June 2nd, 2010
04:00 PM ET
13 years ago

Kirk continues to face allegations of dishonesty

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/02/art.kirk.gi.jpg.jpg caption="Kirk continues to face allegations he has misrepresented his two decades of Navy service."]Updated with Kirk Campaign response

(CNN) - When Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal admitted last month to making misstatements about his military service, it took at least a week for the Democratic Senate candidate to move past the story.

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, who admitted over the weekend to falsely claiming he won the Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year Award, is now facing the same scrutiny. Kirk is the GOP nominee for the Senate seat held by President Barack Obama.

Kirk's acknowledgment about claiming he won the award for his service during the Kosovo conflict 10 years ago came after his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, raised questions about it with The Washington Post. Kirk highlighted the claim on both his congressional and campaign websites, and CSPAN footage from 2002 shows the Republican himself stating as much.

Kirk said in a blog post Sunday that his unit was instead the recipient of the Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award, given by The National Military Intelligence Association, which is a professional group. Kirk characterized the mix-up as inadvertent and said it was a "disgrace" that Giannoulias was trying to make political hay out of it.

But over the past four days, Kirk has been barraged by a series of additional allegations of misstatements about his two decades of service in the Navy and a string of newspaper editorials that question his honesty.

In a Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Wednesday, the paper ticked through several other problematic Kirk claims that have since come to light, including a statement on a campaign web video that he "command[s] the war room of the Pentagon."

The Sun-Times noted that while Kirk does work weekends as a deputy intelligence director at the war room, the commander is ordinarily a one-star general. Though Kirk's campaign responded Wednesday that the Republican's post commands "the intelligence section of the alert center – the information 'war room.'"

The paper also said Kirk's congressional web site once touted the Republican's "combat service in Kosovo." However the paper says Kirk's unit did not serve in combat in Kosovo but was instead stationed in Aviano, Italy during the Allied-Force campaign. Kirk's campaign responded that the Republican did fly as an intelligence observer aboard an EC-130 special mission aircraft in support of air strikes over Belgrade and spent some time in Kosovo.

In addition, the Kirk campaign told the Post Wednesday that his congressional website incorrectly claimed he was "the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom."

In fact, Kirk was stationed stateside during the Iraq War. The campaign told the Post it discovered the error in 2005, at which point the language was corrected from "in" to "during."

Meanwhile, Sun-Times correspondent Lynn Sweet reported Wednesday that Kirk was not upfront with how his office was first alerted to the mistaken award identification. Kirk told reporters the mischaracterization was discovered by a staff member review. However, a Navy official told the paper they alerted Kirk's office to the mistake after reporters started making inquiries about the matter. The Kirk campaign responded Wednesday the staff review was already under way when the Navy official informed the office about reporters' inquiries.

The Kirk campaign is strongly fighting back against allegations of dishonesty, circulating a statement to supporters Wednesday by Clay Fearnow - a retired Navy Captain and Kirk's commanding officer during Operation Allied Force.

"There are two things that have deeply troubled me...First, the idea that someone could make an honest mistake has become so foreign that the immediate assumption has become – you misrepresented or worse you lied. In Mark's case neither is factual," Fearnow said in the statement. "And second, that an honest mistake related to the identification of a military award is the same as pretending to be in Vietnam when you were not. This also doesn't apply to Mark Kirk."

"Mark Kirk is the finest intelligence officer I have ever served with – hands down," Fearnow also said.

It remains unclear what effect these reports will have on a Senate race that is already among the most bitterly-fought this cycle. Giannoulias is not without his own political baggage as the scion of banking family whose institution's failure last April cost the FDIC an estimated $394 million. Polls in Illinois conducted entirely before the Kirk allegations came to light showed the two candidates statistically tied.

Updated: 5:07 p.m.

Filed under: 2010 • Illinois • Mark Kirk
soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Tayo

    This November will be very interesting, indeed!

    June 2, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  2. A Not So Stupid American

    Its about this simple.

    I'm willing to bet that no college player on the team what won the BCS championship ("aka the National Championship") is running around saying he won the Heisman Trophy (an individual award for the best player in the country).

    No one on the team that won the Lombardi Trophy [the NFL championship] is claiming the are won the leagues MOST VALUABLE PLAYER MVP trophy.

    Bottom line ... to say he got them mixed up isn't credible. If you care about an award enough to brag about it ... do you ever get the name wrong??? I don't think so.

    June 2, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  3. Norma

    Combat service in Kosovo or stationed in Italy.
    Served in or during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    Minor details that you Republicans would overlook if this came from a Democrat, right? Right? Yea, right?

