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Kirk apologizes for misstating military record

Mark Kirk
Illinois Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk.Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
/ Source: The Associated Press

Senate candidate Mark Kirk apologized Thursday for making inaccurate statements about his service in the Navy Reserves, while acknowledging more discrepancies.

"I apologize to everyone for these errors," the Illinois Republican said. "They were my responsibility entirely and I will fix them."

The five-term U.S. representative, who is competing with Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for the Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama, also acknowledged new incidents where public statements didn't match reality about his service.

Kirk said a letter sent by his congressional district office last year described him as a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, the first Persian Gulf war, but he did not participate in that operation.

He also said there is no record of whether his airplane came under fire when he made intelligence reconnaissance flights over Iraq in 2000. A Kirk aide has said at least once that Kirk was fired upon by anti-aircraft weapons.

"We are combing the record to find out if there are any other misstatements," Kirk said.

In the war room
The furor over Kirk's military record took off last week when he acknowledged that, contrary to his many statements over the years, he hadn't won the Navy's award for intelligence officer of the year.

Amid media inquiries to the Navy, Kirk corrected his resume to show he actually received a different award, one that went to his unit instead of him personally.

Kirk also has said that when he's on active duty, he commands the Pentagon war room, which is an exaggeration of his intelligence duties there. And until 2005 he sometimes said he served "in" Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, although his duties at the time were entirely stateside.

Politicians' military records are under particularly intense scrutiny after the recent revelation that a Senate candidate in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, had sometimes told audiences he served in the Vietnam War. Actually, he was in the Marine Reserves and never left the United States.

Criticizing his opponent
Kirk initially played down the significance of the incorrect information about his own record, and criticized Giannoulias for raising the issue. He accused Giannoulias, the Illinois treasurer, of denigrating his military service.

But as more errors come to light, Kirk is changing his tone. He promised Thursday to release his military fitness reports so the public can see what his commanding officers have said about his performance.

"I think going forward I have to be humble about my military record," he said. "I have to understate it and I have to own up to any errors that I created. I do not want to create the impression of adding to the record."