Ron DeSantis accused of overselling his Navy SEAL career at GOP debate

Florida governor served as legal adviser to a Navy SEAL commander in Iraq

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Thursday 24 August 2023 20:53 BST
Related video: Awkward delay from Christie, DeSantis and Pence when asked to raise hand if they back Trump

Ron DeSantis has been accused of overselling his Navy SEAL experience at the first Republican debate.

During the debate in Wisconsin on Wednesday night the Florida governor was asked if he would support compulsory military service in the US.

“I think it should be voluntary, I’m someone that volunteered to serve, inspired by September 11 and I deployed to Iraq alongside US Navy SEALs in places like Fallujah, Ramadi,” answered Mr DeSantis.

Although he never claimed to be an actual member of the elite fighting force, his answer was quickly seized on and criticized on social media.

Ex-Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger pointed out on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that Mr DeSantis was a Judge Advocate General’s Corps lawyer.

“Nothing against JAGS, but quit trying to make people believe you were a navy seal. Jags go through two weeks of training vs other people,” posted Mr Kinzinger, who is a former Air Force pilot.

And lawyer Tristian Snell added: “Ron DeSantis says he was a Navy SEAL. He was NOT. He was a lawyer in the Navy, and at one point he was assigned to provide legal support for a SEAL team commander.”

The Miami Herald in 2018 reported on Mr DeSantis’s military career and spoke with his commander in Iraw who confirmed the politician served in the country in 2007. The newspaper reported that Mr DeSantis worked as a senior legal adviser to US Navy SEALS Captain Dane Thorleifson, who oversaw the Task Force-West in Fallujah dealing with insurgencies.

The Independent has reached out to Mr DeSantis’s campaign for comment.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has surpassed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the odds of a leading bookmaker to take the second spot in the Republican primary behind former President Donald Trump following the first debate.

Mr Ramaswamy, 38, was both booed and cheered in Milwaukee on Wednesday night as he made several controversial statements, calling the “climate change agenda” a “hoax” and arguing that the US should cease all aid to Ukraine.

Mr Trump was in the lead in FiveThirtyEight’s polling average ahead of Wednesday night’s initial GOP debate, which he chose not to attend.

Mr Trump led with 52.1 per cent support, ahead of Mr DeSantis with 15.2 per cent and Mr Ramaswamy with 9.7 per cent.

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