WASHINGTON--More examples are surfacing of GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk--a commander in the Navy reserves-- embellishing his military record, as recently as in an ad for his Senate race. Facing a major campaign crisis, Kirk met Thursday in separate sessions with the editorial boards and reporters from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Kirk, an intelligence officer, told the Sun-Times he was never fired on as he flew over Iraq or Kosovo. He never said he was fired on, he said in reply to a question from the Sun-Times. "No, no. There's no contradiction. I remember being illuminated by air defense."
Contrary to his claim to the Sun-Times, Kirk did talk about being shot at, on Oct. 1, 2003, from the House floor. Kirk spoke so imprecisely as to be misleading. "I just returned from Iraq and the trend is for the better," Kirk said, with his comments captured on C-SPAN. He goes on to say, "the last time I was in Iraq I was in uniform, flying at 20,000 feet and the Iraqi Air Defense network was shooting at us. That force is now gone."
Kirk did not mention that was three years earlier, when he flew missions over Iraq in March and April of 2000.
Kirk, an intelligence officer who joined the Navy on June 1, 1989, is facing the first significant scrub of his military record since his election to Congress.
Kirk last week said he never earned an award he's been boasting about for years-- "Intelligence Officer of the Year."
*A more recent example of a Kirk's embellishment comes in an ad made for Kirk's Senate campaign. In the spot, which is on YouTube, Kirk claims he "served in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The U.S. invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003; the operation was called by the U.S. forces "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Kirk was never deployed to Iraq, according to his campaign, which was requested to provide information about his Iraq and Afghanistan service.
Kirk, during Operation Northern Watch in Iraq--where the U.S. was enforcing the no-fly zone, was, according to the Kirk campaign deployed "as the Aviation Intelligence Officer of VAQ-209, a Navy Reserve EA-6B Prowler Squadron. Mr. Kirk flew missions patrolling Iraqi airspace during March and April of 2000."
Kirk served reserve duty in Afghanistan for two, two-week stints. According to his campaign, "Mr. Kirk served as a Navy Reservist in Kandahar, Afghanistan under BG John Nicholson, USA from December 15, 2008 through January 2, 2009. Mr. Kirk returned to Afghanistan as a Reservist a second time from December 19, 2009 through January 4, 2010."
*Talking Points Memo discovered that on an old version of Kirk's House web site, he claimed he was the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served during Operation Iraqi Freedom--not "in."