In what must have been his longest, widest-ranging press event to date, Rep. Mark Kirk addressed the media at Northbrook Renaissance Hotel and tried to jumpstart his campaign after a month's worth of damaging revelations.
On the point of most interest -- why he embellished his record and why he was avoiding the media -- Kirk said he would make himself more available to the media, and apologized several times.
"I was overbooked last week," Kirk said, by way of explaining why he wasn't available. As for his embellishments -- 10 at last count -- Kirk said the "scrutiny was appropriate" and that he "wasn't thinking" when he misstated his record.
The Giannoulias campaign called Kirk's presser a "hollow" apology.
"Allow me to be blunt," read the statement sent by campaign spokesperson Matt McGrath. "Congressman Kirk wasn't careless and he didn't misremember -- he lied. One mistake is careless. Misrepresenting, embellishing or not telling the truth about 10 different phases of your military career over a 10-year period is a pattern of lies, plain and simple."
Outside the presser, a handful of young democratic protesters are wearing aprons that say "if you can't stand heat, run through the kitchen," referring to his jog away from press a week ago at the Chicago Hyatt.
Breakdown of Kirk's comments:
Big applause as Kirk arrives. Also here GOP state chair Pat Brady. Joe Birkett and Dan Rutherford. Speech quotes: "Economic growth is anemic," "Washington searches for new taxes," "We should not stick American taxpayer...". "We need to plug the hole in the gulf."
"We are tired of unproductive partisan bickering." "I have made mistakes ah - concerning... My service. I am not perfect and was careless and it will never happen again." Big applause.
Kirk willing to place his service "compared to my opponent...and be mindful of my imperfections."
Kirk answering questions on a variety of topics. VIDEO TO COME. Breakdown:
On Rep. Chairman taking his pics down:
Reason for not talking to media:
"I was overbooked last week."
On being open to the media:
"Because this is a high office, you will see my schedule."
On Pentagon reprimand:
"When you're a congressman and a reservist...keep the two worlds separate...I was counseled on twitter posting."
"I wasn't thinking."
On his teaching career -- did he misspeak?
Doesn't agree that he did. Says he was referring to high school kids at his school.
On why anyone should believe him:
"In the end we should rely on the official record."
"I think the scrutiny is appropriate."
"If you make a mistake own it and make sure it doesn't happen again."
(Crowd cheers "move on, move on" when Kirk is asked repeatedly about his embellishments.)
On Daley and the Supreme Court's gun decision:
"I look forward to how he will thread the needle" on 2nd amendment.
On this race:
"I expect this will be one of the dramatic rock and roll races this state has seem in a long time."
Won't say how he'd vote.
Again on embellishments -- was it willful?
"I would say it is careless."
On Alexi and Blago:
"He certainly has issues as well...meetings as well...let's see if he testifies."