[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.