PI Original Josh Kalven Tuesday June 1st, 2010, 10:02am

Mark Kirk: Needless Exaggerator Of The Year

While GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk is desperately trying to blame the ongoing controversy over the embellishment of his military record on Democratic rival Alexi Giannoulias, the truth is he brought this on himself.

While GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk is desperately trying to blame the ongoing controversy over the embellishment of his military record on Democratic rival Alexi Giannoulias, the truth is he brought this on himself.

For those new to the story, you should start by watching this brief clip below from a 2002 hearing of the U.S. House Budget Committee, in which freshman Rep. Kirk asserts that the Navy once named him "intelligence officer of the year":

That same claim subsequently made it into Kirk's official House bio and was copied over to his campaign website when he launched his U.S. Senate bid last year.  Then last Thursday, Kirk removed mention of the award from both sites and explained why in a blog post:

Upon a recent review of my records, I found that an award listed in my official biography was misidentified as “Intelligence Officer of the Year.” In fact, as noted in my Fitness Report, I was the “recipient of the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year award for outstanding support provided during Operation Allied Force.” It was one of the honors of my life to lead the Intelligence Division Electronic Attack Wing Aviano, Italy – and I am very proud of this award. My official biography will reflect this updated information.

So how was it discovered that Kirk hadn't received the award in question (technically referred to as the Navy Reserve Intelligence “Junior Officer of the Year Award")

Local blogger Carl Nyberg first raised skepticism about the claim in a May 18 post on Ellen's Tenth Congressional District Blog and went on to discuss the matter with an unnamed national reporter.  Two days after Kirk changed his bio, the Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith reported that, prior to the correction, he had inquired with both the Kirk campaign and the Navy about the matter.  Apparently, that inquiry led Kirk to publicly admit that he had never been named "intelligence officer of the year" and instead had accepted one of the two annual Rufus Taylor awards in 2000 on the part of the intelligence "division" mentioned in the statement above.

Smith also wrote that his questions were "sparked by complaints from a representative of state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias."  This led Kirk to lash out at Giannoulias during a press conference yesterday:

"When I was wearing a uniform in Aviano, I think he was wearing the uniform of a basketball team in Greece," Kirk said, referring to an assignment in Italy for a NATO campaign in the late 1990s.

Try as he might, Kirk is going to have a very tough time making this controversy about Giannoulias -- particularly when this is the third time he has unnecessarily embellished his service record.

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