The two major-party candidates for the state's open U.S. Senate seat took aim at each other's recent TV ads in their first face-to-face debate on Monday, with Republican Linda McMahon saying her position on the minimum wage has been misconstrued and Democrat Richard Blumenthal saying the latest criticisms about his military record are nothing new.
The matchup, broadcast on live television, was feisty at times, with McMahon, a former wrestling company executive, accusing the longtime Democratic attorney general of being on the government payroll for all his adult life, not understanding what it takes to create jobs and misrepresenting her stance on minimum wage rate levels.
McMahon said Blumenthal's latest ad makes it sound as though she supports cutting the current rate level — a question she was asked about by reporters last week but didn't directly answer.
"That's a lie. You know that's a lie. I never said it," McMahon said, calling on Blumenthal to pull the ad.
Following the debate, Blumenthal accused McMahon of playing "fast and lose with the facts," reiterating how McMahon did not voice support for the current minimum wage rate during her exchange with reporters.
Blumenthal also accused McMahon and her company, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., of accepting $10 million in state tax credits while laying off 10 percent of its work force. He said it was another example of McMahon putting profits above people, a common refrain for his campaign.
McMahon acknowledged her company laid off workers in 2009 but said it has been growing.
"Layoffs are hard, they are really tough to do, but sometimes you have to make those tough decisions to move your company forward," she said.
McMahon and Blumenthal are hoping to fill the seat now held by the retiring U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd.
Just hours before their debate, McMahon released a TV ad featuring clips of Blumenthal appearing to suggest he served in Vietnam rather than stateside as a member of the Marine Reserve. Shown a video of the ad, which features him saying he served "in" Vietnam when he actually served stateside with the Marine Reserve, Blumenthal said during the debate the accusation was old news.
"There is nothing new in this ad, and there is nothing new about the McMahon attack," he said, adding how, on a few occasions out of hundreds, he described his military service inaccurately.
"I regret it. I take full responsibility for it," he said. "It was not intentional."
Blumenthal, who said he was sorry for his past misstatements, said he was owning up to his mistakes while McMahon has not owned up to hers.