HomePoliticsDeSantis said he had deployed "alongside" Navy SEALs, not that he was...

DeSantis said he had deployed “alongside” Navy SEALs, not that he was one himself

The claim: Ron DeSantis said he was a Navy SEAL

An Instagram post from Aug. 25 (direct link, archive link) shows a photo of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with a frown on his face.

“Ron DeSantis says he was a Navy SEAL,” part of the text in the image reads. “He was not.”

The post received more than 1,000 likes in 11 days.

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Our rating: False

There are no records showing DeSantis claiming to be a Navy SEAL. During the Republican presidential debate on Aug. 23, he said he was “assigned to” and deployed to Iraq “alongside” SEALs — not that he himself was one.

DeSantis referenced SEALs twice during the debate

The Instagram post quotes a post on X, formerly Twitter, from Tristan Snell, the former assistant attorney general in New York.

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Snell made the post 16 minutes after the August 23 Republican primary debate ended, a timing that strongly suggests it referred to comments DeSantis, a presidential hopeful, made during the debate. USA TODAY contacted Snell for clarification, but did not receive an immediate response.

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DeSantis brought up SEALs twice during the debate, but did not claim to be one himself in either case.

The first mention came in response to a question about January 6, 2021, and former Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, despite pressure from then-President Donald Trump. DeSantis said talking about the riots in the Capitol diverts attention from the upcoming election and favors Democrats.

“I learned in the military — I was assigned to the US Navy SEALs in Iraq — that you focus on the mission above all else,” he said. “You must not be distracted. So Republicans, we need to look ahead and make sure we get the message across that can win in November 2024.”

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He also referenced the SEALs when answering a question about mandatory military service. He thought it should be voluntary.

“I am someone who volunteered to serve, inspired by September 11, and I have deployed to places like Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq along with the US Navy SEALs,” DeSantis said. “And it’s something I think has taught me: When you get into an environment like that, check whatever you have, your personal agenda, at the door.”

DeSantis enlisted in the Navy in 2004 during his sophomore year at Harvard Law School and served as a naval attorney in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

DeSantis served with a SEAL team in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 as senior legal counsel to Navy Captain Dane Thorleifson, the commander of Special Operations Task Force-West in Fallujah, The Miami Herald reported in 2018.

His job there was to ensure that missions were planned in accordance with the law and that special forces adhered to U.S. and international rules. This included ensuring humane treatment of captured enemies, the Herald reported.

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There are no credible news reports about DeSantis claiming to be a Navy SEAL.

DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo declined to comment.

USA TODAY contacted the user who shared the post, but did not receive an immediate response.

Our Fact Check Resources:

  • Fox News (YouTube), August 23, DeSantis: I have no problem with Mike Pence!

  • Rev. August 24, Fox News Republican presidential primary debate

  • Rev., Aug. 24, Fox News Republican presidential primary debate transcript

  • The Miami Herald, September 21, 2018, Ron DeSantis praises his military record, but what did he do as a lawyer in Iraq?

  • Tampa Bay Times, March 7, What’s Known About Ron DeSantis’ Time in the Navy at Guantanamo Bay

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: No, DeSantis did not claim to be a SEAL during the GOP debate | Check facts

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