A group of veterans is not enamored with the latest attack ad from Republican U.S. Senate nominee Linda McMahon.
The commercial revives the storyline that Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal misspoke on several occasions regarding his service during the Vietnam era.
“Would you lie about serving in a war?“ the narrator in the commercial asks. “Dick Blumenthal did again and again. He covered one lie with another.”
“If he lied about Vietnam what else is he lying about?” the narrator asks at the end of the commercial, which first began airing Monday before their first televised debate.
At the Soldiers and Sailors’ Monument in New London Thursday, veterans and labor leaders defended Blumenthal, who served stateside in the U.S. Marine Corp Reserves.
Asked about Blumenthal’s misstatements, Brendan McGuirk, a Navy veteran, said “I think it’s all bullshit.”
He said if you watch the whole video, released after the New York Times story was first reported on May 16, he says he served during the conflict.
Did he just misspeak?
“In my heart I sincerely believe he was,” McGuirk said.
Justin Paoloni, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marine Corps from 1966 to 1967, said this election’s a “no-brainer.”
“You’ve got a person that’s got no experience in politics at all and you’ve got a leader whose been here for 20 some years. I don’t see how anyone can’t vote for Richard Blumenthal,” Paoloni said.
“I think the advertisements on TV are disgusting. He is a Marine. He did serve in the Marine Corps. He did not serve overseas, but he’s still a Marine,” Paoloni said.
“I am sick and tired of veterans being used as fodder for advertisements. It is not appropriate,” said Cathy Osten, who served during the Vietnam conflict as a Chinese linguist with the Army Security Agency. “We served our country because we chose to and we served our country with honor.” She said that as a former Correction Department lieutenant she can attest to the fact that mental illness among incarcerated veterans is an issue that deserves attention, and Blumenthal is the only candidate addressing it.
“His actions have always spoken greater than his words,” McGuirk added.
However, Southington Vietname War veteran Dan Alix said he thinks Blumenthal’s misstatements were purposeful and used as a way to boost his political career.
Alix said he attended a Marine Corps birthday party in Meriden a couple of years ago and watched Blumenthal address the veterans by asking all of those who served in Vietnam to stand up. Afterward, Alix said he spoke with Blumenthal about his service.
“I was shocked when I learned he had never been there,” Alix said Thursday in a telephone interview, adding that he recalls Blumenthal cut their conversation short.
“I think he downright lied,” Alix said.
Kathy Jackson, who served in the Marine Corps in Lebanon and during the conflict in Grenada, championed Blumenthal’s candidacy Thursday, but refused to talk about his misstatements.
“If you condemn a person for one thing that they said, you’re condemning everybody because everybody makes a mistake,” Jackson said. “He’s apologized for it and I think the best thing for us to do is just move on.”
Wayne Burgess, a Vietnam veteran who defended Blumenthal Thursday, also didn’t want to wade into the controversy over Blumenthal’s misstatements.
“I don’t think that really had anything to do with today’s press conference because we’re here about veterans issues and working families issues,” Burgess said. “The purpose of the press conference was to show that Richard Blumenthal is the guy out there, out front, that’s going to support veterans and working families and military families.”
“Veterans are proud to support Linda McMahon,” Ken Korsu, who chairs the Veterans for Linda committee, said in a written statement Thursday evening. “In the Senate, she will fight for our veterans and continue to support our troops, just as she has done in the past through WWE’s work with the USO. Dick Blumenthal betrayed all veterans when he lied about serving in the Vietnam War. If Dick Blumenthal wants to do something for veterans, he can start by telling us the truth.”