SPRINGFIELD, Ill. | Senate candidate Mark Steven Kirk pushed back Tuesday against a Pentagon statement that he improperly mixed politics with his service in the Navy Reserve, while his Democratic opponent said Mr. Kirk wasn’t being truthful.
The Defense Department said it has twice warned Mr. Kirk after incidents in which he conducted political business while on duty - once by giving interviews about the arrest of former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and once by posting a Twitter statement about his work at the Pentagon.
The Kirk campaign last week denied he had ever improperly mixed politics with his military service, and the Republican seemed to stick to that position Tuesday despite the Pentagon statement.
Miss Kukowski did not immediately respond to a message seeking additional comment.
But Democrat Alexi Giannoulias quickly addressed the issue.
A statement from his campaign said Mr. Kirk was “not being truthful.”
Mr. Giannoulias, the state treasurer, said in a conference call with reporters that the Pentagon statement “raises grave questions.”
“I think this … begs the question of what else in his professional career is Mark Kirk not telling the truth about,” Mr. Giannoulias said. “I think there are a lot of voters who want to hear Mark Kirk’s answer on this latest development.”
Mr. Kirk has made his 21 years of service in the Navy Reserve a key part of his campaign, mentioning it in most speeches and news releases.
But that was before revelations that he had exaggerated his military record, particularly by repeatedly saying he was named intelligence officer of the year. The award in question went to his entire unit.
The Kirk campaign said then that he had “never” violated Pentagon policy.
“The document in question should be viewed for what it is - a baseless political ploy by partisans bent on defending a U.S. Senate seat at any cost,” Miss Kukowski said last week.
In late 2008, Mr. Kirk gave video interviews about Mr. Blagojevich being arrested, the Pentagon statement said. The Kirk campaign counters that regulations allowed him to conduct business related to his congressional duties.
The Defense Department required Mr. Kirk to sign a statement acknowledging that political activity is not permitted while on active duty before he was given permission to return to Afghanistan in December 2009.