Kirk apologizes for military misstatements
Vows to be 'much more available' to answer questions in the future
BY ABDON PALLASCH Political Reporter
In his first news conference in weeks, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk apologized for misstating his military record and for dashing out of his last appearance through a kitchen to avoid questions -- and promised to be "much more available" in the future.
Asked what he was thinking when he claimed he won an "Intelligence Office of the Year" award -- which was actually awarded to the entire group he worked with as a member of the Navy reserves -- Kirk said: "Most importantly I wasn't thinking. This was a carelessness that did not reflect well upon me and this is a high office. Going forward, you have to speak with great precision and detail.''
Still, Kirk used the appearance at Northbrook hotel today to slap his Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, whose family bank failed recently: "I made a mistake with regard to my military record and I apologized. But I did not loan money as a senior loan officer to mobsters. I did not make a set of decisions that helped lead to the collapse of a bank and transferring a $390 million bill to the FDIC. And I did not fire college Bright Start fund managers and put into place people that suffered catastrophic losses in the college savings funds."
Kirk packed the press conference with a "Hallelujah chorus'' of 100 supporters who heckled reporters and shouted "move on" when reporters pressed Kirk about his numerous mistakes on his military record. One supporter even harassed a Bloomberg news reporter after the conference.
Giannoulias supporter Marquell Smith, a former Marine, stood in front of the hotel before Kirk's news conference and asked how it was fair that he could get dismissed from the military for being gay -- but Kirk was allowed to stay even after being counseled by the Pentagon not to politic while in uniform.
The Giannoulias supporters standing behind Smith wore aprons that said, "Can't stand the heat -- run through the kitchen."
Kirk agreed that the disparities in his treatment and the Marine's treatment wasn't fair. But he said the reason he voted against rescinding the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy is because military leaders had not completed their study of the effect of the change. He said he would decide his final position after the study is completed.
Sitting in the front row as Kirk spoke was NASA hero Capt. Jim Lovell, who applauded Kirk enthusiastically, saying he could totally understand how Kirk could confuse parts of his record.
"I read on Wikipedia that I fought in the Korean War," Lovell said. Lovell joined the Navy while that war was being fought but was never actually in Korea. He contacted Wikipedia to correct the error on his page.
Unlike Lovell's case, Kirk made the misstatements about his military record on his own website and in fundraising letters. One of the claims was that he participated in Desert Storm when he was actually served stateside at the time. Another was claiming a plane he was in was fired on over Kosovo. He now says he has no evidence the plane came under fire.
Though Kirk has only served in non-combat roles as a Navy reservist, Lovell said Kirk's military experience would be invaluable in the U.S. Senate because "we have so few servicemen serving there."