CHICAGO

Mark Kirk Addresses The Press After Weeks Of Silence, Says He 'Wasn't Thinking' When He Embellished Military Record

After weeks of avoiding the media--even running through a hotel kitchen last week to dodge reporters--Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk finally took questions from the press on Tuesday, and explained that he "wasn't thinking" when he made false statements about his military experience.

NBC Chicago's Many Ann Ahern liveblogged the press briefing Tuesday. From her report:


Reason for not talking to media:
"I was overbooked last week."

On being open to the media:
"Because this is a high office, you will see my schedule."

On Pentagon reprimand:
"When you're a congressman and a reservist...keep the two worlds separate...I was counseled on twitter posting."

On embellishments:
"I wasn't thinking."

The trouble for Kirk, who was leading Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in the polls in the early Spring, began when the Associated Press reported that he was never the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award, which he claimed repeatedly throughout his career. He also claimed to have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, to have "commanded the war room" at the Pentagon, to be a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to have come under fire while flying over Iraq. All of these statements have been shown to be exaggerated--or completely false.

On Tuesday, Kirk owned up to some of these issues.

"If you make a mistake, own it and make sure it doesn't happen again," Kirk said Tuesday. "We are tired of unproductive partisan bickering...I have made mistakes ah - concerning... My service. I am not perfect and was careless and it will never happen again."

Aside from the media, he was addressing supporters at the Northbrook Renaissance Hotel. Other Illinois Republicans including GOP state chair Pat Brady, Joe Birkett and Dan Rutherford were on hand.

Though he has been damaged in the race, his Democratic opponent has been as well. Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones has seen a spike in his polling numbers since Kirk's drama unfolded. He told reporters he expects the race to fill President Obama's former Senate seat "one of the dramatic rock and roll races this state has seem in a long time."

It already has been.

WATCH Kirk's intro here:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

WATCH Kirk answer questions here:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.