Congressman-elect George Santos, the first openly gay Republican to be elected to Congress as a non-incumbent, admitting to fabricating parts of his résumé and biography following a New York Times exposé published last week.
Speaking with the right-leaning New York Post on Monday, Santos confirmed that he had embellished claims about his educational and work history, but said that the misrepresentations he made won’t affect his ability to serve in the next session of Congress, which kicks off on Jan. 3.
“I am not a criminal,” Santos said during the interview. “This will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good.
“My sins here are embellishing my résumé,” he added. “I’m sorry.”
Santos, who was elected to represent parts of Long Island and Queens in November, had his background called into question after the Times reported that it could not confirm assertions made in his biography. For instance, while Santos claimed to have received a degree from Baruch College in 2010, the university was unable to confirm his attendance. In the Post interview, Santos admitted that he had never graduated from any college.
“I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my résumé,” he said. “I own up to that … We do stupid things in life.”
A biography on Santos’s campaign website — which has since been edited — initially claimed that the 34-year-old had worked for Wall Street firms Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. But Santos has since admitted he “never worked directly” for either company, saying that the assertion was a “poor choice of words.”
Santos sought to clarify that he worked for a company, LinkBridge Investors, that worked with both of the firms. At LinkBridge, he claimed to have made “capital introductions” between clients and investors, and that Goldman Sachs and Citigroup were limited partnerships that his company dealt with.
Regarding accusations that he lied about having Jewish heritage and that his maternal grandparents had fled persecution in Ukraine, and, later, in Belgium, Santos said he identifies as Catholic, but claims his grandmother told stories about being Jewish and later converting to Catholicism.
“I never claimed to be Jewish,” Santos said. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.'”
Regarding revelations published in The Daily Beast last week that he had been married to a woman, Santos confirmed that he had been married to a woman for about five years, from 2012 until his divorce in 2017, but insists he is now a happily married gay man.
“I dated women in the past. I married a woman. It’s personal stuff,” Santos said. “I’m very much gay. I’m OK with my sexuality. People change. I’m one of those people who change.”
Santos did not address other questions raised by The Daily Beast story, such as when he officially came out or whether he is actually married to a man.
While Santos, in defending his stances opposing the Respect for Marriage Act and supporting Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, claimed that he had “never experienced discrimination in the Republican Party” due to his sexual orientation, and “never had an issue” with his sexuality “in the past decade,” the timeline of his marriage would seem to conflict with the idea that he was “out” to fellow Republicans at the time he was married to a woman.
The Daily Beast claimed to have found a document confirming Santos’s past marriage to a woman was finalized in 2019, two weeks before he launched the first of two runs for New York’s 3rd Congressional District. The website was unable to find a marriage license confirming that Santos had indeed married a gay pharmacist, whom he had referred to in 2021 as his “fiancé” but has since referred to as his “husband.”
Santos admitted to lying when he claimed, on Twitter, that his family had owned 13 different properties, adding that he now resides at his sister’s place in Huntington but is looking to purchase his own place.
“George Santos does not own any properties,” he said.
Regarding claims that he owed overdue rent to a former landlord, Santos said he had encountered financial troubles due to taking on the burden of paying his mother’s medical debt after she was diagnosed with cancer, the disease from which she ultimately died on Dec. 23, 2016. He claimed to have forgotten about the $12,000 amount owed to the landlord, which a Queens judge had ordered him to pay.
“We didn’t pay it off,” he said. “I completely forgot about it.”
He did dispute one of the claims in the Times story — that he had been charged with a crime in Brazil in 2008 for allegedly stealing the checkbook of a man for whom his mother was working as a home nurse and using it to make expensive purchases — saying: “I am not a criminal here — not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world.”
Santos dismissed concerns that his embellishments and fabrications might impact his effectiveness in Congress.
“I campaigned talking about the people’s concerns, not my résumé,” he said. “I intend to deliver on the promises I made during the campaign — fighting crime, fighting to lower inflation, improving education. I came to D.C. to bring results on those issues and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Senior House Republicans were aware of the inaccuracies and embellishments in Santos’s biography, and the topic even became a “running joke” among those in the know, multiple insiders close to House GOP leadership told the New York Post.
“As far as questions about George in general, that was always something that was brought up whenever we talked about this race,” a senior GOP leadership aide said. “It was a running joke at a certain point. This is the second time he’s run and these issues we assumed would be worked out by the voters.”
The Cook Political Report previously reported, in its writeup of the 3rd Congressional District race, that Republicans allegedly had reservations about Santos, quoting one GOP aide who told the outlet that “we’re not touching [Santos] with a 10-foot pole.” That led the political prognosticators, including Cook, to rate the race as “leans Democratic,” which may have influenced media and pundits to de-prioritize the race and fail to investigate Santos’s background.
Robert Zimmerman, the Democrat whom Santos defeated for the open seat race, told Washington Post reporter Azi Paybarah that he was not shocked about Santos’s alleged lies.
“We always knew he was running a scam against the voters, and we raised many of these issues,” Zimmerman reportedly told Paybarah, “but [we] were drowned out in the governor’s race where crime was the focus and the media had other priorities.”
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