FACT CHECK: Did Ron DeSantis Say He Was A Navy SEAL?
A post shared on Instagram purports Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was a Navy SEAL.
View this post on Instagram
DeSantis said he was assigned with U.S. Navy SEALs while serving in Iraq. He did not claim he was a Navy SEAL outright.
New national polls tracking the Republican primaries suggest DeSantis’s numbers are declining, NBC News reported. DeSantis is at 13%, 18%, and 16%, polls from the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Fox News show respectively, the outlet indicated.
“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. Don’t fall for his Stolen Valor Lies!” the Instagram post, which has received over 1,000 likes, purports.
The claim is false and appears to mischaracterize comments DeSantis made during the first Republican debate of the 2024 presidential election cycle.
A Fox News clip from the debate shows DeSantis made reference to serving with Navy SEALS in Iraq after answering a question about the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Florida Republican Governor said discussing the attack distracts from the 2024 election.
“I learned in the military – I was assigned with U.S. Navy SEALs in Iraq – that you focus on the mission above all else. You can’t get distracted. So Republicans, we’ve got to look forward and we’ve got to make sure that we’re bringing the message that can win in November 2024,” DeSantis said.
Likewise, DeSantis also mentioned serving alongside Navy SEALs when posed a question about making military service mandatory.
“I’m somebody that volunteered to serve, inspired by Sept. 11, and I deployed to Iraq alongside U.S. Navy SEALs in places like Fallujah, Ramadi. And it’s something that I think has taught me, when you go in that type of environment, anything you have, your personal agenda, you check it at the door,” DeSantis said, according to a transcript of the debate. (RELATED: Is Ron DeSantis The Only Veteran Running For President?)
Although DeSantis did not claim he was a Navy SEAL, the Republican Florida Governor was accused of overselling his “Navy SEAL experience” during the debate, according to The Independent.
DeSantis, who was a Navy lawyer at the time, served as senior legal adviser to Navy Capt. Dane Thorleifson, the SEAL who commanded Special Operations Task Force-West in Fallujah, the Miami Herald reported in 2018.
DeSantis’ official military personnel file, which is publicly available, confirms he served as a Legal Assistance Officer in the U.S. Navy. His file also indicates he was qualified to perform duties as both Trial and Defense Counsel.
The claim made via the Instagram post appears to have originated from an Aug. 23 X post made by lawyer Tristan Snell.
Check Your Fact contacted a DeSantis spokesperson regarding the claim, but the spokesperson declined to comment on record.
Update: This article has been updated with more information on DeSantis’ military service and background. The rating remains unchanged.