New Right-Wing Rep. Anna Paulina Luna Responds to Recent Claims That She Fabricated Portions of Her Past

Anna Paulina Luna
Anna Paulina Luna
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Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Rep. Anna Paulina Luna

Freshman Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna, the newest conservative firebrand from Florida, is getting a lot of attention on the heels of Rep. George Santos' political unraveling, after The Washington Post began questioning the veracity of her backstory as well.

In Santos' case, many of the initial allegations raised in a report by The New York Times were proven to be true, prompting numerous investigations into alleged ethics violations and fraudulent behavior. But allegations made against Luna last week have been picked apart, even forcing the Post to make a couple corrections in its initial exposé.

Luna declined to be interviewed for the Post's article. Her communications director, Edie Heipel, says, "We did not feel that this was an interview. It was an accusatory and disturbing slant of Rep. Luna's life. … We did not proceed to grant [the reporter] an interview because it was clear based on her text receipts with others that she was not being honest. She had an agenda and you saw that in how the piece was written." The Post mostly relied on former friends and estranged family members as sources, with some counter-context from Luna's mother, Monica Luna.

A spokesperson for the Post defends its sourcing to PEOPLE, saying, "This was a deeply reported story about Rep. Luna's biography and included ample perspectives from people who have known her throughout her life."

In an attempt to sort out Luna's story, PEOPLE also dug into some records from her past and spoke with the congresswoman herself, as well as Monica, to hear why they believe Luna has been unfairly portrayed by who they call unreliable sources.

Here are the major claims made in the recent Washington Post exposé and Luna's responses.

Anna Paulina Luna
Anna Paulina Luna

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Anna Luna rallies with fellow far-right lawmakers, including Reps. Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz, between votes for House speaker

Claim: Luna made conflicting statements about her heritage, including that she's Jewish

Friends at Missouri's Whiteman Air Force base, where Luna was stationed for a time, told The Washington Post that she would alternate between calling herself Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Jewish. PEOPLE sought an explanation for her claiming to be Jewish, which is the most reminiscent of Rep. Santos' controversies and the one members of the public have focused in on.

Relatives told the Post that Luna's father, George Mayerhofer, was Catholic, not Jewish, but Luna and her mother, Monica, say that he converted to Messianic Judaism. Messianic Jews — who believe that Jesus was the Messiah — generally identify with Judaism, but are viewed as protestant Christians by the major Jewish denominations.

Luna also says her DNA test shows she is a fraction Ashkenazi Jewish.

Claim: Luna had a grandfather who fought with Nazis in WWII

While questioning Luna's Jewish ties, the Post reported that her grandfather fought in Nazi Germany under Hitler's rule.

Monica admits that it appears true, based on an old photo his relatives furnished to the Post of him in a German military uniform. She notes that Luna also had two great-grandfathers who fought in WWII for the United States, providing PEOPLE an image of one in uniform and an old newspaper clipping as corroboration.

Claim: Luna only recently embraced her Mexican heritage, including changing her last name, pronouncing her first name differently and openly identifying as Hispanic

Luna's late father, George, was of Mexican and German descent and spoke Spanish and English. Her mother's parents were Mexican American. Though Luna was born Anna Paulina Mayerhofer, she has used multiple surnames since.

Luna went by Anna Paulina Gamberzky when she married her husband, Andrew Gamberzky. When she took a job at controversial conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA, she says she dropped her last name and simply went by Anna Paulina to preserve her husband's safety and privacy, as he was still on active duty in the Air Force. (It was around this time, The Washington Post claims, that she began to embrace her Hispanic heritage, allegedly changing her ethnicity from "White, non-Hispanic origin" to "Hispanic" on her voter registration and including using the Hispanic pronunciation of her first name, according to a former colleague.)

In 2019, Monica began making plans to adopt her mother's family name, Luna, after going through a divorce. The future congresswoman followed suit, arguing in a petition at the time that she wanted to both represent her Hispanic heritage and share a name with her mom. By 2020, both of their name changes had been formalized.

Monica told The Washington Post in their initial story that she has always known her daughter to embrace her Hispanic side, as well as her American side, hence why there may be discrepancies in how she's identified or presented herself previously.

"I am bi-cultural," Luna tells PEOPLE. "I hate being forced to choose."

Anna Paulina Luna
Anna Paulina Luna

Kevin Dietsch/Getty

Claim: There's no record of Luna's father being incarcerated

Luna has claimed that her father, George, was in and out of incarceration while she was growing up, and that she had to communicate with him through letters and collect calls. The Post reached out to the Orange County Corrections Department and the Santa Ana jail, and reported that no record of incarceration could be found.

