Times Watchdog: Orting Republican state Rep. Graham Hunt is under increasing pressure from Republican leaders over allegations he embellished his military record

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Pressure is mounting on state Rep. Graham Hunt to clear up questions over his military record — or resign.

In an interview Wednesday, House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, said he has told Hunt, R-Orting, to produce proof he did not knowingly exaggerate his military service.

“While he is a member of this caucus, and I am hopeful he is able to clear up this matter, ultimately this is a serious enough matter where if he cannot clear it up … then I think he is going to have to step down,” Kristiansen said.

Hunt said in an email he is continuing to search for records to show he did not mislead anyone. “I have continued working on trying to find documents to attempt to clear up the issues. I would like to have this cleared up … ”

Hunt is up for re-election this fall. But as of Wednesday, his name and photo had been stricken from the website of the House Republican Organizational Committee — the campaign arm of the state House GOP.

Kristiansen said he ordered Hunt’s photo and bio removed because of the military-service questions.

While Kristiansen did not put a timeline on when Hunt must deliver documentation regarding his service, he said he told him it should be an “immediate priority.”

The Seattle Times first reported this month that military records did not verify Hunt’s claims of being a “combat veteran” of Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he’d claimed three medals the military has no record of him receiving. A military spokeswoman cautioned that its records are sometimes incomplete.

The Times also reported on a doctored photo posted on Hunt’s Facebook page in 2014. That post falsely claimed the photo showed Hunt after a mortar attack in 2005.

“I surely have not forgotten that moment,” the post written in Hunt’s name said. In fact, the photo was of two U.S. soldiers in Iraq in 2003.

Hunt has blamed the Facebook post, which stayed up for months, on a campaign volunteer he has refused to name.

Kristiansen said Wednesday “the jury is still out” on that explanation.

On Sunday, Hunt posted redacted copies of his military-discharge papers on Facebook. Those documents do not back his claims of serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and facing combat.

The records were consistent with what the Air Reserve Personnel Center had earlier told The Seattle Times — that Hunt had served in the Air National Guard based in Arizona and had deployed on active duty to Saudi Arabia as well as to a “classified location.”

The records showed Hunt earned medals including the Air Force Achievement Medal and Expeditionary Medal, but not the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign medals and the Air Force Commendation Medal, as he had earlier claimed.

Hunt, 36, was appointed to the Legislature in 2014 to fill a vacancy, and he was elected to a full term that fall. He represents the 2nd Legislative District of south Pierce and Thurston counties.

He is the state campaign chair for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and has made news as a leading opponent of a rule allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify.

In addition to the Facebook post and discrepancies about medals, Hunt has faced questions over whether he has claimed to also be a Marine veteran.

Tony Belot, a Marine veteran and deputy leader of the 28th Legislative District Republicans, pointed to multiple social-media posts in which Hunt has been identified as a Marine by acquaintances.

“He was going around saying he was a Marine,” Belot said. “This whole thing to me has not been a partisan issue. This is a matter of just telling the truth.”

Asked whether Hunt had claimed Marine service to legislative colleagues or staff, Kristiansen said, “He is having to at this point have some individual conversations with some of those people that may be bringing it up to him.”

In an interview earlier this month, Hunt said he has never portrayed himself as a Marine but had maybe confused some people by talking about being deployed alongside or “with” Marines.

“That has been something I heard people say an awful lot,” Hunt said. “I got tired of correcting it.”