New York Representative George Santos has put on a clinic when it comes to building your own narrative. He has displayed inimitable will in showing that in politics, you don’t really need to “do” or “be” anything—you can just make it all up. That is, until The New York Times reports that you indeed, made it all up.
Since then, it’s been an unending cascade of revelations—each more bizarre than the last—showing that we can’t really trust anything that he has ever said. Poke around at practically any sentence he has uttered in public over the past few years, you’ll likely find something about it that isn’t quite right: lies, obfuscations, cover-ups, or simply absurd behavior kept under wraps. There’s so much—too much!—to keep track of. But we’ll give it a try. Here’s our exhausting, non-exhaustive list of all the yarn George Santos has spun.
Being a drag queen: A 2008 photo from Brazil depicts Santos, known at the time as Anthony, in a drag costume under the moniker Kitara Ravache. The photo comes from Santos’s old friend Eula Rochard, a Brazilian drag queen who has said she met Santos when he was a teenager, as they bonded over both being gay and enjoying drag.
Santos didn’t exactly lie about not doing drag, but he has vocally supported at least one anti-LGBTQ law and positioned himself among a political movement incredibly antagonistic toward drag queens and others who enjoy drag.
His mom’s death: In July 2021, Santos tweeted that “9/11 claimed my mothers life.” Santos’ campaign website explains that “George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower on September 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded. She survived the tragic events on September 11th, but she passed away a few years later when she lost her battle to cancer.” Previously, the website wrote that she was also the “first female executive at a major financial institution,” and it did not include the detail that she had died from cancer.
Newly uncovered immigration records show that Santos’s mother was not even in the United States at all that day. She had applied for a visa to enter the United States from Brazil in February 2003, and on the application, she wrote that she hadn’t been in the United States since 1999.
Raising money for a homeless veteran’s dying dog through his “charity,” only to then steal the money and leave the veteran in the dust and his dog to die: In May 2016, Santos allegedly raised $3,000 for a homeless and disabled veteran’s service dog, Sapphire, who was suffering from a life-threatening stomach tumor. Santos claimed to have run a nonprofit called Friends of Pets United, and offered to help the veteran raise money for the dying dog through it. After Santos (who went by Anthony Devolder at the time) closed the GoFundMe, he took the $3,000 and was never heard from again. Sapphire died two months later.
Santos has previously claimed he ran his nonprofit, one “able to effectively rescue 2400 dogs and 280 cats, and successfully conducted the TNR [which stands for “trap neuter and release,” not “The New Republic”] of over 3000 cats,” according to his website. Axios found no evidence of this organization in either IRS filings or ProPublica’s nonprofit database. CNN found that he instead also ran a campaign for a pet charity under the alias “Anthony Zabrovsky,” on a GoFundMe page that no longer exists.
Leading a ponzi scheme company: Santos worked at Harbor City Capital Corporation in 2020 and 2021. In a 2021 complaint against the company, the SEC called it a “classic ponzi scheme.” Santos’s attorney told CNN that Santos was “completely unaware of any illegal activity” at the company. Santos himself told The Daily Beast that he was “as distraught and disturbed as everyone else” to learn about the complaints against Harbor City.
But CNN found a since-removed tweet from Santos’s since-deleted account (for which his name was George Devolder), showing him communicating with a customer complaining about potential fraudulent activity at Harbor City. “I’m sorry I’m not following you. Could you please send me an email at George.firstname.lastname@example.org and we can go over this together,” Santos responded, showing he indeed became aware of complaints against the company. Santos also called himself “the head guy” at the company’s New York office and the company executive. In one 2020 clip, Santos claimed to manage a $1.5 billion fund for the company. So Santos is lying either about how much responsibility he had at the company, or whether he knew about the allegations against the “ponzi scheme” company—or some combination of both.
Being a volleyball star: Santos allegedly told the Nassau County Republican Chair that he was a volleyball star who helped lead the Baruch College team to a “league championship.” There is no record of Santos attending Baruch, and none of the team rosters include Santos.
Getting Covid and his general medical history: The Daily Beast reported a series of inconsistencies in Santos’ portrayal of when and how he got Covid. He has cited several different dates for when he tested positive for the virus and portrayed various different experiences of having it—sometimes saying the virus is overblown and “just [the] flu,” other times describing his time as “the worst two weeks of my life as an adult.”
He has also claimed underlying conditions—including immunodeficiency, acute chronic bronchitis, and a prior brain tumor—left him more susceptible to the virus. He has seldom mentioned these conditions elsewhere, nor has he provided further substantiation on them since.
