NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Just like any other member of Congress, Long Island Rep. George Santos gets to invite a guest to the State of the Union on Tuesday night. He's bringing a former 9/11 volunteer firefighter.
When he got the invitation from Santos, Michael Weinstock hesitated.
"I didn't exactly jump at the chance to say yes, but I thought about it and discussed it with my friends and family," he said.
But in this wild moment, Weinstock said he sees a chance to rise above politics.
"I recognize this is an important moment to bring attention to firefighters with neuropathy and firefighters who responded on 9/11 and don't have healthcare," he added.
Weinstock, a Democrat who once ran for the House district that Santos now represents, is hoping to bring attention to the neurological condition that he says is a result of his work at Ground Zero. It has yet to be recognized by the World Trade Center Health Program.
Santos announced the invitation, saying in a release Monday that Weinstock's "condition is a direct result of the dust and toxins released from the World Trade Center."
The pick could be viewed as controversial, with Santos accused of lying about his mother's ties to 9/11.
Santos has claimed that his mother, Fatima Devolder, was at the World Trade Center on 9/11. However, immigration records obtained by the New York Times and other outlets show Devolder was outside the United States in September 2001.
Santos' campaign website still reads, "George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded."
According to the records, Devolder applied for a visa to enter the U.S. in 2003. On the application, she indicated she left the U.S. for Brazil in 1999 and hadn’t returned since then. Devolder died of cancer in 2016. Santos has also suggested that 9/11 played a role in her death.
In an interview with One America News last week, Santos said that "the toxic dust that permeated throughout Manhattan and my mother being present [in] downtown Manhattan" led to her death.
"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 added.
Santos, 34, is facing investigations over multiple lies he told about his life story, work history and family background.
The congressman announced last Tuesday that he is temporarily stepping down from two congressional committees, saying in a prepared statement that he wanted to focus on serving his constituents "without distraction."
Weinstock is not giving the Republican a pass, calling his many controversies disappointing.
"I wasn't thrilled when I saw their articles in the New York Times," Weinstock said.
For saying yes, Weinstock paid with his job — getting fired from his law firm.
"I'm trying to do the right thing," he added. "It's not terribly difficult."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.