06/17/2010 12:28 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mark Kirk's Teaching Experience Questioned By The New York Times

After Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk was caught "embellishing" several aspects of his military service record, people began looking into other claims Kirk has made about his history--and discovering some serious inconsistencies.

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a story examining Kirk's teaching experience, which he has touted in campaign ads and on the House floor. Reporter Jeff Zeleny explains that Kirk has been less than forthcoming about how brief his teaching experience was, and had trouble confirming his alleged employment at a New York nursery school.

The Times reports (emphasis added):

His Democratic rival, Alexi Giannoulias, is raising questions about Mr. Kirk's classroom experience, including his time as a nursery school teacher. The Giannoulias campaign provided The New York Times several examples of Mr. Kirk referring to himself over the years as a former teacher. The comments were verified and more imprecise references were found by The Times as it reviewed his background.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Kirk campaign, said that his work in the nursery at a United Methodist ministry called Forest Home Chapel in Ithaca, N.Y., took place in his final year of college in 1981. The campaign did not provide verification, and it could not be independently confirmed. A longtime member of the church who had a son in the nursery around the same time said she did not recall any male teachers.

As the Illinois GOP continues to dismiss questions about Kirk's record as false attacks from Giannoulias, more people in Illinois are having doubts about Kirk's ability to tell the truth. A Public Policy Polling survey of Illinois voters released Tuesday showed that only 10 percent of voters in the state think Kirk has been truthful about his military service, while 45 percent think he has lied and 45 percent are unsure.

The New York Times story also pointed to a speech Kirk made on the House floor in 2006. Addressing school safety, Kirk said he remembered "the kids who were the brightest lights of our country's future, and I also remember those who bore scrutiny as people who might bring a gun to class."

The Capitol Fax blog's Rich Miller wrote on Thursday that Forest Home Chapel, the school Kirk was referring to, "is not exactly in a crime-ridden ghetto where nursery school kids regularly tote AK-47s."

Miller continued:

We are now in some very bizarre, dark territory in this US Senate campaign.

Mark Kirk is an accomplished, decorated Naval veteran who blew that reputation out of the water with unfathomable exaggerations about his military record. He's an intellectual graduate of the London School of Economics who lied about his experience with liberal nursery school students carrying guns.

These accusations against Mark Kirk are no longer about mere "embellishments" or "exaggerations." This campaign is now about whether anything he says is true, and why.