Former state Rep. Graham Hunt has released new military records in an effort to clear his name. But the effort led a top GOP political operative to lob a new accusation of lying by the former lawmaker.
Seeking to clear his name a few months after resigning amid accusations he’d exaggerated his military service, former state Rep. Graham Hunt has released new records showing he was credited with serving in a combat zone.
But his effort didn’t clear up all the questions about his record — and prompted scathing new accusations from a top GOP political operative, who said the former lawmaker tried to deceive him about a doctored war photo posted on social media.
In a public statement Monday, Hunt called his decision to quit “a mistake.” He released a one-page copy of military discharge papers showing some additional medals earned during his time in the Air National Guard.
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Those include a gold border designation on his Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon, denoting service by persons involved in combat operations or supporting combat operations in a designated combat zone.
“I am a combat veteran, and now I have the records to prove it,” Hunt said of the one-page summary of his military service, which was first reported by the News Tribune of Tacoma.
Hunt’s records show he earned several other awards, including a Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Service medal, for military personnel who served abroad in the war on terrorism following Sept. 11, 2001.
However, the updated records did not back up some other military-service claims previously made by Hunt. The Seattle Times reported in January that Hunt had listed three medals the military had no record of his receiving: the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
The summary of his military service, known as a DD-214, also does not indicate whether Hunt served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Previously disclosed records show Hunt was stationed at an air base in Saudi Arabia, where he won an Achievement Medal for screening vehicles for explosives.
Hunt previously has said he could not remember details or units involved in his combat missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. In his latest statement, Hunt said he entered Iraq during one “ad hoc” detail in 2003, as a machine-gunner on an armored vehicle. He did not mention Afghanistan.
While on gunner duty, he said he was hit by a bullet on the breast plate of his body armor. In another incident, he said he was slashed in the thumb by a person attempting to smuggle a knife onto a military base.
Hunt’s effort to rehabilitate his image drew an angry fusillade from Kevin Carns, the political director for state House Republicans, who said Hunt’s “minor paper work correction” proved nothing.
Carns went public with a new accusation of deception by Hunt, centering on a doctored photo posted in 2014 to Hunt’s Facebook page which falsely purported to depict Hunt after a mortar attack in Iraq in 2005.
Hunt has said a campaign volunteer posted the photo and that he never personally asserted to anyone that he was pictured in the image. He said he had the post removed as soon as it was pointed out to him.
In a lengthy post on Facebook Monday, Carns said that’s not true.
Carns said he and another GOP political staffer went to Hunt’s insurance office in 2014 to ask him about the photo after it appeared in campaign literature and online.
“When we asked if it was actually him in the photograph he replied that it ‘absolutely’ was,” Carns wrote.
When confronted with a news story in which The Associated Press photo had run, showing the photo was of two other soldiers, Hunt “turned white as a ghost,” Carns said, but “doubled down” on his claim that he was one of the men in the picture, even pretending to search for the “original” on his computer.
Carns, who is an Army veteran, said he believed Hunt was not being truthful, but let the matter drop at the time.
In an email, Hunt responded that Carns is either lying or misremembering that incident.
A second GOP aide who attended the meeting backed Carns’ account in an interview Monday. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the meeting. And another former House GOP aide, Troy Nichols, said Carns recounted the same story immediately after the meeting in 2014.
Carns said in an interview he’d be willing to testify under oath to his version of events.
“The bottom line is that his (Hunt’s) credibility was and is totally destroyed, not by the so called ‘establishment’ or media but by his own body of lies. The photo issue alone is textbook stolen valor,” Carns said.
Hunt on Monday also provided a Feb. 2 email purporting to be from the campaign volunteer who posted the Facebook item, apologizing for “making an inaccurate post.” Reached by phone, a man identifying himself as the volunteer declined to answer any questions from a reporter.
Carns said Hunt’s new statements do not clear up other issues, including accusations by former colleagues who said the former lawmaker claimed to have served in the Marines.
Hunt said that’s not true and chalked it up to “a misunderstanding.” He acknowledged “some mistakes in how I first presented my military record,” but said they were “honest mistakes.”
A former state chairman for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, Hunt has remained active in conservative GOP circles since his resignation from office. He was recently elected as one of Washington’s 44 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month.
His new statements come as Hunt has been trying to raise money to pay for that trip.
“I offer all of this not to seek praise for doing my duty, but to correct the errors made by me and others earlier this year and finally set the record straight,” Hunt wrote in his public statement.