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Ohio GOP candidate maintains he served in military

ABC News 2022-09-25
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An Ohio Republican House candidate who critics say misrepresented his time in the military as a combat veteran in Afghanistan is hitting back at the allegations, calling the reports about his service "blatantly false."

Speaking at a press conference Friday, J.R. Majewski, who is running for Ohio's 9th Congressional District, said, "Let me be clear. Anyone insinuating that I did not serve in Afghanistan is lying. I served in our United States of America, across multiple countries in many roles, but that didn't matter to the liberal media, who wrote a politically-motivated hit piece on me."

Military records reviewed by ABC News indicate Majewski was based in Qatar, where he completed a six-month stint.

The Air Force released a statement to ABC News that while there is no way for them to verify whether or not Majewski served in Afghanistan during his deployment in Qatar, and although there are service medals associated with those locations that might narrow down records of his service, "the list of awards and decorations in our personnel records may be incomplete or not up to date because some require action on the member's part to submit or validate."

Ohio Republican congressional candidate J.R. Majewski defends his military record at a news conference on Sept. 23, 2022, in Holland, Ohio. © John Seewer/AP Ohio Republican congressional candidate J.R. Majewski defends his military record at a news conference on Sept. 23, 2022, in Holland, Ohio.

Majewski did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The Republican hopeful has often touted his military service and promoted himself in advertisements and interviews as a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan.

"I'll say it again. I flew into combat zones often. Specifically in Afghanistan, and I served my country proudly," said Majewski at the presser outside the Lucas County Republican headquarters in Holland, Ohio. "Mark my words. The people of Ohio's ninth district will see through these lies," adding that he may consider suing reporters from The Associated Press, which was the first to report on Majewski's military documents.

When reached for comment Saturday, Lauren Easton, the vice president of AP Corporate Communications, told ABC News that "The Associated Press stands by its story."

When asked by a reporter during the conference where in particular Majewski traveled to in Afghanistan, the Republican House nominee said that there were "only a couple of bases" in the country and that he "flew in and out of the area" multiple times and that his visits are "listed as classified locations."

Majewski also released some of his military documents on his Twitter page before the start of the presser, with one document showing that he was eligible for re-enlistment and another one indicating that his grandmother had passed away while he was deployed.

Majewski went on Newsmax, a conservative news outlet, Thursday evening to talk about his service overseas, and when asked by the host whether he "ever set foot in Afghanistan," Majewski said, "Absolutely."

He added, "Myself and other airmen deployed to Qatar. That was where CENTCOM was. That was our staging base and we deployed from there, all throughout the area of responsibility and we're the people that gave supplies to the frontline. We're the people that transported the fighters to the frontline."

Majewski said on the network he believes he's "entitled to call himself a combat veteran."

When asked in the Newsmax interview about not having medals that would traditionally be given to those who have served a specific number of days in Afghanistan or have been deployed overseas in "direct service to the War on Terror," Majewski said he "did not apply" for some of those military decorations because he "exited the service honorably" before those medals were created or "identified as a campaign medal."

Majewski furthermore claims that his opponent, Democratic incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur, "slandered" him and that her ads targeting him have "all been slanderous, libelous attacks" against him.

In a tweet Majewski posted last year in August, he said that "I'm a veteran of OEF," making a referencing to "Operation Enduring Freedom," a military action launched by then President George W. Bush in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

"I'd gladly suit up and go back to Afghanistan tonight and give my best to save those Americans who were abandoned," Majewski added in the August 2021 tweet.

Majewski, who has no prior political background, is now locked in a race that the non-partisan Cook Political Report considers a "toss-up" between him and Kaptur, who is the longest serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives. Due to redistricting this year, the region, which used to be considered "safe" for Democrats, now favors Republicans.

In this Feb. 17, 2022, file photo, Rep. Marcy Kaptur speaks during an event at the Shipyards in Lorain, Ohio. © Ken Blaze/AP, FILE In this Feb. 17, 2022, file photo, Rep. Marcy Kaptur speaks during an event at the Shipyards in Lorain, Ohio.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the GOP's chief fundraising committee dedicated to electing Republicans to the House, has withdrawn about $1 million in advertisements for Majewski from the 9th Congressional District, a move first reported by Medium Buying, a group that monitors advertisement in media.

The NRCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

In June, Majewski garnered the coveted endorsement by former President Donald Trump but not before he first gained attention in Ohio by transforming his lawn into a giant sign that read "Trump 2020 KEEP AMERICA GREAT!"

Majewski, a self-described "ultra-MAGA," and who frequently wear clothing with those words etched on them, has said he participated in the protest outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but that he never went inside the building.

Following the 2020 presidential election, he called for the states that voted for Trump to secede from the United States, according to a livestream video on the Periscope app. Now-deleted Twitter posts from Majewski also show the candidate tweeted and engaged with QAnon hashtags, according to a CNN report.

When asked by ABC News at a rally hosted by Trump earlier this month in Youngstown, Ohio, on what his thoughts were about the former president reposting via his Truth Social platform a photoshopped image of himself wearing a "Q" pin on his lapel with the words, "The Storm is Coming," Majewski said he has "no idea," and "no thoughts, no opinions" on the post by Trump.

When asked about the claims that he sympathized with QAnon, Majewski told ABC News, "The issues are not QAnon. The issues are inflation... and the Democratic destruction of America. Nothing else really matters."

Majewski has previously said he is not a QAnon believer, telling The Toledo Blade last year, "I've never read any QAnon drop -- what they call the 'Q-Drop.'"

In a statement to ABC News Thursday on the reports of her opponent's military service, Kaptur said, "the truth matters".

"As the only Ohioan on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, I know so many veterans - including those in my own family - who have served our grateful nation with honor," Kaptur said. "The idea that anyone, much less a candidate for the United States Congress, would mislead voters about their service in combat is an affront to every man and woman who has proudly worn the uniform of our great country. J.R. Majewski owes each of these heroes a full explanation about his deception."

ABC's Matthew Seyler contributed to this report.

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