Cornyn explains ‘misunderstandings’

CORNYN EXPLAINS ‘MISUNDERSTANDINGS’…. A couple of weeks ago, we learned that Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal (D) had delivered a speech in 2002, in which he said he’d “served in Vietnam.” In the same speech, Blumenthal had stated his record correctly, but he misspoke in this one sentence eight years ago. At the time, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R) questioned Blumenthal’s “integrity,” and suggested he’s not to be trusted.

Yesterday, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked whether Cornyn would hold Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk (R) to a similar standard. “Do you have a different standard for Republicans who misrepresent their war records?” the host of “This Week” asked. Cornyn replied:

“No, Jake, and Mark Kirk made clear that his company or his organization got that medal and not him personally, and he apologized for any misunderstanding.

“I think the problem with Mr. Blumenthal was that when he misrepresented his service in Vietnam, he had a press conference shortly thereafter and said that he had misspoken. You know, that’s like shooting yourself in one foot and reloading and shooting yourself in the other foot.”

I’m not sure what this means. Blumenthal had a mistaken sentence in a speech eight years ago. His press conference set the record straight, and soon after, he apologized for the error. The false claim, in Cornyn’s mind, brings Blumenthal’s character into doubt, while answering reporters’ questions was some kind of awful mistake that made matters worse. (The polls suggest otherwise.)

Kirk, meanwhile, “apologized for any misunderstanding”? Perhaps, but “misunderstandings” is a rather generous characterization under the circumstances. Kirk repeatedly made false claims — in print, in public remarks, and in official documents — about his service record. If anything, Kirk’s controversy is far worse than Blumenthal’s, and reflects a broader effort to deceive the public.

Cornyn apparently wants us to believe the opposite. But after hearing his explanation, I have no idea why.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.