Democrat candidate for Senate accused of lying about his Vietnam record

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The Independent US

Pegged by Democrats as the man best able to retain a key US Senate seat in Connecticut in this year's mid-term elections, the state's long- serving attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, was suddenly fighting for his political life last night, amid reports that he has been lying to voters about serving in Vietnam.

The truth-deficit problems were attached to the square-jawed Mr Blumenthal, who has been prominent in Connecticut politics for three decades, by The New York Times. A lengthy front-page article recalled more than one occasion when he seemed clearly to refer to having served in South-east Asia.

But according to records obtained by the newspaper, Mr Blumenthal actively navigated various bureaucratic loopholes to stay as far away from the war as possible, successfully obtaining five different deferments from 1965 to 1970, which allowed him to continue his studies in Harvard and for a year in England. He eventually served in the Marine Reserve, in a capacity that never took him away from US soil.

Perennially popular and famously articulate in arguing cases in court, Mr Blumenthal, 64, agreed to seek the Senate seat that falls empty with the retirement of Senator Chris Dodd. Unless he can explain his past statements on Vietnam, he may now be in deep trouble.

He appears, said Paul Begala, the Democratic consultant and former aide to Bill Clinton, to have made a "catastrophic mistake" in misleading voters.

Surrounded by supporters and veterans, Mr Blumenthal made an admission of sorts. "I did mispeak on a few occasions out of hundreds I have attended," he said. But he added: "I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of public service."

His campaign team attacked The New York Times for what it called the "outrageous distortion" of the candidate's military service.

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