Kirk's explanation for award error under scrutiny

The Chicago Tribune published a report Tuesday that disputes Rep. Mark Kirk's (R-Ill.) account of how he learned he was mistakenly claiming to have earned an honor he was never awarded. 

From the Tribune:

Kirk says his staff discovered he was mistakenly claiming to be the U.S. Navy intelligence officer of the year, but a military spokesman said today the Navy alerted Kirk about the inaccuracy after media inquiries.

Cmdr. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman, said the service notified Kirk’s office last Thursday that the Navy was releasing information to the media, including to the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post.

“We just let him know that you, the media, were asking questions about who the Intelligence Officer of the Year was,” Hernandez said. “We let him know that there was an individual who was named reserve intelligence officer of the year.”

In the clear-the-air statement Kirk sent to supporters on May 30, he wrote: "The error was discovered last week by my staff. Going through my Fitness Reports for 1999/2000, we recognized that referring to an award as 'Intelligence Officer of the Year' was not precise -- so we corrected my biography with the official name of a very distinguished award that I am honored to have received."

Meanwhile, his campaign released a statement Wednesday from his former commanding officer.

"When I nominated Mark for the Rufus Taylor award, I thought it was more specific to Mark and not his team," said retired Navy Captain Clay Fearnow. "But the reality is, there would have been no team without Mark Kirk's leadership, and there certainly would have been no award.  

"I can certainly understand why he would have referred to this award over the years as intelligence officer of the year – it's how I viewed the award. And in actuality, the two awards in question are of equal stature and significance."

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