Mark Kirk admits to new false claim of serving in Iraq

By Greg Sargent
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 2, 2010; 1:29 PM

Mark Kirk's Senate campaign has now acknowledged a second misrepresentation of his service record, admitting to me that his Web site falsely claimed that he was "the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom."

This latest admission comes after Kirk, an Illinois Congressman, recently admitted that his official bio had falsely claimed he'd been named U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award for his service during NATO'S war with Serbia in the 1990s.

Talking Points Memo yesterday alleged that Kirk has a pattern of misleading about his record, digging up an old version of Kirk's official House Web site which stated:

"Congressman Kirk is a Naval Reserve intelligence officer who served during conflicts with Iraq, Haiti, and Bosnia. He served four tours at sea and three in Panama. The U.S. Navy named Kirk 'Intelligence Officer of the Year' in 1999 for his combat service in Kosovo. Kirk flew on missions over Iraq and continues to serve one weekend a month in the Pentagon. He is the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was an air crewman over Iraq during Operation Northern Watch."

Kirk actually served stateside in the Navy reserves during the Iraq War. The Kirk campaign, which had previously refused to publicly acknowledge the misrepresentation or respond to repeated requests about it, sent me a statement this morning admitting they corrected the false claim:

"Kirk's 2005 campaign Web site noted this correctly. Unfortunately, the official Web site listed the word "in" instead of "during" but was corrected in 2005."

The use of "in" rather than "during" is precisely what Richard Blumenthal claimed as his excuse for misrepresenting his own record, though Blumenthal seems to have misled a bit more frequently.

While the Kirk campaign is claiming to have corrected the falsehood five years ago, it's likely to become an issue in the Senate race. Dems will argue it fits into a larger pattern that includes two more recent misstatements by Kirk: A campaign ad that repeated the false claim about the award, and Kirk's claim that his staff discovered and fixed that falsehood when in fact the Navy tipped him off to it.

What's more, the falsehood about Kirk serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom was echoed in the media, with no signs it was ever corrected.

The Washington Times printed a 2004 Op ed by Kirk and two others hammering Dems for questioning Bush, describing Kirk in a note as "the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Though there's no evidence Kirk knowingly allowed this falsehood to stand, this, again, is precisely what Blumenthal was pilloried for. And Kirk didn't correct the record during a 2003 interview when Joe Scarborough described him as a man who "served Americans overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom."

The Kirk campaign declined to say whether he'd apologize for any of the misrepresentations, as Blumenthal was forced to do.

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