June 4th, 2010
10:44 AM ET
12 years ago

Kirk apologizes for military mischaracterizations

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/07/art.kirk.file.gi.jpg caption="Kirk has apologized for a string of mischaracterizations about his military record."](CNN) – Six days after Republican Rep. Mark Kirk first admitted to having mischaracterized portions of his 21-year long military record, the Illinois Senate candidate issued an apology and said it was the result of trying to communicate his accomplishments in "civilian-speak."

"I am sorry, absolutely," Kirk told the Chicago Tribune editorial board Thursday. "You should speak with utter precision. You should stand on the documented military record."

Kirk also pledged to speak more clearly about his tenure in the Navy going forward and said he would soon release military fitness reports that demonstrate his years of continuous service.

But in the same interview, Kirk acknowledged other mischaracterizations committed by his campaign and congressional office - first when campaign promotional materials described him as having faced fire while flying aboard a reconnaissance plane over Iraq in 2000 and second when a 2009 letter to constituents said he was a veteran of Operation Desert Storm.

Kirk told the paper he's actually not sure if he was fired upon in Iraq during the 2000 mission and said that he did not serve in Desert Storm.

The initial controversy began nearly a week ago, after his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, raised questions about a naval award Kirk claimed to have received. The Kirk campaign and the candidate himself falsely claimed he was awarded the Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year Award - a prestigious honor that is given to only one individual a year.

Kirk and his unit were instead the recipients of the Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award, given by The National Military Intelligence Association, which is a professional group. That award recognizes the "exceptional achievements of an outstanding Naval Intelligence career professional," though the citation itself did not single out Kirk. The Republican characterized the mix-up as inadvertent and said it was a "disgrace" that Giannoulias was trying to make political hay out of it.

But since that admission, several other mischaracterizations have come to light, including statements that he "command[s] the war room of the Pentagon," faced combat in Kosovo, and served in the Iraq war.

Kirk's campaign has vigorously responded to Democratic allegations of intentionally misleading voters, saying Kirk has in fact commanded "the intelligence section of the alert center – the information 'war room,'" was stationed in Kosovo at some point during the conflict, and flew in support of airstrikes over Belgrade.

The campaign also said the language about serving in the Iraq war was a simple mistake of using "in" instead of "during," because Kirk was stationed stateside in the opening years of the conflict.

"In public discourse, for high office, you should make sure that there is a degree of complete rigorous precession," Kirk told the Tribune Thursday.

Filed under: Illinois • Mark Kirk
soundoff (106 Responses)
  1. Dean

    (CNN) – Six days after Republican Rep. Mark Kirk first admitted to having mischaracterized portions of his 21-year long military record--------–"MISCHARACTERIZED"--Yea boy, this guy would make a good politician.

    June 4, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. Jay

    Mischaracterized means he lied.

    June 4, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. Terry

    Well, thank god he lied to us in a manner we could understand. We need more like him in the Senate, people who can be dishonest on the electorate's terms. I hate it when a politician lies in such a way that I can't even tell what he's lying about....

    June 4, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  4. Dave

    Having served DURING vietnam and DURING Desert Storm I can say that you have to be very careful with your words explaining what you did to civilians during those times. I never served in the war zone. I served during that time.

    That having been said, I have never had any trouble telling people about my military experience (I retired from the Army after 20 years). Kirk needs to apologize repeatedly. This is not a Blumenthal who repeated the same fib a couple of times. Kirk exagerated his military service knowingly in many different ways to make himself more appealing to the general public. He allowed his staff to post false claims to his military service and leave them there on his web site even when he knew they were false. As a retired military person in the same position I am deeply troubled by this.

    Officers are held to a higher standard than anyone else in the service. At the least Kirk should lose his commission over this and be dishonorably discharged from the service. This serial misrepresenation by an active officer needs to be punished by his superiors immediately. They certainly would not hesitate to throw the book at an enlisted person if he or she did this.

    June 4, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  5. steve

    Was Kirk the arm chair quarterback back in the Pentagon that ordered Pat Tillman's patrol to continue on its fatal mission.....overriding the front line officer's advice and objections?

    America – wake up! These self imagined "war heroes" serving from air conditioned conference rooms in DC are nothing but blow hards.... They are the last one's to elect to public office to fix things in DC...they'll make things even worse.

    Kirk is another Republican chicken hawk....and lying one at that.

    June 4, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. steve

    Mark Kirk is a disgrace and a pathological liar. He dad made 4 misleading claims and lied to the media about those lies as he did to the sun -times yesterday.
    As a veteran, I am ashamed of him.
    The honorable thing for him at this stage is to withdraw from the senate race.

    June 4, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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