A former Florida Democratic House candidate recently admitted to lying about removing 77 bullets from dozens of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, a claim that led to her being cited with violating state law, according to documents released last week.
The documents, released by the Florida Department of Health, say Catherine Elizabeth McCarthy admitted to a state investigator that she lied about being a doctor, including when she said she was one of the doctors who treated victims of the June 2016 massacre, which left 49 dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando. McCarthy was a registered nurse in the state until her license expired in 2005, but has never been a licensed doctor, according to the Washington Post.
“That night of Pulse, I personally removed 77 bullets from 32 people,” McCarthy said at an event hosted in March by Florida Democratic Rep. Darren Soto, according to a recording of the event from CNN affiliate WESH in Orlando.
“The night of Pulse, I was working at Orlando Health. And we’re — you’re never prepared for it. We’ve never experienced something like that,” she said at the event.
The documents, however, state that a department investigator found that “since ‘2014 (or) 2015’ (McCarthy) had knowingly been holding herself out as a Medical Doctor” and that she misled the public as she prepared for her campaign.
McCarthy “informed this Investigator she never treated any patients the night of the Pulse night club tragedy” and “admitted that she had lied about her education and has never attended medical school,” according to a cease and desist notice from the Florida Department of Health. The investigator interviewed McCarthy on June 19, according to Brad Dalton, a spokesman for the department.
“I lied,” she told the investigator when asked about her claims of being a medical doctor, according to the documents. “It is a false statement, I just made it up,'” she said of her claim that she removed 77 bullets from victims of the Pulse massacre, the documents said.
Soto hosted two political events with McCarthy. During one of them, the congressman introduced her “as a cardiologist with Orlando Health Regional Hospital” and “a doctor who showed her mettle and heroism after the Pulse nightclub shooting,” according to the documents.
In a statement provided to CNN on Monday, Soto said he was “deeply troubled by these sick fabrications” and that his office “has adjusted our license vetting protocols as a result of this situation.”
The citation makes reference to a reporter for Florida Politics who published a story in June stating McCarthy’s claims were “not checking out.” According to the documents, McCarthy told the investigator about the reporter’s line of questioning to her about her false claims following one of the events with Soto.
McCarthy withdrew from the race in late June, according to the outlet, two weeks after it published the story saying it could not substantiate her claims. In an email to the outlet, she said, “After thoughtful contemplation, due to professional obligations, I am withdrawing as a Democratic candidate seeking the nomination and election in Florida House District 28.”
The department cited McCarthy with violating state law by falsely claiming to be a doctor, and has served her with a cease and desist order prohibiting her “from practicing Medicine and/or holding herself out as a medical doctor” in Florida unless she obtains a license from the state, according to the order. McCarthy was also ordered to pay the department a $1,000 fine and $2,094.95 in “costs.”
Reached for comment on Monday, McCarthy told CNN she could not discuss the matter due to the cease and desist order. McCarthy can either accept the citation or dispute it; it’s not clear if she plans to dispute the matter.
During her interview with the investigator, the former candidate apologized for the false claims, saying that she was “… portraying a life that wasn’t true and wanted to be somebody in the community,” according to the cease and desist order.