Right after I give him a pat on the back for his knife-work, we get news that The Next Food Network's JAG, known on his birth certificate as Josh Adam Garcia, doesn't quite have the credentials we thought he had. According to some research included in a Marine Times article, a couple of key pieces from his bio didn't hold up under scrutiny. Specifically, claims that he graduated culinary school and that he served in Afghanistan have been called into question.
Regarding the culinary school experience, which took place at the New York Restaurant School. They were able to confirm that he did attend. However:
For starters, he never finished culinary school in New York.
“He attended, but did not graduate,” said Midge Elias, director of public relations at the school, now known as the Art Institute of New York City. Privacy rules prevent the school from releasing any further information, such as number of course hours completed or whether the former Marine used the GI Bill to help finance his training, as he claimed in multiple interviews.
Obviously, the issue that is of greater interest to the folks at Marine Times was his years spent in the service and the claim that he had served in Afghanistan. They have the details about his discharge a number of months before his enlistment was supposed to have ended. They also have some information about a hazing situation that he claims played a part in the discrepancy in his rank. He has referred to himself as a "corporal" when he was, in fact, discharged as a private. Be sure to check out the full article for the back-and-forth between JAG and the reporter.
Likewise, the service has no record of Garcia ever deploying to Afghanistan, and certainly not as a member of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, the infantry unit Garcia said he accompanied to the war zone in 2002. In fact, Marine officials at the battalion’s home at Camp Lejeune, N.C., said the unit did not deploy to Afghanistan that year.
But, the former Marine admitted that it was during the final selections for the show that he let the “war hero” notion take hold.
“That’s my fault,” he said. “I let them believe it, that’s my fault.”
One thing to keep in mind is that there has been a great deal of attention lately paid to false claims of military service. And it's not just resume padding. There are laws that make it a punishable act to wear medals that an individual did not earn. This is a big deal, and even a little "fudging" or "let[ting] them believe it" is not going to be looked kindly upon. Of course, at this point, nobody is talking about any kinds of charges...I'm just pointing this out as context.
But this clearly creates an issue for the folks at the Food Network. The article includes a statement from FN:
“Food Network conducted routine background checks on the competitors featured in the series,” according to the statement, attributed to Bob Tuschman, senior vice-president of programming and production for Food Network (and a recurring judge on the show). “It has come to our attention that some facts about Josh Garcia may have been misrepresented. We are currently investigating this situation and will have a resolution soon. His updated bio, pending further review, has been posted on the Web site.”
They've made a bunch of changes to the bio and will undoubtedly continue to work and make sure everything is right, but it could become a progressively bigger headache for them if JAG continues to progress through the show. Obviously, they know how long he'll be sticking around. If he's only here for another week or two, it will blow over quickly. But if he's in it for the long haul and if the story gets any traction beyond this article, he's going to quickly become a problem and a distraction that the show and Network just don't need.
Labels: The Next Food Network Star