(WASHINGTON) — New York Rep. George Santos, who continues to claim his mother was in downtown Manhattan on 9/11 despite immigration documents indicating she wasn’t even in the United States, has invited a former ground zero volunteer firefighter to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
According to a Monday news release from Santos’ office, his guest, Michael Weinstock, joined first responders in New York City on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and was later diagnosed with neuropathy, a nerve disorder.
“[Weinstock’s] condition is a direct result of the dust and toxins released from the World Trade Center, and the condition is not covered under the World Trade Center Health Program,” the news release states, referring to the federal coverage for people sickened in the attacks and their aftermath.
In a statement quoted in the news release, Weinstock, a former Democratic congressional candidate, said: “I have travelled to Washington to bring attention to firefighters with neuropathy. This is an issue that transcends politics and speaks to my heart.”
Santos took to the House floor on Monday to advocate for expanded health coverage for people who suffer from 9/11-related illnesses. He also displayed a photo of what he said was Weinstock on Sept. 11.
“Since the World Trade Center Health Program does not cover neuropathy, people like Michael must pay out of pocket for treatment, medications and other medical needs. I ask my colleagues that we work together and find a solution and have conditions such as neuropathy be covered under the World Trade Center Program Act,” Santos said.
9/11 has become a point of controversy for Santos as one of several key parts of his biography that have been shown to be false, exaggerated or disputed by other information.
He maintained in an interview with One America News last week that “the toxic dust that permeated throughout Manhattan and my mother being present [in] downtown Manhattan” led to her death in 2016.
Santos’ campaign website also currently states that his mother “was in her office in the South Tower on September 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded.”
However, ABC News previously obtained documents showing Santos’ mother was not in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks.
According to the documents from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, Santos’ mom, Fatima Devolder, applied in February 2003 for an immigrant visa from the American consulate in Brazil. The form states that she had not been in the United States since June 1999.
During his interview with OAN, Santos said he didn’t understand the immigration documents showing his mom wasn’t in the U.S. on 9/11.
“That, to me remains a mystery because I was here and I was 13 years old. So I want to understand where they’re coming from with this,” he said.
He added that while his family believes his mother died from a 9/11-related illness, “We’ve never been able to prove that through claims and we’ve never been able to qualify for claims as a family and we just let it go.”
Santos, a first-term Republican representing New York’s 3rd Congressional District, has been dealing with controversy and investigations since before he took office last month.
County, state and federal authorities are looking into a number of issues raised about Santos, including related to his campaign’s finances, while Brazilian prosecutors have said they are seeking to revive check fraud charges against Santos from when he was a teenager and New York Democrats Reps. Dan Goldman and Ritchie Torres have filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee.
Santos said in December that “I am not a criminal.”
“This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good,” he told The New York Post.
Last week, Santos told House Republicans he would temporarily recuse himself from his two assigned committees, on small business and on science, space and technology.
A spokesperson for Santos told ABC News at the time that “the congressman is reserving his seats on his assigned committees until he has been properly cleared of both campaign and personal financial investigations.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy indicated that if he were to fill Santos’ committee seats, it would be on a temporary basis.
McCarthy insisted to reporters last week that he did not pressure Santos to recuse himself but said he has “some new questions” about the embattled congressman.
“I think going through ethics will answer some others. I think until he goes through that, it would be better that he doesn’t serve on committees,” McCarthy said on Wednesday.
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