Republican U.S. Representative-elect George Santos has admitted that he told numerous lies about his résumé on the campaign trail amid calls for him to resign after reporters uncovered the lies in an explosive investigation last week.
On Monday, Santos, elected to represent New York’s 3rd congressional district in November, told the New York Post that he “embellished” his professional background and admitted to several falsehoods uncovered by New York Times journalists when they contacted institutions he claimed to have been affiliated with.
He never graduated from any college, despite claiming he graduated from Baruch College, he admitted. The Republican also acknowledged that he never worked directly for Citigroup or Goldman Sachs, as he previously misleadingly suggested, and he doesn’t own property and is not a landlord, despite lying that he was a landlord to complain about COVID-era eviction moratoriums.
Santos denied that he had committed a crime in Brazil, despite the New York Times investigation uncovering Brazilian court files documenting that he had stolen the checkbook of a man his mother was caring for and a 2010 admission that he had done it. He didn’t address the Times’s finding that he had run a tax-exempt animal welfare organization that he said had rescued thousands of dogs and cats.
Santos’s admissions are “one of the more astonishing examples” of an incoming freshman member of Congress lying about their background, the New York Times wrote.
One of his admissions could point to questionable campaign finance practices. Though he said that he has had difficulties that have led to him owing landlords and creditors thousands of dollars, he failed to fully account for how he was able to lend his campaign $700,000 this year.
The Times investigation had raised questions about his finances and seeming failure to properly disclose his salary, or perhaps another campaign finance-related impropriety. In May 2020, during his first run for office, he disclosed making $55,000 in salary.
Then, between his first and second campaign, Santos worked for a few organizations that would fail fantastically; one company was accused of running a $17 million Ponzi scheme while Santos was working there, which Santos denies knowledge of.
He went on to work for two other organizations that have now dissolved due to failing to file an annual report, the last from which he reported receiving a $750,000 salary, with dividends from the company totalling between $1 million and $5 million. However, the company, the Devolder Organization, has not disclosed information about clients that could have helped propel the company to such success, which may be a violation of requirements to disclose compensation above $5,000 from any single source.
During the interview, Santos downplayed his lies and seemingly even continued to perpetuate some of them. For instance, while his campaign website claimed that his family escaped Nazis during World War II and he claimed several times on the campaign trail that he was of Jewish descent, he told The New York Post, “I never claimed to be Jewish.”
“I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish,’” he said, despite having spoken at events held by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Democrats have reacted with concern in response to the revelations and have called for him to resign, be investigated or be expelled.
“George Santos admits his life story is a complete fabrication. His pitiful confession should not distract us from concerns about possible criminality and corruption,” wrote Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-New York) on Twitter. “The Ethics Committee MUST investigate how he made his money. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) warned that, if Santos is still allowed to serve in Congress, it will send a message that candidates can lie with impunity in order to get elected.
“George Santos should resign as Congressman-elect. If he refuses, Congress should expel him. He should also be investigated by authorities,” Castro said. “George Santos represents more than an individual case for American democracy. If he’s allowed to serve there will be more who seek office up and down the ballot who will believe that they can completely fabricate credentials, personal features and accomplishments to win office.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), who is slated to lead the House in the next Congress, has so far remained silent about Santos.