Chicago Sun-Times
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Mark Kirk and his near drowning story


WASHINGTON--The Tribune has a story today asserting that Illinois GOP Senate contender Rep. Mark Kirk embellished a story he has told about almost drowning in Lake Michigan. The Tribune story here.

Click below for the Kirk react, including a statement from his mother.

Click below the Kirk react for statement from the campaign of Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias.

Below, from Kirk....

Statement by Congressman Mark Kirk

"Over 30 years ago when I was 16 years old, I nearly drowned in Lake Michigan and was rescued by the Coast Guard. It was a life-changing experience. Multiple statements by eyewitnesses confirm my rescue. It's unfortunate that some reporters had a pre-conceived premise that led to a ridiculous story about an event that is indisputable. Voters will see this story for what it is and I will continue to focus on the issues that matter and how I will serve the people of Illinois."

***Note: The following information was provided to the Chicago Tribune in advance of publication. Unfortunately, the Tribune reporters chose to omit nearly all of the evidence below since the facts conflicted with their pre-determined premise.***

Kenilworth youth rescued in lake by Coast Guard

Pioneer Press

June 17, 1976

A Kenilworth youth was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Tuesday afternoon, after his sailboat capsized in Lake Michigan about one-half mile off Winnetka.

According to Chief BMC Gale Rapp of the Coast Guard Station in Wilmette, Mark Kirk, 16, of 415 Sterling in Kenilworth had drifted about 500 yards from his Sunfish when the guard picked him up.

Kirk, who was wearing a ski belt which Rapp said acted as a life preserver, was in the water for at least 30 minutes before he was rescued.

"We received a telephone call at 2:25 p.m. from Bruce Guthrie, 435 Sheridan Rd. of Winnetka who saw the boat overturned," Rapp said. "We reached the boat at 2:46 and rescued Kirk at 2:52."

Guthrie said he saw the boat capsize twice before "turtling" or turning completely over. After a few minutes he called the Coast Guard.

After he was taken to shore, Kirk, who was reported suffering from exposure, was taken by ambulance to Evanston Hospital by the Wilmette Fire Department where he was treated and released.

Rapp said that the type of sailboat Kirk used can be launched from the beach, which was the case in this instance. He also said the Coast Guard receives many similar calls about capsized boats each summer.


Statement by Judy Kirk

In the afternoon of June 15, 1976, I received a phone call from Evanston Hospital letting me know that my son, Mark, was in the Emergency Room. He had been rescued by the Coast Guard in Lake Michigan and was being treated for hypothermia.

When I got to Evanston Hospital, I saw my son in a hospital bed under a special warming blanket. His lips were blue. I had never seen that before. I remember his body temperature was in the 80s and they were slowly bringing him back up.

I stayed there, watching his color return to his lips and body. Later in the day, he was discharged and sent home. Mark's father, Frank, was working downtown at the time and took an afternoon Metra to meet us. I remember Frank was very upset, saying again and again to Mark: You never leave the boat.

As a mother, this was a traumatic experience. It was a life-changing event for Mark and for our entire family.


Statement by Dr. Bill Hartel

In the early afternoon of June 15, 1976, I left Kenilworth Beach in a sunfish sailboat with my high school best friend, Mark Kirk, for an afternoon sail in Lake Michigan.

I learned a lot that day - about the unpredictability of weather and about the fragility of life.

During our sail, the weather turned and we encountered what I would describe as a squall. At some point, our sailboat capsized and we entered the cold water. Mark acted quickly to stabilize the boat and brought us to safety at a beach along the Winnetka shore.

Mark was concerned for my safety, and after warming up on the beach he urged me to walk home while he would get the sunfish back to Kenilworth.

I protested but Mark refused to let me go with him. I walked home and Mark took care of the boat.

A couple of hours later, I was in the Emergency Room at Evanston Hospital. I saw Mark under warming blankets - I remember his body temperature being roughly 89 degrees at the time. It was about an hour after he arrived in the Emergency Room and he was speaking gibberish.

It was a life-changing experience. At that moment, I realized we are not immortal - life is fragile at any age.

Later on, I remember recounting the experience with Mark. He told me how he thought he was going to die and had given up just before his rescue.

This was a major event in both of our lives - one I will never forget.


Facts about Hypothermia

Centers for Disease Control: Moderate hypothermia is diagnosed when the core body temperature is 82-90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Princeton University: 86-82 degrees - Symptoms: Muscle rigidity; semiconscious; stupor; loss of awareness of others; pulse and respiration rate decrease; possible heart fibrillation.

Statement by Dr. Jay Alexander

It is completely preposterous for anyone to say they can prove or disprove what Mark Kirk's body temperature was on June 15, 1976 without knowing detailed statistics, including Mr. Kirk's exact body mass index at the time, his exact time in the water, the exact temperature of the water, the exact weight and type of clothing Mr. Kirk was wearing, the exact wind speeds and air temperatures throughout the experience and the vigor and duration of any activity conducted by Mr. Kirk in the water. Body temperature reflects a balance between heat production and heat loss both of which would be almost impossible to predict without a detailed knowledge of all the factors and events that took place that day and short of having all of these facts certain or an official medical document from 1976, there's no credible scientist or physician who could speak with certainty on this matter.


Below, statement from Giannoulias campaign...



In light of today's story in Chicago Tribune regarding Mark Kirk's latest embellishment, Alexi for Illinois spokesman Matt McGrath released the following statement:

"Now Congressman Kirk has been caught in another embellishment -- this time an apparent fish story that was his basis for going into public service in the first place. Whether he's lying about his military record or claiming to be a fiscal conservative when his votes helped triple the national debt, one thing is clear: Congressman Kirk apparently can't tell the truth about anything."

* Conflicting details in Kirk's 1976 lake rescue - Chicago Tribune, 7/23

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk for a decade has told the story of how he nearly drowned when he was 16 while sailboating on Lake Michigan and how his rescue by the Coast Guard inspired him to pursue a career in public service. The story is sprinkled with attention-grabbing details, but there are inconsistencies in Kirk's statements that suggest parts of his real-life drama have been embellished, a Tribune review has found. [...] It is not the first time this year Kirk has had to reconcile his public statements about major moments in his life with records that contradict him or don't back up the details as he tells them. Questions about Kirk's descriptions of his military career have become a significant issue in his race with Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias to fill the seat once held by President Barack Obama. Kirk, a Navy Reserve officer, recently apologized for repeatedly overstating his military achievements, from claiming an award for his intelligence unit as his own to saying he came under enemy fire while flying intelligence missions over Iraq. Stung by criticism, Kirk now declines to talk about his Navy service and instead refers questioners to his military records.



Neither of these candidates - Kirk nor Giannoulias are vote worthy. And Kirk's lies and embellishments - he's a politician. All politicians are more crooked than a barrel of snakes - and we call that GOVERNMENT.

Mark Kirk's truthfulness is obvious and beyond question.

Everyone knows that he (and perhaps only he) can see the sunset from Lake Michigan at 2:55 pm on a summer evening. What embellishment?

Everyone knows that when a reservist does Weekend Warrier Work in DC he is really in charge of The Pentagon War Room. What embellishment?

Everyone knows that when a reservist serves state-side he really is being fired upon in whatever war is conveniently being conducted overseas. What embellishment?

How DARE these liberals condemn the fantasy world of Captain Kirk.

It seems as if Kirk's pants are on fire.
Does anyone else think he looks like George W. Bush?

Maybe that's why I don't trust him.
The lies don't come as a surprise.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 23, 2010 12:08 PM.

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