It was a fairly unprecedented situation: George Santos was elected to the House of Representatives last month as a Republican, representing a district on Long Island. He ran, largely, on his biography: As a 34-year-old openly gay Latino Republican who had been a successful businessman.
While running, George Santos also claimed Jewish ancestry and stated that members of his mother’s family had survived the Holocaust.
After Santos’ election, The New York Times, and later other news outlets, reported on inconsistencies in Santos’ biography. He never graduated from college or worked for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup, as he claimed, nor did he actually own any of the real estate holdings he claimed to have. Subsequent reporting cast doubt on whether Santos’ claims of Jewish ancestry were true- and also revealed that the openly gay politician was married, relatively recently, to a woman.
Santos’ representatives first claimed that the Times was “attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations,” but Santos earlier this week conducted a media tour, consisting of interviews with the New York Post and Fox News, during which he admitted that much of what the Times reported was true.
This got Santos denounced by the Republican Jewish Coalition, which was under the impression that Santos was a bit more Jewish than he actually is.
The reporting raised questions, still mostly unanswered, about exactly where Santos’ wealth came from, while also raising doubts about whether Santos is long for Congress.
Now, there is additional reporting on things Santos was less than honest about.
CNN reported more inconsistencies in Santos’ past claims.
“CNN’s KFile uncovered more falsehoods from Santos, including claims he was forced to leave a New York City private school when his family’s real estate assets took a downturn and stating he represented Goldman Sachs at a top financial conference where he berated the company for investing in renewables,” the outlet said.
Santos had claimed to have attended the elite New York City prep school Horace Mann, although the school now says he never went there. He also said that he had once appeared at a financial conference hosted by former White House staffer Anthony Scaramucci where he denounced his “employer” Goldman Sachs- but that, also, never happened.
CNN also uncovered that Santos claimed the Ukrainian-Jewish side of his family had the surname Zabrovsky and that Santos had once fundraised on GoFundMe using the alias “Anthony Zabrovsky.” And Santos has been inconsistent about whether his mother was born in Belgium or Brazil.
But those may not be the only lies Santos has told about his mother. According to the Washington Examiner, Santos has claimed at different times that his mother died in the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and that she died in 2016. On other occasions, Santos claimed that his mother was working in the South Tower of the World Trade Center but had escaped and survived.
Lying about a connection to 9/11 would appear to be a major faux pas for a politician in New York.
Also on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported on the first official Santos criminal investigation. Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly said that she has opened a probe into Santos’ lies, calling them “nothing short of stunning.”
“The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” the district attorney said. “If a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”
George Santos will likely take his oath of office in Congress as scheduled next week. But whether he will remain in the House long-term is another question altogether, especially if he’s found to have committed a crime. A resignation or expulsion from Congress would trigger a special election, which could affect the balance of power in the closely divided House.
And even if that doesn’t happen, Santos would have to face the voters of his district again in 2024.
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Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.