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Richard Blumenthal: 'I will not allow anyone to ... impugn my record' on Vietnam

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is campaigning for a Senate seat, addressed allegations that he had exaggerated his military service record.

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The Times report said that Blumenthal received at least five military deferments before he joined the reserve, first for undergraduate studies at Harvard, then for graduate work in Britain, then while he was an assistant to Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and finally during his service in the Nixon White House. Blumenthal said Tuesday that he did not know whether that was an unusually high number of deferments to get.

Blumenthal was supported at the news conference by a pair of speakers who praised his service to veterans and said they'd never heard him exaggerate his service.

"It is outrageous for anyone to take one quote where he misspoke and attack him on it," said Peter Galgano of the Connecticut Marine Corps League.

Tuesday's event was the first step in what could be a lengthy effort to heal any damage to his campaign inflicted by the controversy.

Stuart Rothenberg, author of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report and a Connecticut native, said the revelation instantly made the race "significantly more competitive."

"He's got a terrible credibility problem here, and I think what makes it so dramatic is, this is a guy who had such a squeaky-clean reputation," Rothenberg said, later adding: "Character questions are always bad for candidates because they undermine anything the candidate says and stands for."

Both of Blumenthal's potential GOP opponents have pounced on the opportunity to attack the Democrat's credibility.

"The report clearly raises some very serious questions -- questions that cannot be dismissed and aren't easily answered," said McMahon spokesman Ed Patru.

The McMahon campaign on Monday night e-mailed reporters a post by Connecticut political blogger Kevin Rennie suggesting that the Blumenthal story was "fed" to the Times by the McMahon campaign. The blog item was also posted on the McMahon Web site, though campaign officials later took it down.

Patru would not say directly whether her operation had tipped off the Times, but he did say, "This campaign has been aware for some time, as we've looked at Mr. Blumenthal's public statements and compared those to the facts, that there were some very troubling discrepancies between the two."

A video clip of Blumenthal's 2008 Norwalk event, during which he said he "served in Vietnam," has been posted on McMahon's YouTube channel.

There was no sign Tuesday of any national Democrats abandoning Blumenthal because of the controversy, and Democrats' initial defense Monday night was to attempt to turn the story around on McMahon.

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