Congressman-elect under fire for claiming his mother died in 9/11 attacks
New York Congressman-elect George Santos, who admitted this week to “embellishing” his resume, allegedly failed to come clean about a claim that his mother died in the September 11 attacks.
The New York Post reported the story on Thursday, pointing to a July 2021 Twitter post in which Santos said, “9/11 claimed my mother’s life.” Five months later, he was back on Twitter, saying he was marking the fifth anniversary of his mother’s death, meaning she died in December 2016.
According to the online obituary for Santos’ mother, Fatima A.C.H. Devolder, this claim was true. She died at the age of 54 in December 2016, more than 15 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Devolder was in her office in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when a hijacked airliner flew into the building, according to Santos’ campaign website. She survived the attack, but she died “a few years later, when she lost her battle to cancer,” the website said.
New York health officials have reportedly identified more than 23,000 cancer cases among emergency workers and people who lived, worked, or went to school near the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks. The Post said that while it’s possible that Santos’ mother contracted cancer from toxins released in the collapse of the Twin Towers, there’s no evidence that she was at or around the site during or shortly after the attacks.
Santos has not responded to questions over the claims about his mother. The 34-year-old lawmaker-to-be admitted on Monday in an interview with the Post that he had lied during the campaign about his college education, employment history, and religious background. Santos described himself in campaign materials as a “proud American Jew.” He admitted to the Post that he was actually Catholic.
Santos also claimed that his family had escaped Nazi persecution in Ukraine before fleeting to Belgium and later to the US. A genealogist hired by CNN was unable to find any trace of Ukrainian or Jewish heritage in Santos’ background. Devolder was born in Brazil.
Grilled by former presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard during a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Santos said: “I can say the same thing about Democrats. Look at Joe Biden. Joe Biden has been lying to the American people for 40 years.”