When the source becomes part of the story

WHEN THE SOURCE BECOMES PART OF THE STORY…. Connecticut Attorney General and Senate hopeful Richard Blumenthal (D) clearly has a problem to overcome. When describing his Vietnam-era military service, there are some instances in which he’s used misleading rhetoric.

But when learning about this earlier, it was hard not to wonder where the story originated. Did someone set the New York Times on Blumenthal’s trail? In a rare twist, a GOP rival is claiming credit.

Pulling back the curtain on journalistic sausage-making usually hidden from voters, a Republican Senate candidate is taking credit for the front-page New York Times story. […]

The campaign of World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Blumenthal, is doing little to discourage suggestions it provided the sort of opposition research to The Times that is known around campaigns as an “oppo dump.”

A McMahon spokesperson boasted this morning that the campaign “discovered some very troubling disparities” about Blumenthal. In case that was too subtle, the McMahon campaign promoted an item from a Republican blogger that stated plainly that the revelations were “fed to the paper by the Linda McMahon Senate campaign,” and came as a result of “more than 2 months of deep, persistent research by Republican Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign,” which reportedly spent millions to dig up dirt on the candidate’s rivals.

This is certainly an odd strategy. Democrats are anxious to characterize the NYT article as a politically-motivated “hit piece,” and a leading far-right candidate made that argument easy by bragging and taking credit. If the McMahon camp had kept its mouth shut, it would have been harder for Dems to turn the revelations around.

Indeed, by boasting about the successful attack, McMahon also opened the door to her primary opponent reminding reporters that McMahon made some deceptive claims about her own background.

It took a while, but eventually the McMahon campaign realized that it wasn’t doing itself any favors by bragging about planting the Blumenthal story, and aides scrubbed the campaign website of any references to its role in this. But it’s probably too late — Blumenthal has to explain his misstatements, but he’ll likely try to characterize the whole mess as a partisan attack from a desperate, far-right candidate who’s trailing in the polls, and there’ll be some truth to that.