Mark Kirk's Campaign Inflated His Military Record. Again.

This seems to happen when there's an election coming up.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has served honorably in the Navy Reserves for more than two decades, yet he keeps embellishing his record. Why?
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has served honorably in the Navy Reserves for more than two decades, yet he keeps embellishing his record. Why?
Jeff Haynes / Reuters

WASHINGTON ― Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has a history of fudging his military record, and two months before the elections, it’s happened again.

CNN reported Wednesday that Kirk’s campaign website erroneously stated that he is “a veteran of the Iraq War.” In reality, the senator stayed in the United States during the war as he served in the Navy Reserve.

His campaign chalked it up to a staff error, saying that particular page on Kirk’s website was not meant to be public and that staff members were making edits to it. Staff moved the page behind a password-protected firewall after CNN investigated.

The mishap might not warrant much attention if Kirk didn’t already have a record of making exaggerated claims about his 23-year career in the Navy Reserve. He nearly sunk his 2010 Senate run by misrepresenting military awards he’d won and describing incidents that never occurred.

Here’s a sampling of his embellishments that year:

  • Kirk admitted he falsely boasted he was named Intelligence Officer of the Year. His unit won an award, not Kirk.

  • He acknowledged his campaign had promoted an erroneous story about him coming under fire while flying aboard a reconnaissance plane in Iraq. There’s no record of his plane being shot at.

  • Kirk’s campaign website bragged about his “combat service” in Kosovo. That never happened. The word “combat” was later removed from the site.

  • He claimed he’d been been shot at in Afghanistan a year after he said he hadn’t been shot at. His campaign later said he was talking about two different trips to Afghanistan, but Kirk seemed to be talking about the same trip.

  • Kirk repeatedly said he’d been deployed to Afghanistan, which turned out to mean he went there for two-week training missions as part of his Navy Reserve requirements. He was never sent into war for an extended period of time.

  • He acknowledged his congressional office sent a letter to a constituent stating that he served in Operation Desert Storm, which is false.

  • Kirk said his congressional staff erroneously posted on his website that he was the only member of Congress to “serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the U.S. invasion of Iraq after 9/11. Kirk was stateside during the war.

  • He claimed, “I command the war room in the Pentagon.” Military officials later said that wasn’t quite right, and that while Kirk is involved in the room’s operations, the room is run by people who outrank Kirk.

  • Kirk admitted he’d been scolded by the Pentagon, twice, for mingling politics with his military service, but denied he actually violated military policy. PolitiFact did a deep dive and concluded that, yes, he had violated the policy.

It’s an inexplicable pattern for Kirk, who can otherwise legitimately boast of two decades of honorable service in the Navy Reserve. So why does this keep happening?

A request for comment from Kirk’s campaign was not immediately returned.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is trying to unseat Kirk in November. She’s leading in the polls by 7 percentage points, per HuffPost Pollster.

UPDATE: 10:56 p.m. ― Kirk’s campaign later emphasized to The Huffington Post that the erroneous information on Kirk’s website was still in draft form and had not been vetted.

“Rather than focus on draft web copy that has yet to go through an approval process, we would welcome the media’s attention on Tammy Duckworth’s terrible record of serving veterans at the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs,” spokesman Kevin Artl said in an email.

Artl did not respond to the question of why Kirk keeps embellishing his military record.

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