit hard this week by the national media.  Many argue that the media in the Nutmeg State did not do their due diligence.  That the media should have dug deeper and brought this to the forefront years ago.

Long time Connecticut reporters have begun to speak out.  WNPR’s Colin McEnroe has a different view of Blumenthal and asks the state’s local media heavyweights to weigh in:

In all the other times that Blumenthal put his military service on the record, as far as I can tell, he’s been truthful about who he was.

Can any of you remember hearing Blumenthal ever say he served in Vietnam? Did you think he had served there?  Because the Times would have us believe that these misrepresentations were habitual and that “idea that [Blumenthal] served in Vietnam has become …an accepted part of his public biography.

Colin has covered Blumenthal for years in the state and did not recall him as a Vietnam veteran.  Mark Pazniokas, former Hartford Courant reporter who is now at the CT Mirror, has recalled similar encounters:

“Every time he talked about his military record, he was quite clear that he had been a military reservist and never came close to suggesting he was in Vietnam,” says Pazniokas.

Yet the New York Times argues that this image of Blumenthal as a veteran is “an accepted part of his public biography.”  One would think that reporters in Connecticut who have covered Richard Blumenthal for years would have a better sense of what his “public biography” has become than two reporters from outside the state. That being said, let’s go a little further.

Now we are at a point where mistakes on his service record were obviously made but we need to know who in the media made these errors and why.  Mark Pazniokas seems to go a step further when he speaks with NPR:

“How much of this is some reporter who wasn’t alive during Vietnam and didn’t draw a distinction?” asked Pazniokas, the veteran Connecticut political reporter. “In the case of the videotape, I think we can all agree, it’s all Richard. The rest of this, I don’t know.”

Could the instances highlighted in the Times have been from a reporter who simply didn’t bother making the distinction between active duty and reserve?

Aaron Leo was one of the reporters for the Connecticut Post who wrote that Blumenthal served in Vietnam. Leo said he did not believe Blumenthal was seeking to mislead him.

“He did not say to us specifically, ‘I served in the war,’ ” Leo recalled. “But he did go to a couple of veterans’ events and he seemed very close to the veterans who were present.”

The reporter, Aaron Leo, admits he based his description of Blumenthal as a veteran because Blumenthal went to a lot of veteran events and “seemed very close to the veterans.”   Leo goes on in the article:

“When you’re trying to fit six speakers in a 12-inch story, you may select a word choice that doesn’t convey what you mean.”

Could Leo have simply misquoted Blumenthal in saying he was a veteran?  Here is a possible example of the media misreporting as opposed to Blumenthal ‘misspeaking’.  How many other times could this have happened?

In the end, it appears as though there are several at fault.  Mr. Blumenthal has, at times, distorted his own military record.  We have seen this in the infamous Times video and he should have corrected any errors to his record that were reported in any other medium.  These were egregious errors and should have been immediately corrected.

Select members of the Connecticut media are at fault as well.  Prior to yesterday, most of Connecticut’s politicos had Blumenthal skating to an easy victory in November.  When that happens, considering all of Blumenthal’s previous landslide victories, reporting and fact checking can become lax and reporters can take liberties with language.  Here, a few bad apples have tainted an otherwise exemplary media industry in the state.  According to the NPR piece the Connecticut Post and the New Haven Register, for instance, may have to offer an apology similar to Blumenthal’s.

The Time’s, too, shares blame.  The Times article makes a large leap in suggesting that these ‘misspoken words’ were habitual and helped form his public persona.  This is simply not true.  Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is known as a litigator, an advocate, a media whore.  Not a war hero.  The Times is basing their assertions on a video and a handful of articles from Connecticut newspapers in which Blumenthal may have been misquoted.  If that was not enough, because these reporters work on behalf of one of the largest newspapers in the world they are framing Blumenthal’s public persona for both its readership as well as all other media outlets in the country.  From there, the story snowballs into the mess we saw yesterday.

Mistakes were made by Blumenthal but were not deserving of an above-the-fold New York Times page one game changer.


3 Responses

  1. He also doesn’t like black (jelly beans), avoids Jewish (food because he overdoes it), and can’t stand Latino (music, because he is such a bad dancer.) What a creep! I’m disappointed the researchers at the WWE/NYT didn’t uncover those.

    It certainly looks to me like the guy isn’t perfect, but this has become totally insane. I guess the role of some of the press is to whip people into a frenzy however they are able.

    If anything, a big thing that moght be going against the candidate is that he doesn’t always state things clearly. That might not be a good quality for a United States Senator. Or, it might be a perfect quality for one.

  2. Nice analysis. Well done. JS

  3. This story is symptomatic of a larger failing on the part of the Connecticut media: letting go unchallenged any of Blumenthal’s themes for his grandstanding-of-the-day news conference. When he intones “we have the law on our side,” does anyone ever ask him to specify?

    Or, has anyone ever done any thorough analysis of the legal actions in which he has been involved (either as “plaintiff” or “defendant,” in quotes because the acutal lawyering is usually done by outside firms) on the real costs and benefits of these actions? Or how much have his old law buddies collected in fees from cases for which he’s hired them?

    He’s got a long record to examine, and if anyone ever really did some digging (which, it would seem, the McMahon oppo team is already doing) we might learn that the emperor has no clothes.

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