Kirk, on military record: I was not thinking

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., addresses a rally held to support U.S. troops Sunday, March 23, 2003, in Arlington Heights, Ill. (AP Photo/Allen Kaleta)

June 29, 2010 2:50:19 PM PDT
After avoiding questions for weeks, Congressman Mark Kirk apologized publically for being "careless" when describing his military record. Kirk admits he used untrue statements during his current campaign for U.S. Senate and in his decade in the U.S. Congress.

With the apology, the Republican resumed his election effort. The room at a Northbrook hotel was filled with Kirk supporters for his first news conference since Memorial Day.

"I'm always here to support Mark Kirk. We'll hear what he has to say and see where we're going next," said Pat Brady, Illinois Republican Chairman.

The carefully chosen guests gave a hero's welcome to the controversial congressman who, after short speech, finally mentioned his embellishment of his military experiences.

"I apologize for those mistakes and I pledge to correct those errors. I am not perfect and was careless," said Kirk.

In campaign ads and in the congressional record, Kirk called himself the Navy Reserve's "Intelligence Officer Of The Year," which he was not, and claimed to have come under hostile fire in Iraq, which there is no proof he did. His supporters applauded the congressman when he apologized for not telling the truth.

"Most importantly, I wasn't thinking...perfectly enough, yeah...." said Kirk when asked.

Outside the hotel, the campaign of Democrat Alexi Giannoulias staged a demonstration by its supporters led by a former marine sergeant.

"Why did he even feel the need to say he was shot at when it never happened? No honorable service member lies about his service record," said Marquell Smith, Giannoulias supporter.

Giannoulias campaign spokesman Matt McGrath issued a statement: "Congressman Kirk wasn't careless and he didn't misremember - he lied".

Kirk promised to be more cooperative with reporters covering his campaign. He also said he would make himself more available moving forward. He also said the public can trust him in the future.

"Many sailors have made mistakes and I am one of them. But we live up to duty, honor, country...which means if you make a mistake, own it, fix it apologize and make sure in doesn't happen again," said Kirk.

Kirk is also accused of exaggerating his teaching career nearly 30 years ago. When asked if there were any other misstatements he might want to clear up, the congressman said he did not recall anything, but if there is something in the future he will apologize.


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