Campaign chairman defends Kirk over military record error

The chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm on Sunday defended Illinois GOP Senate candidate Mark KirkMark Steven KirkWhy Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Bottom Line MORE for his handling of disclosures that he misrepresented his military record.

Kirk, currently a congressman running for the seat once held by President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Climate 'religion' is fueling Australia's wildfires Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him MORE, acknowledged last week that he had wrongly claimed to have won the honor of “Intelligence Officer of the Year” by the Navy — a distinction that went to his unit rather than him.

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“Mark Kirk made clear that his company or his organization got that medal and not him personally, and he apologized for any misunderstanding,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' MORE (R-Texas) said on ABC’s “This Week.” Cornyn is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Cornyn had sharply criticized the Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, over his own misstatements about his war record, most notably when he falsely claimed on repeated occasions that he had served in Vietnam. Asked if he had a double standard, Cornyn suggested Blumenthal had handled his situation worse than Kirk.

“I think the problem with Mr. Blumenthal was when he misrepresented his service in Vietnam, he had a press conference shortly thereafter and said that he had misspoken. That's like shooting yourself in one foot and reloading and shooting yourself in the other foot,” Cornyn said. He said Republicans continue to believe Kirk will win his race against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in Illinois.

After initially defending his military service while voicing “regret” about his misstatements, Blumenthal offered a more full-throated apology days after the revelations were first published in the New York Times.

Kirk has since faced other accusations of exaggerating his military record, including a false claim that he served in Iraq and that he was shot at during combat. He has apologized in several interviews, at one point claiming he “simply misremembered it wrong” when speaking about his record.

Appearing alongside Cornyn on ABC, Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Bring on the brokered convention 18 progressive groups sign unity pledge amid Sanders-Warren feud MORE (D-Mass.) declined to criticize Kirk and said both Kirk and Blumenthal would be judged by voters in their states. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran whose record was called into question during his 2004 presidential campaign, said the controversies were part of the “strange aftermaths” that have followed Vietnam.

“Vietnam seems to be the gift that keeps on giving,” Kerry said, repeating an observation that was made to him during his White House run.

He said Blumenthal had “stepped over a line” but had apologized and moved on, and he praised his record as state attorney general in Connecticut.

He declined to give his own views as a veteran about the misstatements by Kirk and Blumenthal. “I think every veteran had their own personal feelings about it, and obviously it didn’t sit well with a lot of folks,” Kerry said.