George Santos goes to Washington

Rep. George Santos (R-NY)

It was a lonely first day in the House for George Santos, the first out gay non-incumbent Republican elected to the House. The beleaguered fabulist, who has been caught in a web of increasingly more complicated lies, spent much of his day like the other new members of the 118th Congress: watching the GOP fail to govern. House members spent January 3 voting in three successive ballots to elect a Speaker of the House. In each roll call, GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy failed to meet the 218 vote threshold. Santos looked uncomfortable and lonely as he watched the proceedings, sitting by himself in the gallery. 

Santos had originally expected to be welcomed and feted by the GOP. Santos had the strong endorsement of New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, chair of the House Republican Conference. His Twitter banner is a photo of the two of them, with the statement Stefanik endorsed him. It was Stefanik who gave the opening nomination for Kevin McCarthy for Speaker — a glowing paean to the GOP leader who chose her to replace Liz Cheney. Santos having the endorsement of the third-most powerful Republican matters. 

Santos had embraced the GOP despite their anti-LGBTQ platform and policies. As Santos told USA Today prior to the November elections, “I am openly gay, have never had an issue with my sexual identity in the past decade, and I can tell you and assure you, I will always be an advocate for LGBTQ folks.” 

Santos, who ran for the same seat in 2020 against the then-incumbent, said, “I think it shows that a lot of what the media puts out there that Republicans are homophobic and not accepting is just not true. I have plenty of support from the local Republican party. I have been nominated twice in a row with no opposition.”  

But on Tuesday, Santos was less eager to speak to the press and was not feeling any support from either the GOP or fellow New Yorkers. He had been silent as reporters followed him into the chamber, asking him a series of questions about what has become the latest scandal for the GOP. In a prescient metaphor for how the day would evolve, Santos walked into a dead end in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building while walking quickly in advance of the press corps, then had to turn around.

Shortly after 5 p.m., the House voted en masse to adjourn until noon Wednesday and Santos left, still in that limbo space of elected, but not sworn and still enmeshed in the fallout from the exposé of his largely faked resume which he has admitted was “embellished.”

It’s been a challenging few weeks for Santos, who was revealed right before Christmas to have invented most of his resume. On December 19, stories questioning Santos’s resume and origin story began emerging in which he falsely claimed a degree from Baruch College and jobs at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. The exposes were led by the New York Times. Like a modern version of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley or a gay male Anna Delvey, Santos was revealed to be at best a manipulative fabulist and at worst a pathological liar who may have committed illegal acts with his finances in his run for office.

Federal prosecutors, state prosecutors and New York’s attorney general are reportedly looking into Santos’s statements for criminal liability related to his finances — not his resume. 

As PGN reported previously, Santos is accused of lying to and duping voters into choosing him over Democratic contender Robert Zimmerman who lost to Santos 54.1% to 45.9% in the previously blue district which President Biden won in 2020 by 8%. On December 27, Zimmerman called on Santos to resign and run in a new election after Santos admitted to misrepresenting his professional and educational resume.

But Santos has insisted he will serve out his term, asserting that he campaigned on “talking about the people’s concerns, not my resume.”  Santos has said it is up to voters to vote him out if they don’t like the job he is doing. New York has no recall provisions and no one in GOP leadership has called on Santos to resign.

As a consequence, Santos has moved forward in his new role as congressman-elect despite calls by Democrats for him to resign. His House webpage shows a broadly grinning Santos against a backdrop of the Capitol and states “Congressman George Santos is currently serving his first term in Congress as the Representative of the 3rd district of New York.” 

The questions about who Santos is have not abated despite the distraction caused by the GOP’s inability to coalesce around a Speaker. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely the GOP will focus on Santos once a Speaker is chosen. What looms for Santos are ethics investigations instigated by House Democrats as well as several other investigations into Santos’s finances. 

The facts may be discouraging for those who want to see Santos punished for his duplicity and for lying about more personal issues like claiming to be biracial, claiming to be Jewish with grandparents who fled the Holocaust and claiming his mother died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Santos also claimed to have employees who were murdered in the Pulse nightclub massacre, the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

While the extremes of Santos’s lies and misrepresentations have enraged Democrats and many voters, politicians lying to the public is not a crime, as has been evidenced by the astonishing number of lies told by Donald Trump, which totaled 30,573 verified over four years, and also in the many lies told in the midterms by Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker.

What could be Santos’s undoing are his finances, which show he went from annual earnings of $50,000 when he ran for office in 2020 to over $11 million in 2022. In addition, Santos funded his own campaign with $700,000 that may have come from his business in a fashion that may violate campaign finance rules. Where did the money come from? This is the question that might end Santos’s congressional aspirations. 

Also, Santos may be investigated for fraud in Brazil.  According to documents obtained by CNN, Santos admitted to stealing a man’s checkbook that was in his mother’s possession in Brazil in 2008 when he was 19. Santos’s mother had been the man’s nurse. Santos used four stolen checks to buy shoes and clothes totaling $700, according to the statements. Under Brazil’s severe criminal justice sentencing, law enforcement officials in Brazil will reinstate fraud charges against the New York Republican, CNN reported Tuesday. A formal request to the U.S. Justice Department to notify Santos of the charges will be made, Maristela Pereira, a spokeswoman for the Rio de Janeiro prosecutor’s office, told CNN.

In an interview with the New York Post after Christmas, Santos insisted that he hadn’t been charged with any crime in Brazil. Santos said,  “I am not a criminal here – not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world. Absolutely not. That didn’t happen.” 

PGN reached out to Santos’s attorney Joseph Murray, Esq. Murray did not respond to PGN’s request for comment.