The Corner

Oppo

The campaign of Linda McMahon is under fire for drawing attention to Richard Blumenthal’s false statements about his military record. Whatever the McMahon folks may have done, it would hardly be unusual for reporters to get information from opposition researchers. In 1982, Republican Bruce Caputo dropped his challenge to Sen. Pat Moynihan in the wake of press reports that he had lied about serving in the Army. Pushing the story was a young Moynihan aide named Tim Russert. The New York Times reported at the time:

Mr. Caputo said that the issue had been called to the attention of some reporters by the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Democrat who Caputo hopes to unseat in the election this November. A spokesman for Mr. Moynihan said the Senator’s office had, in fact, called attention to what appeared to be inconsistencies in Mr. Caputo description of his military record. But the spokesman, Timothy Russert, said this had been done only with reporters who had first called to seek a response to recent attacks by Mr. Caputo on Senator Moynihan.

Several months after Caputo’s withdrawal — but before the general election — Russert added some detail. On September 24, 1982, the Washington Post reported:

Russert began tracking Caputo’s record and utterances for inconsistencies. Thus, last December Russert noticed inconsistencies in the way Caputo described his military service record, as “a former draftee” in public comments, and as an Army second lieutenant in Who’s Who, while his biography in the Congressional Quarterly stated, “Military Record: None.” When a check of Army computers turned up no record of Caputo’s military service, Moynihan and his advisers opted to get Caputo out of the race quickly, rather than saving it for an October surprise that would smack of politics. And to do it, if possible, without leaving fingerprints. Caputo obliged. During lunch with two reporters, he talked about his military service, and for good measure called Moynihan a buffoon. The reporters called Russert for reaction and the deed was done in news stories throughout the state. “All it really took was for a journalist to say to Caputo, ‘What date did you enter the service and what date were you discharged?’” Russert says. “And — boom! — it was over.”

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