Yesterday I thought New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt had gotten his paper’s Richard Blumenthal reporting just about right.
Hoyt concluded that the paper had indeed exposed Connecticut’s attorney general, a Democratic Senate candidate, as being untruthful about his non-service in Vietnam. But Hoyt added that the Times should have revealed Blumenthal had also described his military service accurately earlier in the smoking video.
Now I’m just about ready to throw the Times’ reporting on Blumenthal into the swimming pool. Because it turns out that the one, weird little detail that helped bolster the larger point — that Blumenthal had lied about being on the Harvard swim team, of all things — was wrong.
Media Nation commenter Duke Briscoe recommended a Daily Howler report that, in turn, led me back to a Hartford Courant item about a series of photos posted on Facebook showing that Blumenthal had indeed been a team member. So it seems to me that we now have three major problems with the Times report:
- The Times failed to report that Blumenthal accurately described his Marine Corps service just several minutes before he then wrongly said he had served in Vietnam.
- One of the Times’ principal sources, Jean Risley, who chairs the Connecticut Vietnam Veterans Memorial, says she was misquoted.
- The confirming detail about Blumenthal’s having lied about being on the Harvard swim team turns out not to be the case at all.
Personally, I still think Blumenthal wrongly gave the impression in that recorded speech that he had actually served in Vietnam. But the Times apparently botched this story so thoroughly it now seems likely that Blumenthal will benefit from an anti-media backlash. And unless there are more, unambiguous examples, then he probably should benefit.
I think Hoyt ought to wait for the dust to settle, then weigh in again.