By: Cooper Dutton
Tampa, Florida—Following the scandal over George Santos’ extensive lies about his past, another freshman Republican Representative, Anna Paulina Luna of Florida, also appears to have lied about her past, including false claims about Jewish heritage.
According to a Washington Post exposé published February 10, much of the picture Luna painted of herself on her campaign trail seems to be false. From changing her last name from Mayerhofer to Luna, to changing her political beliefs from an Obama-supporting liberal to a hardline far-right conservative, most of the persona that got her elected appears to be fabricated.
Luna was elected in part because of a compelling personal story of overcoming a difficult childhood, serving in the Air Force, and eventually becoming the first Mexican American woman elected to represent Florida in Congress.
But according to family and friends from her time in the military, much of that personal bio is false or misleading. Friends from the Air Force said that she identified as Middle Eastern, Eastern European, or Jewish, not as a Latina. Luna now has embraced her Mexican heritage, but friends say that she did not associate with any of the Hispanic organizations on base and used the English pronunciation of her first name.
It was not until 2018 when she began preparing to run for Congress the first time against then-Representative Charlie Crist, that Luna leaned into her Hispanic heritage. After initially registering to vote as a non-Hispanic white in 2015, she updated her registration in 2019 to identify as Hispanic. That same year, she filed paperwork to change her last name from Mayerhofer to Luna, which she said was because she wanted to “represent my Hispanic heritage and have the same last name as my mother.”
Luna’s mother supports her daughter’s claims, saying in statements that Luna had always identified as Hispanic and that her father spoke Spanish with her when she was a child.
Luna also claims to be a Messianic Jew by heritage, after her father. Messianic Judaism, or Jewish Christianity, is characterized by its adherents claiming to be Jewish while still believing that Jesus is the Messiah. All denominations of Judaism, as well as Jewish organizations, reject that it is a form of Judaism, for its claim that Jesus is the Messiah is fundamentally incompatible with Jewish teachings.
According to her extended family, however, Luna’s father was Roman Catholic and did not practice any form of Judaism while she was growing up. Through a spokesperson, Luna denied this and said that those family members were estranged.
According to her uncle, Luna’s paternal grandfather was a Nazi, having fought in the German army during World War II. He submitted a photo of her grandfather in his uniform, which experts confirmed was that of a Nazi soldier.
The revelations have drawn outcry from Democrats. MSNBC host Mehdi Hassan said, “I’ll be honest, even I didn’t have ‘grandkid of an actual Nazi’ on my House GOP Bingo card for 2023.”
Others called out hypocrisy from Republicans, including human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid, who said, “Republicans removed Rep Ilhan Omar from committee due to ‘antisemitism.’ Meanwhile, now two GOP reps have claimed they were Jewish, when in reality they were not, and in this case, Luna is literally a Nazi’s granddaughter — and total acceptance from GOP.”
Luna has pushed back against allegations of antisemitism, saying through a spokesperson that “it is very unfortunate that they’re trying to make that connection, but the reality is Rep. Luna is a strong supporter of Israel, and whatever connection they’re trying to make is irrelevant.” They also noted that the congresswoman’s maternal great-grandfathers fought for America during World War II.
Luna defined herself early on in her tenure as a headache for House GOP leadership. She was one of the 20 Republicans who dragged out the Speaker vote for almost an entire week before switching her vote after Kevin McCarthy gave into the hard-liners’ demands.
The Washington Post article has drawn comparisons with fellow freshman GOP Representative George Santos, who has been under fire for two months after he falsified his entire persona, which also included falsely claiming to be Jewish.