The Republican congressman George Santos, who was expelled from Congress on Friday, still faces a sweeping federal indictment over his use of campaigns funds as well as other ethics questions that stem from his improbable, and indeed hard to believe, political career.
The walls started to crumble for him in mid-December last year when the New York Times challenged many aspects of Santos’s supposed background – for one, that he is the “embodiment of the American dream” and had run for Congress to safeguard it for others.
What is particularly remarkable about Santos is his ability to dodge and evade whenever he is called out for factual inaccuracies.
Some choice examples:
Graduated from Baruch College
Claim: Santos, the son of Brazilian immigrants, and the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent, described himself as a New York public college graduate at Baruch. The college found no record of Santos as a student.
Santos’s response: In an interview with the New York Post soon after the allegations surfaced, Santos confessed he hadn’t graduated from “from any institution of higher learning” and had used a “poor choice of words”.
Held positions at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs
Claim: He said he became a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor”, holding jobs at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Citigroup and Goldman Sachs said they had no record of Santos ever working there.
Santos’s response: He told the Post he had “never worked directly” for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup.
Landlord of 13 properties
Claim: Santos said he ran a family-owned portfolio of 13 properties. He asserted in an interview that his “family’s firm”, the Devolder Organization, managed $80m in assets.
Santos’s response: He acknowledged that, far from having an extensive property portfolio, he had been in debt to his landlord – a result of medical debt from his mother’s cancer battle. “It’s the vulnerability of being human. I am not embarrassed by it.”
Claim: He said he ran animal rescue charity, Friends of Pets United. There had been no dog charity, though he may have swindled a veteran over a pet’s medical bills and swindled off an Amish dog breeder with a bad check, according to Politico.
Santos’s response: Santos told City & State that he’d worked on the non-profit but “never claimed to fly solo” on the group. “I was the guy picking up poop, cleaning, getting people, doing campaigns online,” he said.
Lost employees in Pulse shooting
Claim: He said the Devolder organization had “lost four employees” at the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. But a check over the victims found that none of the 49 victims were connected to the company.
Santos’s response: Santos backtracked, saying the four people had not worked for him directly. “But we did have people who were being hired to work for the company at the time … but yes, we did lose four people who were going to be coming to work for the company.”
Family escaped Nazis
Claim: Santos’s campaign website said that his mother was Jewish and his grandparents escaped the Nazis during the second world war.
Santos’s response: Santos later clarified that he was “clearly Catholic”, but claimed his grandmother told stories about being Jewish and later converting to Catholicism. “I never claimed to be Jewish,” Santos said. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background, I said I was ‘Jew-ish’.”
Former Disney actor
Claim: His Wikipedia biography said he landed roles on Disney Channel shows such as Hannah Montana. Politico noted that if Santos’s Wikipedia entry, which contained the Hannah Montana claim, was not written by Santos – who was then posing as Anthony Devolder – it would mean it was written by someone posing as Santos.
Santos’s response: Santos’s communications director, Naysa Woomer, refused to respond.
A varied résumé
Claim: He said he had been a Broadway producer who had helped produce Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, a 2011 rock musical; a journalist in Brazil; and the target of an “assassination”.
Santos’s response: “I am not a criminal,” he told the New York Post. “My sins here are embellishing my résumé. I’m sorry.”
Niece was kidnapped
Claim: He said his five-year-old niece has been kidnapped from a playground by Chinese men, possibly from the Chinese government.
Santos’s response: “Look, I don’t want to go into like, conspiracy theory,” he told the Times. “But you know, if the shoe fits, right?”
Mother was at WTC on 9/11
Claim: He said his mother, Fatima Devolder, had been in the World Trade Center on September 11.
Santos’s response: Despite immigration records showing she was not in the US at the time, he told One America News that “the toxic dust that permeated throughout Manhattan and my mother being present [in] downtown Manhattan” led to her death in 2016.
Drag queen in Rio
Claim: He initially denied being the drag queen Kitara Ravache at the Rio carnival in 2008.
Santos’s response: He said: “I had fun at a festival. Sue me for having a life.”
Used campaign funds for Botox and OnlyFans
Claim: A congressional ethics committee said $50,000 in campaign funds had been used to pay for Botox treatments, pay down personal credit card bills and other debt; make a $4,127.80 purchase at Hermès; and for small purchases at Sephora and OnlyFans.
Santos’s response: Santos told the Fox Business Network: “I’ll indulge you this, I just discovered what OnlyFans was three weeks ago, when it was brought up in a discussion in my office. I was oblivious to the whole concept.”
Local paper broke scandal news
Claim: The North Shore Leader, a local newspaper on Long Island that covers Great Neck – a part of Santos’s New York congressional district three, a wealthy area – began reporting on his alleged fraud in 2020, referring to him as George Scamtos. Editor Kim Tyndall said “voters ignored or didn’t avail themselves” of the reporting.
Santos’s response: “I ran in 2020 for the same exact seat for Congress and I got away with it then,” he told Piers Morgan, adding he “didn’t think” he would get caught.
Lies would not deny him success
Claim: Whatever exagerations he had made, he said, the controversy would “not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good”.
Santos’s response: After his fate was sealed on Friday, Santos stormed out of Congress and warned that the members had “set a new dangerous precedent for themselves”, adding “to hell with this place”.