Politics

Who is George Santos, the Republican facing calls to resign and an investigation by New York prosecutors?

Tulsi Gabbard confronts George Santos over his multiple falsehoods
Fox News

George Santos, the Republican politician soon to take office as a House representative for New York’s third congressional district, is the latest individual from the world of US politics to attract controversy, media attention and legislative scrutiny.

But who is the Long Island rep, and why is he under fire, exactly?

Well, Santos – who defeated Democrat incumbent Robert Zimmerman in last month’s congressional elections – admitted to a string of lies about his background and resume to the New York Post this week, made while he was out campaigning to win a seat in Congress.

It comes after the New York Times did most of the work digging into the backstory of Santos, only to find a number of inaccuracies and ambiguities.

The New York Times revelations

He claimed he was a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” – except Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, the two firms listed by Santos, said they had no records of him ever being under their employment.

He claimed he was a graduate of Baruch College – yet officials from that college couldn’t find any matches from 2010 based on his name or date of birth.

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He claimed he’s worked on an animal rescue charity known as Friends of Pets United – but the Internal Revenue Service told the Times they couldn’t find records of a registered charity with that name.

In February last year, he published tweets bemoaning government policy on landlords and implied he was one himself – only for the Times to report he didn’t list any New York properties on the necessary disclosure forms for his election campaign in November.

The outlet also notes that Santos claimed he “lost four employees” working at his unidentified company in the Pulse nightclub shooting – an attack on an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016 – except their review of “news coverage and obituaries” found not a single victim who appeared to have worked at one of Santos’ listed companies.

Unbelievably, this isn’t the only tragedy he’s accused of exploiting. In July 2021 he tweeted that “9/11 claimed my mother’s life”, only to write a few months later in December that it marks “five years [since] I lost my best friend and mentor. Mom you will live forever in my heart”.

So that would mean the year of her death was 2016 – 15 years after the devastating and deadly terror attack on the World Trade Center, and certainly not “a few years later” as the biography on his campaign website states.

CNN uncovered more confusing inaccuracies, including around a claim by Santos that his grandparents “survived the Holocaust”, after reviewing “family trees compiled by genealogy websites, records on Jewish refugees and interviews with multiple geneaologists”.

The CNN revelations

On Wednesday, CNN reported that they had been told by Horace Mann School in the Bronx that there is “no evidence” George Santos attended their institution - contrary to previous comments made by the soon-to-be congressman.

Another online article by the news organisation stated that one genealogist requested to research Santos’ family tree found “no sign of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage” in it.

That’s despite Jewish newspaper The Forward reporting that one position paper from Santos saw him claim he was an “American Jew”, and comments from Santos to Fox News in February that his grandfather was “born in Kyiv”, Ukraine’s capital.

So, what has Santos said himself amid all these accusations of lying and inaccuracies?

Well, on Monday, the Republican admitted to “embellishing my resume” during an interview with the New York Post.

He revealed he “never worked directly” for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup, blaming a “poor choice of words”, and that he never graduated from a college – not even the one from Baruch he claimed he received in 2010.

“I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume. I own up to that … we do stupid things in life,” he told the outlet.

In a more bizarre response to the claims levelled against him, Santos also insisted he “never claimed to be Jewish”.

Instead, he said: “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish’.”

Sounds like the iconic “boo-urns” scene from The Simpsons, but certainly more problematic.

Even though he admitted to “embellishing” his resume, Santos ruled out stepping down as representative-elect over the controversy.

He said: “I campaigned talking about the people’s concerns, not my resume.

“I intend to deliver on the promises I made during the campaign – fighting crime, fighting to lower inflation, improving education.

“The people elected me to fight for them.”

The wider response

As is to be expected, probably, a lot of people aren’t at all happy with an elected politician admitting to “embellishing” some of his background information and making multiple claims which are as yet unsubstantiated.

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), which describes itself as the “unique bridge between the Jewish community and Republican decision-makers”, said in a statement on Tuesday that they are “very disappointed” in Santos.

“He deceived us and misrepresented his heritage. In public comments and to us personally he previously claimed to be Jewish.

“He has begun his tenure in Congress on a very wrong note. He will not be welcome at any future RJC event,” it reads.

The Democrat equivalent, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said in its own statement that “if [the] RJC had any integrity”, it would join them in “ensuring there’s no place for Santos’ lies in Congress by calling on him not to take the oath of office”.

He is currently scheduled to do that on Tuesday. If he does, he could still face investigations by the House Committee on Ethics and the Justice Department.

Elsewhere, former representative Tulsi Gabbard grilled Santos on his “blatant lies” when she stepped in for Tucker Carlson and guest presented Tucker Carlson Tonight on Wednesday.

In one of her questions ripping into the Republican, she simply asked: “Do you have no shame?”

Santos also faces a potential legal headache, as the New York attorney general’s office has said it is looking into some of the issues unearthed about the elected congressman.

Several outlets – including The Independent – have reported that Long Island prosecutors have launched an investigation.

Meanwhile, Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly branded the “numerous fabrications and inconsistencies” surrounding Santos as “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. No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it,” she said.

Hey, at least the completely uncontroversial Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene is on Santos’ side, writing in a long-winded Twitter thread that “Republicans should give George Santos a chance” and “not treat him the same as the left is”.

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