Records show George had repeated run-ins with the law — numerous traffic violations, possession of methamphetamines and protective orders. Luna's claim that she could not see her father for a year while she was a teenager because he was in jail was supported by her mother but could not be independently verified by PEOPLE.

No publicly available criminal cases included on George's death record showed that he was given a jail sentence, though many had been purged from the court's database. A private record for one of his charges was provided by Luna's team, appearing to corroborate that he'd been sentenced to jail time at least once, though that sentence did not total a year.

One misdemeanor drug possession case reviewed by PEOPLE also showed that he was in custody around the time of two court appearances, but the case information did not specify the length of his confinement and court proceedings appeared to only last about three months; that charge was later dismissed.

Claim: Luna did not grow up poor and isolated by family, like she has claimed

The Post's reporting cites Luna's relatives, who said that Luna was "coddled" by her uncle and cousins as a kid and always attended family gatherings. "She had everything," one relative told the outlet. "What she needed and more."

Luna's mother refutes the Post's reporting on their family dynamic, saying that she and Luna were in fact financially unstable with little help from extended family. Monica had Luna at age 20, and says she was also responsible for two younger brothers of her own. A year later Monica's mother, a long-time heroin addict, died of cancer and was HIV positive, according to Monica. She says her maternal uncles and her stepfather were also using heroin and died.

Monica says she enrolled at the University of California, Irvine, to get affordable student housing, and never married Luna's father, who she says was addicted to methamphetamine and eventually lived in his vehicle.

"If [those relatives] really were close family," Luna tells PEOPLE, "why didn't they help my dad?"

Monica says that Luna's father neglected to pay child support, and part of his small inheritance when his father died was garnished. "It was not a large amount to begin with," she says. "A huge chunk went to the Department of Child Support."

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Service members at Whiteman Air Force Base also told the Post that they got the impression Luna came from a well-off family, claiming that she wore designer clothing and mentioned having nannies as a child.

Monica says her daughter was proud of a designer coat she bought at a thrift store and was known to wear it frequently, and that the idea of them having nannies is "preposterous."

She sent PEOPLE a photo of young Luna at UC Irvine Extended Day Care in the summer of 1994. "She went to the day care center on campus that was subsidized for single mom students," Monica says. Responding to an allegation by Luna's relatives that their grandfather would pick Luna up from day care when Monica was studying, Monica says, "100% lie. This NEVER happened."

Anna Paulina Luna
Anna Paulina Luna

Chris O'Meara/AP/Shutterstock Anna Paulina Luna, 2020

Claim: Luna fabricated a story about a home invasion during her time in the Air Force

The Post spoke with Luna's off-base roommate at the time she was stationed in Missouri to ask about Luna's past claims that a man once broke into their apartment at 4 a.m. — and not "to see how I was doing." While telling the story in 2019, Luna expressed gratitude that her male friend was there to protect her.

The roommate told the Post that she only recalled a daytime break-in when Luna wasn't home, and the Post's initial report erroneously noted that Luna wasn't mentioned in the police report that followed. (The outlet has since corrected the mistake.)

The police report, which was reviewed by PEOPLE, says there had been an initial break-in days before, and that when the subsequent break-in happened, neither of the roommates was staying at the apartment. No details are included about the first break-in that Luna reported — only that she reported one — but Luna claims that's when her "traumatizing" early morning encounter occurred. She tells PEOPLE that during that first incident, a male guest at the house ran down the hallway and the intruder fled.

Alessandra Wesley, a fellow member of the Air Force who was stationed at the base at that time, sent PEOPLE a video statement defending Luna's break-in story. "That did happen and there were multiple events," she claims, noting that the women set booby traps with wire and a pot that would break if the door opened and put flour on the floor so they could tell if anyone came in. "The flour had been moved and the pot was broken," Wesley says. Luna was ordered to move on base.

Claim: Luna expressed support for then-President Barack Obama in 2008, then took a hard-right political turn in recent years

Luna, whose current political views largely oppose Obama's, tells PEOPLE that she did express support for him, but was never a Democrat and didn't vote for him. "I liked him because he talked like me," she says. "We need legal immigration done the right way. It's not xenophobic. Illegal immigrants are sold into slavery. It's a massive issue with Hispanic women and children — and even men. They are used for labor and sex trafficking."

The same Air Force roommate who accused Luna of lying about a past home invasion also told the Post that she would have described Luna as a liberal, while others who knew her reportedly called her apolitical.

Known today as a self-described "pro-life extremist" who opposes "radical left-wing gender theory," props up Trump's claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and has been photographed wearing a rifle-shaped pin on the job to make clear her stance on the Second Amendment, Luna — who won 53% of the vote in her district in the 2022 election — stands behind her staunchly conservative views and has kept company with Reps. Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Santos himself since joining Congress in January.