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GOP's Kirk faces fire over service record, again

U.S. Rep Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for Senate from Illinois, is acknowledging that he had to correct another description of his military service.
Mark Kirk
Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is locked in a high-stakes Senate race against Illinois state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Senate candidate Mark Kirk faced new questions Wednesday about inaccurate descriptions of his military service, this time over wrongly saying that he served "in" Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His campaign said Kirk's official U.S. House website once incorrectly said the candidate was the only member of Congress to serve in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that began in 2003. That was changed in 2005 to say that he served "during" the operation.

The campaign said Kirk, a member of the Navy Reserves, served stateside and that his 2005 campaign website had the correct wording.

The description of Kirk serving "in" the operation went beyond his website. Newspaper stories of the period routinely said Kirk served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and there's no sign that he sought corrections.

A 2004 op-ed column that Kirk co-wrote for the Washington Times also said he served in the conflict, and that's how Kirk was described when he appeared on cable talk shows.

It is the second time in less than a week that Kirk has had to explain his military record. He had long claimed he was named the U.S. Navy's intelligence officer of the year, but now acknowledges it was his unit that had won another award.

Kirk has sought to play down the discrepancy and portray questions about it as an attack on his military service.

But his Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, says Kirk didn't "tell the truth" about his military service. Kirk and Giannoulias are seeking the Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama.

Several newspaper editorials on Wednesday said Kirk owes Illinois voters an apology.

"If you're a politician who pumps up your military record, you should admit it, beg for forgiveness and move on as best you can," the Chicago Sun-Times wrote. "But, please, don't insult the public by pretending your exaggerations were all honest errors."