It's been a rough week for Mark Kirk. Below, the timeline of revelations about his military service record.*
Narrative: National media notes Kirk's record is inaccurate.
Key Quote: "I was the Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year."
The Washington Post reports that Kirk "inaccurately claimed" the "Intelligence Officer of the Year" award, and had been doing so since 2002. The Post's report included an acknowledgment that a Navy official couldn't clarify the matter, and that Kirk had changed his web site sometime in the past week. Critically, the Post acknowledges they were tipped off by Alexi Giannoulias. Kirk sends an e-blast, titled "Desperate", in which he calls Giannoulias a "failed mob banker" and refutes small details in the Post's article.
Kirk's Campaign Strategy: Maintain the Rufus Taylor Award is just as honorable. Attack Giannoulias' character. Don't apologize.
Monday, May 31st (Memorial Day)
Narrative: Kirk remains defiant.
Quote: "I changed the record once my staff told me the award had a different title."
Kirk and Giannoulias make separate Memorial Day appearances. Kirk, speaking to reporters, says that his staff informed him that his record was incorrect. Kirk also says Alexi's "political goons" are trying to dig up dirt on him.
Several publications, including the Huffington Post, publish archival C-Span video that shows Kirk reading a statement that includes a false assertion about his award. Implication: the error wasn't hidden away in some dusty resume file -- Kirk was actively and willfully repeating it. Several publications link to Ben Smith's Politico post from May 21st, in which he points out that Kirk has made misstatements about his roll at the Pentagon.
Kirk's Campaign Strategy: Attack Giannoulias' lack of military service. Take responsibility, but don't directly apologize.
Narrative: 2nd major misstatement revealed -- Kirk inflated resume in campaign video.
Quote: "The Navy named Mark Intelligence Officer of the Year for his combat service in Kosovo."
Reporters note that at least one of Kirk's campaign videos says Kirk was awarded the "Intelligence Officer of the Year" citation for "combat service in Kosovo." Kirk's campaign removes the video from YouTube and Kirk's site.
Kirk misstated his resume in 2005 as well, Talking Points Memo reveals. An Afghanistan vet and blogger called Kirk out for saying he served "in Operation Iraqi Freedom" (which implies combat service in the Middle East). Kirk changed his resume to say "during Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Several more publications say that the first person to really hone in one Kirk's misstatements was
Illinois California blogger Terry Welch, with this post from May 20th.
Kirk's Campaign Strategy: Continue touting service, address new revelations as minor errors.
Narrative: Historical revelations about Kirk's misstatements surface; Questions about Kirk's explanations.
Quote: "I have a very good staff and they said 'Boss, the title of this award was different than what's in the bio'. So I said, 'We've gotta change that.' "
The Post's Greg Sargent, among others, equates Kirk's change to Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal's dissembling. More revelations of Kirk's misstatements pop up in campaign literature.
Defending his record, Kirk tells Fox that his staff initiated the changes to his record. But the Navy disagreed with that assertion, saying they informed Kirk that the Washington Post was inquiring about his record. Kirk's campaign countered, saying they've been reviewing Kirk's record ever since the Richard Blumenthal story broke.
Kirk's Campaign Strategy: Continue defending record and service.
Thursday, June 3rd
Narrative: Kirk apologizes to Chicago papers, blames errors on "misremembering", "civilian-speak", and "hectic life".
Quote: "I misremembered it wrong."
Kirk acknowledges that his campaign rhetoric wasn't matching the cavalcade of revelations. Speaking to the Tribune editorial board, Kirk says he had tried to translate precise military terms into “civilian-speak.” Kirk also acknowledges that another campaign assertion -- that he came under fire while flying above Iraq -- may not be correct.
Speaking to the Sun-Times editorial board, Kirk says "I misremembered it wrong." The full video's below.
Kirk's Campaign Strategy: Apologize, but don't admit that ten years worth of misstatements amount to intentional embellishment.
* Additions, corrections, please leave a comment or hit us up at twitter.com/ward_room.