"New George Santos just dropped": MAGA Republican's claims about her background in dispute

Relatives dispute newly-elected Florida congresswoman's claims about her father and her family background

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer
Published February 10, 2023 12:02PM (EST)
Updated February 10, 2023 6:17PM (EST)
U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) waits for President Joe Biden's State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on February 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) waits for President Joe Biden's State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on February 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

This story has been revised and updated since its original publication. It now includes a statement from Luna's office and corrections to the original Washington Post reporting. As originally published, this article reflected the Post's report that Anna Paulina Luna was registered as a Democrat in Washington state in 2017. That was incorrect: Washington only requires voters to declare a party affiliation when they vote in a presidential primary. The Post further reported that it could find no record that Luna's father, George Mayerhofer, had been incarcerated for criminal offenses in California. A representative for Luna has supplied records of Mayerhofer's criminal convictions to both the Post and Salon.

Before Republican Anna Paulina Luna was elected as the first Mexican American woman to represent Florida in Congress, she had a different identity and set of political beliefs, according to a new report by the Washington Post

Luna went by a different last name, Mayerhofer, and described herself as Middle Eastern, Jewish or Eastern European, her friends told the Post. She wore designer clothing and expressed support for then-President Barack Obama.

Twelve years later, the stories she tells about her upbringing are very different from the ones her friends and family recall. 

Luna has described her childhood as tough growing up in "low-income" neighborhoods in Southern California with a father in and out of incarceration. Her account of being isolated from her extended family doesn't seem to match up with what her cousin has told the Post, who has said that Luna was regularly included in family gatherings. 

"The whole family kind of raised her — my dad was a part of her life when she was younger and we all kind of coddled her," Nicole Mayerhofer, a first cousin who is three years younger than Luna, told the Post. "She was always a part of everything, all these family gatherings and activities."

But it's not just Luna's childhood stories that don't seem to check out. Luna has also claimed that a "home invasion" she experienced while serving in the Air Force in Missouri left her traumatized.

In a 2019 clip from a speaking engagement, she said she experienced a "home invasion" at 4 a.m., saying that her landlord broke into the apartment.

"Had my friend Jeremy not been there to protect me, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be standing right here in front of you guys right now," Luna said. "[My landlord] was not breaking into my house at 4 a.m. to see how I was doing."

However, her roommate Brittany Brooks, who lived with Luna for six months and was a close friend during her military service, recalled different details.

She told the Post that a daytime break-in that occurred when Luna wasn't home. A report from the Warrensburg Police Department obtained by the Post also described the July 2010 episode as a "burglary not in progress."

However, Luna has continued to use that story and said how the "enduring trauma" of the break-in followed her when she moved to Florida.

"When I was stationed in Missouri, I had someone that broke into my house," Luna told reporters at her victory party on election night. "I didn't have a firearm. It wasn't until I got stationed in Florida that I got my concealed carry. So I have lived in circumstances and in states where gun control was pushed."

Brooks said that at the time of the break-in, both she and Luna had guns in the apartment that were given to them by Brooks' father. (Luna has since denied this.)

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It also wasn't until recently that Luna also started embracing her Hispanic heritage and using the Spanish pronunciation of her first name, Brooks said.

"She would really change who she was based on what fit the situation best at the time," Brooks told the Post.

Her fellow service members say Luna did not publicly describe herself as Hispanic 12 years ago and referred to herself using the English pronunciation of her first name, according to the Post. 

Her mother, Monica Luna, has disputed such claims and wrote in an email to the Post that "Anna has never not identified as being Hispanic as far as I know."

Those who knew her at the time said Luna was largely apolitical, but also added that she expressed support for Obama, who was president at the time. Brooks described her as "liberal."

In an interview with Jewish Insider, the Florida congresswoman also claimed that her father raised her as a Messianic Jew — a Jewish person who believes that Jesus is the messiah.

But according to three relatives who spoke with the Post, her father, George Mayerhofer, was Catholic, and they were unaware of him practicing any form of Judaism.

​​Immigration records reviewed by the Post also revealed that Luna's paternal grandfather, Heinrich Mayerhofer, identified as a Roman Catholic when he immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1954. Other family members who spoke with the Post said that Heinrich Mayerhofer had served in the armed forces of Nazi Germany as a teenager in the 1940s.

A spokesperson for Luna said in a statement that the congresswoman would provide "receipts" to refute the Post's reporting. "The Washington Post has clearly showcased the threat conservative minorities like Rep. Luna pose to their leftist control," the spokesperson said.

The report quickly drew comparisons between Luna and another freshman Republican who falsely claimed to be of Jewish heritage.

"New George Santos just dropped," quipped journalist Timothy Burke.

"Sounds like George Santos has a female counterpart," tweeted columnist Molly Jong-Fast.

"I'll be honest," wrote MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, "even I didn't have 'grandkid of an actual Nazi' on my House GOP bingo card for 2023."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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Aggregate Anna Paulina Luna George Santos Politics Republicans Washington Post