J.R. Majewski doubled down on claims that he served in Afghanistan as a member of the Air Force but declined to show any documentation. (Photo: Phillip L. Kaplan/The Blade via AP)
J.R. Majewski, the embattled GOP House candidate in Ohio who embellished his military service, said Friday that he didn't lie about deploying to Afghanistan, following a bombshell Associated Press report.
"The orders and the military records that I have been able to obtain from my personal files shows that all of my deployments are listed as classified," Majewski said during a press conference, after the AP reported Wednesday that the Air Force has no records of the MAGA Republican seeing combat in Afghanistan, as he's claimed publicly numerous times.
Majewski, who turned a large swath of his lawn into a mural for then-President Donald Trump in 2020, also said that he may sue the wire service's reporters and, if elected, would pursue a law "that would make it a crime to besmirch veterans." He also said that he has photos from his time in Afghanistan and "was in multiple bases," but he declined to name any when pressed.
"Marcy Kaptur and The Associated Press, you are a disgrace to veterans who serve this country. I demand a public apology," Majewski said, referring to his Democratic opponent in the House race. He also called AP's investigation a "hit piece" by "a liberal journalist."
The national GOP all but abandoned Ohio's 9th District after the revelation, with the House Republican campaign committee canceling nearly $1 million in ads for the Toledo market - a sign that it's losing confidence in Majewski's ability to oust Kaptur, the most tenured woman in the chamber.
"Majewski's ... misleading claims need to be addressed, and it's incumbent upon him to provide honesty and clarity - not continued evasiveness and deflection," said Kaptur's campaign, according to local outlet 13abc.
Shortly after the investigation dropped, election forecasters at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics changed their rating for the district from "Toss-up" to "Leans Democratic."
Majewski has touted himself as an Air Force veteran who deployed to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, facing "tough" conditions like a lack of running water. But the AP investigation revealed that the military branch only has records of Majewski being stationed in Japan and Qatar.
A booster of the QAnon conspiracy movement who once said that Republican-leaning states should secede from the country, the Ohioan is among the extremist candidates the GOP nominated to compete in swing districts this year. However, Majewski has recently sought to temper his rhetoric, saying that he regretted being at the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and removing anti-abortion statements from his website.
Doubling down on his military claims is unlikely to endear Majewski to swing voters in what national Republicans thought would be an easy midterm pickup. GOP legislators had redrawn Kaptur into a conservative-leaning district that Trump won by 3 points in 2020, potentially jeopardizing her reelection prospects.
Still, along with the makeup of the district, demographic shifts that have made Ohio a more reliably Republican state mean Majewski's candidacy isn't over yet.
"'Lean D' is not 'safe D.' If Majewski won, I wouldn't be that surprised," Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of the Sabato's Crystal Ball newsletter at UVA's Center for Politics, told HuffPost.
"But I also think that given he has a lot of weaknesses as a candidate to begin with, Kaptur's been around forever, and he had this double whammy of news the past few days ... I think that's enough to look at Kaptur as the favorite. We'll see how things develop. There's still time for other groups to get involved."
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.