ORLANDO, Fla. — A former Democratic candidate for the Florida House is being fined by the state after admitting she lied about being a medical doctor for years and fabricated a story about treating Pulse victims, records show.

  • Ex-candidate Elizabeth McCarthy: "I lied" about being a doctor
  • Sanford woman falsely stated she treated 32 Pulse victims
  • U.S. Rep. Darren Soto denounced "sick fabrications" by McCarthy

The Florida Department of Health released records this week about its investigation into Elizabeth McCarthy.

“I’m not allowed to speak to you,” McCarthy, 50, told Spectrum News 13 on Friday.

The state Health Department interviewed McCarthy after she identified herself as a doctor during political events and described how she worked on Pulse nightclub attack victims June 9, 2016.

“Yes, I was working that night. I removed 77 bullets out of 32 people and helped with the triage. It is really sad that this has become such a big deal” McCarthy said, according to a Florida Department of Health report.

Later, during an interview with a Health Department medical quality assurance investigator, McCarthy clarified: “It is a false statement, I just made it up.” 

It’s against the law to lie about being a doctor. The Florida Department of Health is fining her $1,000 and charging an additional $2,094 for investigative costs. Her total fine, $3,094, was issued June 17, 2019.

The Sanford woman, whose legal name is Catherine Elizabeth McCarthy, recently dropped her campaign for the state House 28 seat as questions mounted about her purported credentials.

State Rep. David Smith, a Republican, is the incumbent for the district, which covers much of Seminole, a GOP-friendly county. Lee Vernon Mangold, a self-described progressive Democrat, is challenging Smith. The election is in November 2020.

A state Health Department investigator, Rafael B. Aponte, met with McCarthy on June 9 at her home on Jinkins Circle. She admitted knowingly misrepresenting herself as a medical doctor since 2014 or 2015 as she prepared for her bid for office, records show. She said she lied and never attended medical school.

McCarthy has attended two events with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee). One was at Valencia College, 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail. The second town hall was at the Perscriptions Unlimited, 2521 13th Street, St. Cloud.

That’s where Soto introduced McCarthy as a cardiologist with Orlando Health Regional Hospital, the records allege. Soto described her as a longtime adviser on health care for him “and as a doctor who showed her mettle and heroism after the Pulse nightclub shooting,” the Florida Department of Health investigation found.

Later, as McCarthy’s alleged credentials unraveled, Soto issued a statement denouncing her.

“I am deeply disappointed by Ms. McCarthy’s sick fabrications. She was a longtime friend of several staff members,” the statement said. “She had been presented by them and by several local Democratic and LGBT organizations as being a doctor. We have updated our internal protocols to require proof of licensure by any professional who may potentially work with our office.”

After the town hall, journalist Scott Powers asked McCarthy for education records and proof of her medical license. She told the state investigator she couldn’t produce those records because “she lied,” the report said.

Aponte, the Health Department investigator, asked why she lied. She apologized about “portraying a life that wasn’t true” and she “wanted to be somebody in the community, and I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I gave any impersonation, I knew it was wrong and I should have stopped, by no means did I ever mean to put anybody in jeopardy.”