HARTFORD, Conn. — Criticized for saying he "regrets" misstatements he made about his military service during the Vietnam War, Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal is now apologizing.
On Monday and late the night before, the Democrat told various media outlets that he made mistakes and is sorry for them.
"I think he wants to put this behind him. He wants to start getting back to talking about the issues that matter most to the people of Connecticut and start talking about who is going to best represent the people of Connecticut in Washington," said Maura Downes, a campaign spokeswoman.
The state's commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Richard G. DiFederico, had issued a statement Friday demanding an apology from Blumenthal.
"This issue isn't about Mr. Blumenthal's great service to the state's veteran and military population, it's about him refusing to apologize for claiming to be something he is not," DiFederico said in his written statement. "The attorney general was considered one of the best friends a veteran could have in our state. It is a true shame that he let a false claim of Vietnam service change all that."
At least two Connecticut newspapers published editorials calling on Blumenthal to apologize.
Blumenthal's apologies, contained in an e-mail to the Hartford Courant and in comments to several television stations, were the first since The New York Times reported last week that he wrongly said more than once that he served in Vietnam. Blumenthal said in a news conference last week that he regretted his misstatements and took responsibility for them.
During a brief telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press, Blumenthal was asked why he had kept using the word "regret" and had not said the words "I'm sorry" until recently.
"I think I've answered that," he told The AP. "I regret and take full responsibility for any time, those few times, that I have misspoken."
Marla Romash, an adviser to Blumenthal's campaign, on Monday denied there has been a tactical decision by the campaign to now have the candidate say he is sorry. She maintained that the campaign was simply responding to a question Sunday from a reporter.
"We believe that he's expressed regret. We feel like he's addressed these issues in a strong and definitive way," said she, denying that anyone outside the campaign, including Democrats in Washington, suggested he clearly apologize.
Blumenthal, who received the Democratic endorsement for the Senate race on Friday, says he unintentionally said he served "in" Vietnam when he meant "during" Vietnam. Blumenthal served stateside as a Marine Reserve during the Vietnam era.
"He could have gotten all of this behind him last Tuesday," said Joe Davis, a spokesman for the national VFW organization.
Sen. Chris Dodd appeared in Hartford on Monday and said he's confident Blumenthal "will be OK" in his bid to fill the seat he's vacating.
"I take some interest in the person that will succeed me, and I can't think of a better legacy I can have in the Senate than to have Dick Blumenthal follow me in that job," Dodd said. "And I'm confident people in this state will certainly weigh what's been said about him. But against that problem, consider all of the assets that he brings to this job and what a difference he can make for our state."
Dodd said he believes that the controversy has been "blown out of proportion" and that Blumenthal has apologized.
Associated Press writer Stephanie Reitz contributed to this report.