Embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter is complying with a request from the U.S. Marine Corps to remove their official military insignia from campaign materials, Hunter’s campaign said Thursday.
“Congressman Hunter’s campaign immediately complied and is taking all appropriate measures to ensure this matter is addressed appropriately and thoroughly,” spokesman Mike Harrison said, adding that “it is personally disappointing” to Hunter, a former Marine who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, that he can no longer use the Marine Corps motto or image.
Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Fugler said the Marines’ eagle, globe and anchor logo is protected by federal law and can’t be used in relation with any political activities.
Hunter, a California Republican, is facing trial in federal court in September for allegedly using campaign funds to pay for expensive vacations, bar tabs, fine dining and routine household items like tuition and school lunches.
His wife, Margaret Hunter, recently struck a plea deal with prosecutors, admitting that she and her husband used the campaign credit card for personal items. The congressman has denied wrongdoing and has repaid more than $60,000 to the Federal Election Commission for charges he said were erroneously put on the campaign credit card.
In recent court filings, prosecutors also alleged he used campaign funds to finance extramarital affairs, which he denies.
He generated controversy in recent months while defending a Navy SEAL accused of killing a wounded enemy combatant in his custody in May 2017 after he and his fellow SEALS administered medical aid. While discussing that case, Hunter said that as an artillery officer, his unit “killed probably hundreds of civilians” during his 2004 tour in Fallujah, Iraq. In an interview with CNN, he clarified that he never intentionally targeted civilians, but said he was describing the reality of war, calling it a “byproduct of combat.”
An early supporter of President Donald Trump who serves in one of the most conservative districts in California, Hunter beat Ammar Campa-Najjar last fall in a campaign criticized for what many viewed as a brazenly anti-Muslim message. Campa-Najjar, a Christian who is the son of a Mexican-American mother and Palestinian father, said in a statement Thursday that Hunter’s campaign mailers “were so dishonorable and discrediting that they drew the attention of the United States Marine Corps, prompting the branch to issue a cease-and-desist order.”
“The Congressman’s lies don’t reflect the position of the United States Marine Corps anymore than his conduct reflects the character of our district. We deserve better,” said Campa-Najjar, who is looking to challenge Hunter again in 2020.
Hunter is also expected to face a robust crop of Republican challengers in 2020. Republican Larry Wilske, a retired Navy SEAL, officially announced his candidacy in March, along with Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn and El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, who mounted a challenge for Hunter’s seat in 2018.