At a veterans' memorial in Medford, Republican congressional candidate Chris Myers yesterday accused his Democratic opponent of attacking his military record.
But when asked if he could prove that State Sen. John Adler (D., Camden) was behind questions raised on the Internet about Myers' record, Myers said: "I have no proof of it."
Still, he blamed Adler for an essay written last week by political scientist Thurman Hart, who questioned Myers' frequent campaign references to himself as a "decorated combat veteran."
Hart said Myers is puffing up his combat record to get votes in the Third District race.
Adler's campaign said it had no connection to Hart or the Democratic Web page Hart writes for, BlueJersey.com.
Chris Russell, Myers' campaign manager, said Adler's praise of that Web page and his hiring of Jay Lassiter, one of its bloggers, is proof enough of a connection between Adler and the attacks.
A former Navy lieutenant, Myers served in the Persian Gulf War and received several awards, including the Combat Action Ribbon. Hart says that because the secretary of the Navy waived the normal definition of
in awarding the Combat Action Ribbon, Myers is crossing a line by calling himself a "combat" veteran.
According to a Navy spokeswoman, the ribbon was awarded to all those who served aboard the USS Bunker Hill between mid-January and February 1991, when Myers was aboard. The secretary of the Navy awarded the ribbon by making an exception of the typical standard that it be given to those who "have participated in bona fide ground or surface combat fire-fight or action during which he/she was under enemy fire," said Lt. Karen Eiferte.
Neither Eiferte nor Myers could say why the secretary made the exception.
Myers said his ship was in mine-infested waters and launched Tomahawk missiles at Iraq.
On the political front, Myers has used Hart's essay to accuse Adler of launching "attacks on my military record and attacks on thousands of other veterans."
Both Hart and the Adler campaign said they were not coordinating attacks on Myers.
Adler's spokesman, Steve Ayscue, said that in separate meetings, he and Adler told Myers they had nothing to do with the Hart essay.
"John Adler has been crystal-clear with Chris Myers that we don't condone those attacks and we respect everyone in uniform whether they served in combat or not," Ayscue said. "This battle is between Chris Myers and the bloggers, not with the Adler campaign."
Myers has been running hard as a veteran in a district with almost 100,000 active and retired military personnel. Adler, too, has been courting the military vote. Both claim support from veterans' groups.
Adler did not serve in the military.
Hart said yesterday that Myers "wants to wrap himself in the American flag and pretend like any questions of him is an attack on America. There's nothing wrong with accentuating your positive qualities, but he seems to be going far to the extreme on this."