Republican representative George Santos took his seat in the US Congress this month despite revelations that parts of his CV and personal history are “largely fiction”.
Santos was elected to Congress in the midterm elections this November after a campaign in which he sold himself as “the full embodiment of the American dream”. But his “victory lap” has been “short-lived”, said the BBC, as several major newspapers, led by The New York Times, revealed that large parts of his CV and personal biography were simply made up.
New revelations over Santos are emerging on an almost daily basis. He now faces serious questions over a number of other apparent fabrications, including the circumstances surrounding his mother’s death, his “questionable” campaign finances and “allegations of pilfering from a fundraising campaign for a dying dog”, said USA Today. He has insisted he will not resign from Congress despite facing several investigations as well as cross-party calls for him to go.
Who did Santos say he was?
When Santos won an eight-point victory in New York’s 3rd congressional district, an area which had previously favoured the Democrats, it was considered “a mild upset”, said The New York Times. He had lost “decisively” in the same district in 2020 to Democratic incumbent Tom Suozzi, and seemed to be “too wedded to former President Donald J. Trump and his stances to flip his fortunes”.
But running again in a redrawn district in 2022, he “recalibrated his far-right pitch, weaving themes into his campaign biography that might make him more acceptable to swing voters”, said Charles Lane in The Washington Post. Not only did Santos “play against type as a gay Republican” he also said he was “a grandson of Ukrainian Jewish Holocaust survivors” as well as having “9/11 victim status”, claiming variously that “his mother had died in the attacks or that both of his parents survived the ordeal”.
His apparently “fascinating and inspiring life story” really did seem to contain “something for everyone”, said The Times. He was a “proud American Jew” who had been raised by Catholic immigrant parents in New York, and also a school volleyball star, who graduated “near the top of his class” at Baruch College in Manhattan. He then went on to become “a seasoned Wall Street financier” at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, owned an extensive property portfolio and established a pet charity that rescued more than 2,400 animals. “At least, that was what he said,” wrote the paper.
But Santos was forced to apologise for, as he put it, “embellishing” his résumé when The New York Times investigated a number of claims he had made. The paper could find no record that he had ever attended Baruch College, while Citigroup and Goldman Sachs said they had no record of him ever working there. There was “little evidence” of his animal rescue charity, Friends of Pets United. Indeed, the IRS said it had no record of a charity registered with that name. The New York Times couldn’t find any record of his family’s property portfolio either, while his apparent “family firm”, Devolder, remains “something of a mystery”.
Since then, a litany of other embellishments and lies have been discovered, forcing Santos to backtrack on many of his claims. He confessed to the New York Post that he had “never worked directly” for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, calling the claim “a poor choice of words”. Nor had he graduated from Baruch College or any higher education institution, he admitted to the paper. And his family does not own 13 properties, as he had also claimed.
He told the paper he had “never claimed to be Jewish”. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish’.”
Santos has also responded to claims made by The New York Times that he had criminal charges filed against him in Brazil. “I am not a criminal here – not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world,” Santos said. “Absolutely not. That didn’t happen,” he told the Post.
What do we know about the real Santos?
George Anthony Devolder Santos is “probably” 34, said The Times, and appears to have been born and raised in New York. He frequently visited the Brazilian city of Niteroi, near Rio de Janeiro, “where locals recall him performing as a drag queen in gay pride parades under the name Kitara Ravache”. Santos initially said it was “categorically false” that he had ever performed as a drag queen, but later said he had dressed up once during a festival. “I was young and I had fun at a festival – sue me for having a life,” he told ABC 7.
At the time he claimed to be working for investment firms Citibank and Goldman Sachs, Santos was actually working at the “customer care” desk of the Dish Network Centre, helping customers who had trouble with their satellite dishes, said The New York Times.
And according to court records, Santos also married a woman in 2012, who would file for divorce in 2019, and which he did not contest. He has described himself as “happily married”, although it is unclear if he is married to his partner Matheus Gerard. “I’m very much gay,” he told the Post in December. “I’m OK with my sexuality. People change. I’m one of those people who change.”
What next for Santos?
Santos now faces a slew of federal and local investigations, one of which will look in part into his financial dealings. Polling suggests that the majority of New Yorkers want Santos to resign from his congressional post, including some 49% of Republican voters, said Politico.
As the allegations against him have mounted, he has drawn “widespread condemnation from within his own party”, although Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has “largely ignored calls” for his resignation as he “needs to maintain his slim majority in the chamber”.
Santos himself has repeatedly refused to resign, stating he will do so only when the 142,000 people who voted him into office call for his resignation.