9/11 activist blasts George Santos for taking survivor to State of the Union after ‘lies’: ‘Piece of s***’

EXCLUSIVE: After being accused of lying about 9/11, disgraced congressman George Santos invited a volunteer firefighter to the State of the Union as his guest. John Feal, a 9/11 first responder and activist, tells Rachel Sharp that Santos is ‘using the 9/11 community for his redemption tour’ and reveals the congressman’s latest allegedly false claims to survivors of the terror attacks

Wednesday 08 February 2023 13:40 GMT
George Santos on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on 31 January
George Santos on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on 31 January (REUTERS)

9/11 first responder and activist John Feal has blasted George Santos for inviting a volunteer firefighter to the State of the Union following his alleged lies about the tragedy – as he claimed the congressman has made further false claims to survivors of the terror attacks.

Speaking to The Independent on Tuesday morning, Mr Feal said that the disgraced Republican congressman is “using the 9/11 community for his redemption tour” and is “disrespecting” all the lives that were lost and continue to be lost because of that day.

“Every time George Santos says 9/11 it disrespects those we lost and those we continue to lose,” he said.

“9/11 is a wound that doesn’t go away… And he’s making it hurt.

“He’s a piece of s*** and I can never forgive him. He’s a vile, repugnant, disgusting human being.”

He added: “He’s doing a gratuitous ‘I’m sorry’ tour and it’s not working. It’s disingenuous, it’s scripted and George Santos loves attention whether it’s positive or negative.

“He’s a narcissist and wants it to be all about him.”

Mr Feal spoke to The Independent hours after the embattled New York congressman announced he had invited a volunteer firefighter who responded to Ground Zero on 9/11 to be his guest at the State of the Union on Tuesday night.

“Today I rise to honour a former volunteer firefighter who was at Ground Zero on 9/11 Michael Weinstock,” Mr Santos announced on the House floor on Monday.

Mr Weinstock, who ran in 2020 as a Democrat for the House district that Mr Santos represents now, accepted the invitation.

He told The New York Times he decided to attend draw attention to the need to expand 9/11 compensation access to other illnesses such as neuropathy, which he has been diagnosed with.

But Mr Santos’ decision to use his one SOTU invitation to bring along a 9/11 responder sparked an instant backlash from the 9/11 community – given that he has been caught out in falsehoods about his connection to the terrorist attack.

Mr Santos claimed without evidence that his mother died on 9/11, initially saying that she was at the World Trade Center that day where she worked as a financial executive.

George Santos: The imposter in Congress | On The Ground

In July 2021, he tweeted that “9/11 claimed my mother’s life”. His campaign website also states she was in her office in the South Tower when the planes struck.

Mr Santos’ mother Fatima Devolder actually died 15 years on from the terrorist attacks in 2016, her obituary shows.

And immigration records reveal that she wasn’t even in the US in the year of, immediately before or after the attacks.

In the 2003 immigrant visa application from the American consulate in Brazil, obtained byThe New York Times, Devolder told government officials that she left the US in 1999 and had not been back since. She also described herself as a housekeeper and home aide rather than a finance exec.

Last week, Mr Santos told OAN he didn’t understand the immigration documents showing his mother wasn’t in the US that day saying it “remains a mystery because I was here and I was 13 years old”.

He also sought to clarify his comments about her death telling OAN that his mother was in downtown Manhattan that day and survived – but that he believes she died from cancer caused by the toxic dust from Ground Zero.

“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,” he said.

John Feal hugs John Stewart in 2011 as they successfully lobby Congress to provide compensation to 9/11 first responders (Getty)

Mr Feal did respond to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He worked as a supervisor at a demolition company on 9/11 and he responded to Ground Zero one day later. He had spent five days straight carrying out rescue efforts at the site when an 8,000-pound steel beam fell on his left foot.

He lost half his left foot and became an advocate for 9/11 first responders. He has spent years lobbying Congress – successfully – so that first responders and victims are now guaranteed lifetime compensation for injuries and illnesses caused by that day.

Mr Feal told The Independent that it’s “so easy to check the validity of [Mr Santos’] story” about his mother.

“She wasn’t in the World Trade Center health programme. Even after she died in 9/11 and then lived and then died again in 2016 she was never in the programme,” Mr Feal claimed.

Now, beyond his claims about his mother, Mr Feal said Mr Santos is peddling another false claim to the 9/11 community – by promising that he can amend the bill to include other illnesses.

Mr Feal explained that an amendment cannot be made to the bill by anyone – not even President Joe Biden. To add an illness to the World Trade Center Health Program it must be petitioned to the Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) Committee, he said.

Yet, Mr Feal alleged that Mr Santos gave Mr Weinstock “false information and false hope” about his capabilities to add his illness to the program.

Mr Feal said that he “explained the whole process” to Mr Weinstock, showing him that Mr Santos cannot just “make an amendment to the bill”. The Independent reached out to both Mr Weinstock and Mr Santos’ office for comment but did not immediately hear back.

“Thousands of people have neuropathy and it will be added [through the right processes] but that won’t be because of George Santos and Michael Weinstock,” said Mr Feal.

Members of the ‘Concerned Citizens of NY-03’ group reveal a banner slamming George Santos (Concerned Citizens of NY-03)

Mr Weinstock’s own ties to 9/11 have also come under scrutiny in the past.

During his 2020 campaign run, the fire company where he worked as a volunteer said it had no record of him being there on the day.

However, other first responders – and photos – have placed him there.

“I’m never going to downplay the significance of his role at Ground Zero,” said Mr Feal.

But he said he does question Mr Weinstock’s allegiance with Mr Santos.

On Tuesday evening, the two men attended the SOTU together, with Mr Santos posting a photo on his Twitter page and writing that it was “an honor” to welcome Mr Weinstock to the capital.

While Mr Feal said he was “repulsed” by Mr Santos’ actions, he was also not surprised.

“People are shocked by this. I’m not shocked, I’m just disgusted and repulsed that this repugnant man and piece of s*** is still serving in Congress,” he said.

“Him going to the floor to speak about the Holocaust and 9/11 on his redemption tour is disingenuous.

“But he’s going to leave in handcuffs and I’m going to get some popcorn, put my feet up and cheer when it happens.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in