Rep. Tom MacArthur isn’t at all concerned about his attacks on Andy Kim’s record backfiring after a fact check by the Washington Post sided with the congressman’s claims that Kim overstated his role in President George Bush’s administration when he called himself a “national security officer” in a recently-aired TV ad.
“The reality is, as the Washington Post reported, he was an entry-level person for five months, at 22 years old. I’m not saying what he did didn’t matter. I’m sure it did matter, but don’t lie to people and try to get them to believe that you were a high-level person under George Bush when you were an entry-level person for five months at a sort of off-to-the-side agency,” MacArthur said. “That’s just a flat-out lie, and that’s why the Washington Post gave him double Pinnochios.”
Kim began airing an ad last month that claimed he was a “national security officer” for Republican and Democratic presidents. While he did serve as a national security staffer for President Barack Obama, his tenure under Bush was significantly shorter, and his role there was far less prestigious.
For roughly five months in 2005, Kim held an entry-level position at the U.S. Agency for International Development. According to a Washington Post fact check by former Observer reporter Sal Rizzo, the position came with a $37,390 salary and was equivalent in rank to a second-level lieutenant in the army, the lowest-level position for commissioned officers.
For his claim, the Post awarded Kim two Pinnochios, an designation that signifies “significant omissions and/or exaggerations.” While the ranking does not necessarily denote factual error, it’s essentially the Post’s method of marking a statement “half-true.”
Following the fact check, New Jersey Republicans have come out with calls for Kim to pull the ad and apologize.
“Once again, Andy Kim was caught red handed trying to fool voters in South Jersey. Integrity dictates that he pull his ad from the air immediately and replace it with an apology,” NJGOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in a statement. “If Kim isn’t comfortable running on his true, professional experiences, then perhaps he’s figured out for himself that he’s not qualified to serve in Congress.”
On Monday, Kim released statements from three current and former USAID officials, including Jeremy Konyndyk, who was formerly the director of the agency’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
Former USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator and former National Security Council official Corinne Graff said that the term “officer” was used colloquially to describe all non-senior-level civilian staff at U.S. national security agencies, including USAID.
“USAID officers, from entry-level on up, work hand in hand with our military, diplomats, and the White House National Security Council to implement a holistic national security strategy,” Konyndyk said. “Andy’s service across each of those Ds – at State and AID, as well as helping to coordinate the counter-ISIL fight from the White House – gives him a unique breadth of experience in advancing US security.”
While Kim may have used the term in the way it was understood within the agency, it’s unlikely that voters would understand the distinction, as the term “officer” generally denotes a position of authority when used outside the confines of Washington’s national security apparatus.
In either case, the backing of those officials means little to MacArthur, who said it wasn’t hard to find a friendly face to back a spurious claim.
“This is somebody that seems to have a pathological compulsion to puff himself up instead of just being straight about who he is. I think the people of south jersey deserve better than that,” MacArthur said. “Anyone can find somebody that is their friend to say ‘he’s a standup guy.’”
But, despite the blowback, Kim hasn’t indicated any intention to pull the ad.
“We’re proud of Andy’s positive message. The intent of our ad is to show voters Andy’s bipartisan career working in national security under the leadership of both Democratic and Republican presidents,” Kim campaign manager Zack Carroll said. “Andy wasn’t a political appointee, he was a public servant focused on getting the job done regardless of who was at the top, and that is what voters will take away from this ad.”