WASHINGTON----GOP Illinois Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk did not tell the whole story--was not candid--about how he discovered he never won a Navy "Intelligence Officer of the Year" award. It turns out the Navy tipped off Kirk¹s House staff that news outlets were asking questions about his military record.
Last week, Kirk, a commander in the Naval Reserves, said his staff called the false claim to his attention as if they discovered it themselves. What actually happened was that after his staff got the heads-up from the Navy, Kirk¹s team scrambled a damage-control operation, wanting to put a statement on his website correcting the record before a story came out.
Navy Cmdr. Danny Hernandez told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that after his office received calls from news outlets "inquiring about [Kirk¹s] service" -- and who won the Intelligence Officer of the Year Award in 1999--the Navy¹s Office of Legislative Affairs on Capitol Hill was notified so it could pass the information to Kirk¹s office, and it did.
That is a Navy courtesy, Hernandez said, for all congressmen who are the subject of media questions. He said Kirk¹s office was told that the 1999 winner of the reserve officer¹s award was not Kirk.
"Upon a recent review of my records, I found that an award listed in my official biography was misidentified as 'Intelligence Officer of the Year.' In fact . . . I was the recipient of the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year award for outstanding support provided during Operation Allied Force," Kirk said in that Web posting. Asked by the Sun-Times on Saturday night what prompted Kirk to make the change, a Kirk spokesman said "we noticed that it was misidentified and we corrected it."
The news about the false claim has put Kirk on the defensive for the first time in his campaign against Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer. Kirk, a Navy reservist since 1989, has made his military record a centerpiece of his Senate campaign.
KIRK'S PENTAGON ARRANGEMENT
Kirk has an unusual arrangement with the Pentagon when it comes to serving his reserve duty.
"Our regular practice is to not call up for deployment sitting members of Congress who are in the reserves, but we have faced this question a number of times and have made case-by-case exceptions in a few instances, Rep. Kirk being one of them," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told the Sun-Times.
KIRK'S CONFLICT RECORD
On the campaign trail and through his career in Congress, Kirk often boasts about his duty in conflict zones, which raises the question of where he served and for how long. The Kirk campaign gave the Sun-Times some details on Tuesday.
Iraq: Kirk, in an electronic intelligence squadron, "flew missions
patrolling Iraqi airspace during March and April 2000," when the U.S. was
enforcing a no-fly zone.
Afghanistan: Kirk served reserve duty in Kandahar from Dec. 15, 2008, through Jan. 2, 2009. He returned a second time between Dec. 19, 2009, and Jan. 4, 2010.