Fact Check

Have Prominent Democrats Concealed Their 'Real' Names from the Public?

The American public deserves something better than ridiculously false memes.

Published Jul 21, 2019

A list offers several examples of Democratic politicians who have concealed their 'real names' from the public.

Mid-2019 saw the social media emergence of a list of prominent Democratic politicians who were supposedly "fraudulent" and "corrupt," as exemplified by their concealing their "real" names from the American public:

The list was so ridiculously over-the-top (primarily a collection of common nicknames, middle names, and women's maiden names) as to appear to be an attempt at humor, but many readers took it at face value and inquired about its truthfulness. So below we cover the "real" scoop on these politicians' actual names:

1) The "real" name of former president Barack Obama, as documented by his birth certificate, is Barack Obama (in full, Barack Hussein Obama II).

"Barry" was simply a childhood nickname for "Barack," and Soetoro is the surname of the Indonesian man (Lolo Soetoro) whom Barack's mother, Ann Dunham, married after divorcing Barack's biological father. (No evidence exists that Barack's surname was ever legally changed to Soetoro.)

2) The "real" name of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is Ilhan Omar (in full Ilhan Abdullahi Omar). She was born in Somalia to Nur Omar Mohamed and Fadhuma Abukar Haji Hussein and arrived in the U.S. as a refugee when she was 9 years old.

Elmi (not "Esmi") is the surname of a British citizen whom Omar married in 2009 (Ahmed Nur Said Elmi) and divorced in 2017.

3) The "real" name of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is Kirsten Gillibrand. Her birth name was Kirsten Elizabeth Rutnik (not "Rutnick"), and "Tina" was a childhood nickname (supposedly adopted because her brother was unable to pronounce Kirsten), while Gillibrand is the surname of the man (Jonathan Gillibrand) whom she married in 2001.

4) The "real" name of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is Bill de Blasio. The future mayor was born to Warren Wilhelm and Maria Angela de Blasio, and his birth name was Warren Wilhelm Jr.

"Bill" was his childhood nickname, and after his parents divorced, he legally changed his name to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm in 1983, and then to Bill de Blasio in 2001.

5) The "real" name of former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas is Robert Francis O'Rourke. O'Rourke has been known since infancy as "Beto," a common nickname for the Spanish version of his name (Roberto), just as "Bob" is a common nickname for the English version of that name.

6) The "real" name of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is Bernard Sanders, with "Bernie" being the familiar form of his first name. His parents were Elias Ben Yehuda Sanders and Dorothy Glassberg, and the false notion that his "real" surname is actually Gutman apparently stems from a ship's passenger list recording the arrival of his father in New York as a Polish immigrant in 1921 under the name Eliasz Gitman (born to a woman whose married name was Gutman).

Elias legally changed his surname to Sanders upon achieving naturalized U.S. citizenship status in 1927, and Sanders was the surname listed for Elias on his 1934 marriage certificate to Dorothy Glassberg, so his famous son's "real" surname is indeed Sanders.

7) The "real" name of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California is Kamala Harris (in full Kamala Devi Harris). She was born in Oakland to Donald Harris (not "Harrison") and Shyamala Gopalan, and "Maya" is the name of her younger sister.

8) The "real" name of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (not "Buttigeig") is Peter Buttigieg (in full, Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg). The child of Joseph Buttigieg and Jennifer Anne Montgomery, Pete's middle names are Paul and Montgomery — neither of those names is his "real" first name or surname.

9) The "real" name of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is Elizabeth Warren. She was born Elizabeth Ann Herring to Donald Herring and Pauline Reed, and Warren is the surname of the man (Jim Warren) whom she married in 1968.

The future senator divorced her first husband and was remarried to a man named Bruce H. Mann two years later, but she retained her first husband's surname (Warren) in the process. "Liz" is, of course, simply a common shortening of the name "Elizabeth."

10) The "real" name of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is Cory Booker (in full, Cory Anthony Booker). His parents were Cary Alfred Booker and Carolyn Rose Jordan, and "Tony" is merely a common shortening of his middle name.

11) The "real name" of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is Eric Holder (in full, Eric Himpton Holder Jr.). "Himpton" is his middle name, one he shared with his father, Eric Himpton Holder Sr.

If we were to play this game of pretending that the use of common nicknames, middle names, and maiden names was indicative of fraud and corruption, then we could easily find several prominent Republican politicians who would similarly have to be categorized as "corrupt frauds":

1) The "real" name of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is actually Addison McConnell (in full, Addison Mitchell McConnell III).

2) The "real" name of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is actually Rafael Cruz (in full, Rafael Edward Cruz).

3) The "real" name of U.S. Secretary of Energy (and former Texas governor) Rick Perry is actually James Perry (in full, James Richard Perry).

4) The "real" name of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy de Vos is actually Elisabeth Prince.

5) The "real" name of acting White House Chief of Staff and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is actually John Mulvaney (in full, John Michael Mulvaney).

6) The "real" name of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (and former Georgia governor) Sonny Perdue is actually George Perdue (in full, George Ervin Perdue III).

7) The "real" name of U.S. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah is actually Willard Romney (in full, Willard Mitt Romney).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.