Politics & Government

Former lawmaker’s attempt to clear his name prompts fresh accusations

Former state Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting
Former state Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting Legislative Support Services

Former state Rep. Graham Hunt’s effort to rehabilitate his image prompted scathing new accusations from a top GOP political operative Monday, who said the former lawmaker tried to deceive him about a doctored war photo posted on social media.

Kevin Carns, the political director for state House Republicans, went public with a new accusation of deception by the Orting Republican, centering on a doctored photo posted in 2014 to Hunt’s Facebook page that 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 with which the Associated Press photo had run, reporting 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 resigned this year amid accusations he’d exaggerated his military service. Last week, he released new records that show he served in combat zones in the Middle East early in the Iraq War. They also clarify that he received certain military medals for his service there, although not the ones he initially claimed.

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.”