    June 2, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  4. kcl

    Ok, each side is even now, let's move on....

    June 2, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  5. Communist News Network

    Nice try on fixing the problem with your chosen candidate...This is why your ratings are so poor, by the way.

    June 2, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  6. Eric Olson


    The paper also said Kirk's congressional web site once touted the Democrat's "combat service in Kosovo." Republican!

    June 2, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  7. Shirley in California

    Well, here we go (again) with the Its Okay If You Are A Republican ("IOIYAAR") attitude. Liar.

    Thank you Rachel Maddow for exposing this fraud last night.

    June 2, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  8. Donnatella

    The real veterans in this country should be able throw the book at these losers, how dare them fake military creditials.

    June 2, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. ccm123

    If you served, you served. It does not matter if you were special forces or a pencil pusher. I hate when people either trump up their service or lie entirely, especially if you are running for office because sooner or later the truth will come out. Office seekers should say "This is what I did, this is how I served my country, and I am proud of it", no matter what they did. As long as they did it with honor and integrity.

    June 2, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  10. Jonathan

    Seems to me like this guy just keeps on making "honest" mistakes.

    June 2, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  11. Floyd Scott

    What biased news. At least he didn't lie and say he was in Nam which is a hell of a lot worse

    June 2, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  12. Indiana Voter

    What Blumenthal said was much worse and Democrats didn't care, so why should they care about this? Unless there is a double standard going on... CNN is trying to rally the Democrat base for the elections. If the American people are smart enough, they will see through all the Democrat's and the Media's manipulations.

    Where is the story about the illegal activity coming from the White House with the bribery and attempted fixing of an election? Once again, CNN is letting the Democrats get away with another law broken, while new media has to be the ones to actually report the news.

    June 2, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  13. ja

    it is strange, some are held to different standards, a lie will disqualify most for jobs

    June 2, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  14. harvey

    Breaking News: Another Republican Liar. Sanford, Jindal, Gingrich, Greer, Palin, Agnew, Nixon, Haldeman, Ollie North, Nikki Haley. At least Reagan said he had no recollection of that!

    June 2, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. Too True For You

    Sure, an honest mistake could be forgiven. But two, three, "mistakes"?

    Typical republican cynical spin to characterize several conservative "mistakes" as less offensive than one democratic "mistake".

    And for the record, Blumenthal inflated one aspect of his record in speeches, while Kirk admitted he LIED about several aspects of his "service" in campaign material.

    The big difference is the republicans have spent the last 25 years sharpening the teeth of their multi-faceted propaganda attack machine while the democrats still trust facts will win out.

    June 2, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  16. DIANA

    Looks like somebody's going to jail. Wasn't it a Republican who said that if somebody lies about their record they need to go to jail. Where are you now?

    I want to see all the Republican outrage over this like they had with Blumethal.

    June 2, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  17. Glenn, Cary, NC

    I would be happy to dismiss this whole "he lied" thing as being not worth talking about – a lying politician? I'm shocked!

    BUT: The more the Kirk people try to make it sound like he did nothing wrong but Blumenthal is guilty of some dire crime, the more I'm convinced that Kirk is an especially low-class liar – even for a politician.

    June 2, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  18. el kababa

    If everyone in your unit gets a particular award, it is sort of like getting a gold star on your homework in kindergarten. It doesn't say much about you. Men who parade as military heroes when they were not heroes are mentally unstable and not fit for public office.

    My father was a decorated war hero who never bothered to collect his Bronze Star, modestly claiming that anyone in his unit would have done the same and that he just happened to be standing closest to the action at the time.

    I myself am a Vietnam era vet who served stateside only. No one ever shot at me and I was never in danger. I did not perform a single act of heroism and have never claimed otherwise. It has never occurred to me to do so. Besides the fact that it would be a lie, it detracts from the accomplishments of real heroes, some of whom I got to meet in the military hospital where I worked.

    June 2, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  19. Independent_me

    Yeah – and Republican Orrin Hatch wanted to throw Blumenthal in jail for six months for his lie...He introduced a Bill that would do just that if someone lies about their military service.

    ... does he want to put Kirk in jail also???

    oh, sorry! Stupid question – Blumenthal is a Democrat, Kirk is a Republican...

    Repuglicans get a free pass when they lie...Democrats get to go to jail – if Hatch has his way, that is!

    June 2, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  20. Nurse Lisa

    will Jack Cafferty attack his misstatements too?

    June 2, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
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