Mark Kirk, Republican candidate for US Senate in Illinois, spent the better part of Thursday evening apologizing and clarifying to the editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times over embellishments of his military record.
Turns out, even the apology was an embellishment.
At one point in the meeting, an editor at the Sun-Times asked Kirk to compare the Rufus Taylor Award, which his unit actually received, to the Intelligence Officer of the Year award, which he claimed until recently to have won.
"How big is Intelligence Officer of the Year? It sounds pretty big. Is it like, for us, winning the Pulitzer versus winning a local award?"
Kirk's response: "According to the Navy Awards Manual, both awards are prestigious."
Well, not really. A blogger in Mark Kirk's congressional district did a little digging (headline NSFW). The Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual doesn't mention the Rufus Taylor Award at all. And the Intelligence Officer of the Year award isn't in the manual either. (via CapFax)
As a matter of fact, while the Rufus Taylor Award's winners are nominated by the Navy, the award is not itself a naval medal. It's handed out by the National Military Intelligence Association, a private organization sponsored by dozens of military contractors and other corporations.
So, unsurprisingly, the private foundation's award isn't listed at all in the Navy Awards Manual.
The claim joins a growing list of overstatements about Kirk's military career. First, there was the 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.
Kirk's opponent in the Senate race, Alexi Giannoulias, has stayed quiet on the issue so far, apparently content to let Kirk do the damage himself.