The New York Republican congressman George Santos appeared to confess on Tuesday that more than $600,000 (£485,610) in loans to his campaign did not originate from personal cash, as had been initially reported. This added a new twist to one of the most peculiar American political scandals in decades.
Santos, 34, in November 2022 won election to Congress in New York’s third district, which covers parts of Long Island and Queens. The Brazilian-American became the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent.
But he soon found himself in hot water due to a CV that a New York Times investigation found included lies over his education and previous jobs. These included details of local, state, federal, and international investigations.
There have also been more bizarre revelations about Santos, such as his purported background as a drag queen in Brazil.
While Santos denies some of the allegations made against him, he has admitted that some of his claims were lies.
George Santos’s past lies
Santos once claimed to be the target of an assassination attempt. In a 2020 interview, he claimed to have met Jeffrey Epstein, while suggesting the financier and sex offender did not kill himself in jail but was murdered or even alive.
Santos recently admitted he lied about his education and work experience on his CV. He said he had graduated from Baruch College in New York and worked at high-profile Wall Street firms Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
Santos acknowledged that he had lied about having graduated from college and that he had never worked directly for either company. He expressed his "embarrassment" at having deceived.
Regarding claims that he had misrepresented his Jewish ancestry, he told the New York Post that he was Catholic and never claimed to be Jewish. He said that when "I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background, I said I was Jew-ish”.
The incident, according to Santos, won't stop him from carrying out his two-year tenure in the House of Representatives because he is “not a criminal”.
"My sins here are embellishing my resume," Mr Santos told the Post. "I'm sorry."
He drew even more criticism after it was discovered that he had tweeted seemingly contradictory accounts regarding his mother's passing.
In one tweet in July 2021, Santos claimed “9/11 claimed my mother’s life”. He was referring to the four co-ordinated suicide terrorist attacks carried out by the militant Islamist extremist network Al Qaeda against the US on September 11, 2001.
In another post months later, he said of his mother, Fatima Caruso Devolder: “December 23rd this year marks 5 years I lost my best friend and mentor”.
However Santos’s campaign website says his mother was in her office in the South Tower, the original 2 World Trade Center, on 11 September, 2001, but survived. It says she died of cancer several years later.
However, Sky News reported that records obtained by its affiliate NBC News and reports by the Washington Post citing immigration records, suggested Ms Devolder had not even been living in the US at the time of the attack. She was in fact living in Rio de Janeiro, the records and reports claimed.
A Brazilian performer, who uses the drag name Eula Rochard, told Reuters she befriended the Santos in 2005 in Brazil.
She said in 2008, he competed in a drag beauty pageant in Rio using the drag name Kitara Ravache.
While the congressman first called the reports “categorically false” on Twitter, when approached by US channel ABC7, he said: “I was young and I had fun at a festival — sue me for having a life.”
Since the controversy over his alleged lies began, Santos has come under increasing pressure to resign. Republican leaders have been particularly vocal about this. However, he has consistently stated that he is still determined to finish his term.