The political tailspin of J.R. Majewski, a Republican House candidate in northern Ohio, appears to be worsening one week after the Air Force said it could not corroborate his repeated claims that he served in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the Air Force demoted Mr. Majewski in September 2001 for driving drunk at Kadena Air Base in Japan. Mr. Majewski’s campaign had previously told the news organization that involvement in a “brawl” was the reason he could not re-enlist in the Air Force after his initial four years. The A.P. cited military records it had obtained since its initial reporting last week on Mr. Majewski’s inconsistencies about his service, including where he served.
A campaign spokeswoman for Mr. Majewski, 42, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday about his demotion. In a statement to The A.P., Mr. Majewski acknowledged that he was punished for drunken driving, though he did not address why his campaign previously said his demotion was the result of a fight.
“This mistake is now more than 20 years old,” Mr. Majewski said in the statement. “I’m sure we’ve all done something as young adults that we look back on and wonder, ‘What was I thinking?’ And I’m sure our parents and grandparents share these sentiments.”
The drip of revelations has sent Mr. Majewski, who has been heralded by former President Donald J. Trump, into damage-control mode.
The State of the 2022 Midterm Elections
With the primaries over, both parties are shifting their focus to the general election on Nov. 8.
On Sept. 22, not long after Mr. Majewski was accused of misrepresenting himself as a combat veteran, the National Republican Congressional Committee canceled television ads it had booked to support him in the final six weeks of the campaign, according to AdImpact, a firm that tracks campaign advertising.
The following day, Mr. Majewski insisted that he was staying in his race against longtime Representative Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat. He said that records of his deployment to Afghanistan were “classified” and posted a photo on Twitter of an undated document that he claimed supported this contention, but military experts have pointed out to The A.P. that there are several other steps that Mr. Majewski could take to back up his claims, including having a supervisor or peer vouch for him.
According to a record of punishment proceedings obtained by The A.P., Mr. Majewski was demoted from the rank of airman first class to basic airman after being stopped for drunken driving on Sept. 8, 2001, at the gate of the Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. It made no reference to a fight as contributing to Mr. Majewski’s demotion.
Mr. Majewski’s disciplinary report was not immediately available on Thursday from the National Archives.
Mr. Majewski was deployed for six months in 2002 to Qatar, the Persian Gulf nation that is now home to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, according to Air Force records The New York Times examined last week.
The A.P. noted that he worked as a “passenger operations specialist” while he was in Qatar, helping to load and unload planes. In addition to Air Force records, the news organization used information that it had obtained through a public records request from the National Archives, which provided Mr. Majewski’s record to The Times on Wednesday. Those records made no mention of Afghanistan.
The inconsistencies in Mr. Majewski’s public accounts of his military service brought renewed scrutiny to the candidate, who had already faced questions about his presence at the U.S. Capitol on the day of the Jan. 6 siege and sympathies for the QAnon conspiracy movement.
The role detailed in Mr. Majewski’s military records contrasted sharply with his repeated claims on social media and right-wing podcasts that he was in Afghanistan.
After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last year, Mr. Majewski chided President Biden over the chaotic exit of forces there, saying in a tweet, “I’d gladly suit up and go back to Afghanistan tonight and give my best to save those Americans who were abandoned.”
He also mentioned Afghanistan during a February 2021 appearance on a podcast platform that has drawn scrutiny for promoting conspiracy theories and misinformation.
“I lost my grandmother when I was in Afghanistan, and I didn’t get to see her funeral,” he said.