Stealing all his friend’s money and pawning off her jewelry: Brazilian outlet Fantástico reported on a woman who was allegedly swindled by Santos over a decade ago. Adriana Damasceno said she met and befriended Santos at bingo in Niterói, a Brazilian city part of Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area. In 2011, they allegedly traveled to the United States together, where Santos used her identity to go shopping, withdrawing all the money she had in the bank and even pawning jewelry. Fantástico says Santos did not respond to requests for comment.
His voting record and when he even joined the House: As of early January 4, one day after his first day, Santos’ website claimed he voted “nay” on the House omnibus bill, a vote that took place on December 23, 2022. The vote has since been scrubbed from the website. It is unclear why a newly-elected member of Congress would choose to do this.
The lie comes after Santos also posted a press release January 3 announcing his swearing in to Congress, something that actually hadn’t happened given that the House had yet to select a speaker. The mis-announcement could readily be chalked to an accidental posting or staffer mistake. Actively marking down a vote that simply never happened is also erroneous, but much less likely to be an honest mistake.
Animal charity: Santos claimed he ran a nonprofit called Friends of Pets United, “able to effectively rescue 2400 dogs and 280 cats, and successfully conducted the TNR [which stands for “trap neuter and release,” not “The New Republic”] of over 3000 cats,” according to his website. Axios found no evidence of this organization in either IRS filings or ProPublica’s nonprofit database. CNN found that he instead ran a campaign for a pet charity under the alias “Anthony Zabrovsky,” on a GoFundMe page that no longer exists.
His mom’s death: In July 2021, Santos tweeted that “9/11 claimed my mothers life.” A few months later, in December, he honored his mother with a tweet that read “December 23rd this year marks 5 years I lost [sic] my best friend and mentor. Mom you will live forever in my heart.”
Santos’ campaign website explains that “George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower on September 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded. She survived the tragic events on September 11th, but she passed away a few years later when she lost her battle to cancer.” Previously, the website wrote that she was also the “first female executive at a major financial institution,” and it did not include the detail that she had died from cancer.
There have been deaths attributed to 9/11-related illnesses. Santos’ mother could indeed be among those, but the details are mucky, given his initial suggestion that Santos’ mother lost her life on the actual day.
Being a Brazilian criminal: Santos allegedly stole two checks belonging to an 82-year-old man his mother was taking care of, and used them to buy shoes and clothes. Santos was charged with embezzlement, and the case is actually still open.
An undisclosed marriage: Santos became the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress. But the Daily Beast reported that Santos did not disclose a previous marriage he had to a woman—one that ended just 12 days before he began his first congressional campaign. “I’m very much gay…People change,” Santos has said. “I’m one of those people who change.”
His heritage: Santos, who has called himself “half Jewish” and a “Latino Jew” had repeatedly claimed his maternal grandparents “survived the Holocaust.” His website described them first fleeing Jewish persecution in Ukraine and settling in Belgium before again fleeing persecution during World War II. He has even claimed they changed their Jewish last name from Zabrovsky. But records show those grandparents were born in Brazil—with no indication of them having a Jewish background. And there is no evidence of his family changing their supposed last name.
In the manner of an amateur Dad-joke, Santos has in the past joked that he is “Jew-ish.” In an interview with Fox News host Tulsi Gabbard, he doubled down on that very normal defense.
Santos also claimed that his “White Caucasian mother, an immigrant from Belgium” fled “socialism in Europe.” Records show his mother, like her parents, was born in Brazil.
Santos has also claimed to be biracial—“Caucasian and black”—to be specific. In a statement responding to first reports from The New York Times into his lies, Santos only claimed to be a “Latino,” (before falsely attributing a quote to Winston Churchill). This does not preclude Santos from being biracial—but clarity on any part of his background has been hard to come by.
His professional background: Santos claimed to have worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup as a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor.” Both Goldman Sachs and Citigroup told The New York Times they had no record of his employment. Santos subsequently admitted he “never worked directly” for the companies, instead saying he interfaced with the companies while serving as VP at a company called LinkBridge.
He has also claimed to be a landlord, complaining on Twitter about people not paying their rent during Covid. The Times found no rental property-owning records associated with him.
His educational background: Santos has claimed that he obtained a degree from Baruch College. The school could not confirm that to be the case. “I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning,” Santos later admitted. “I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume.”
He also has repeatedly claimed to have attended Horace Mann, an elite New York City preparatory school. CNN reported the school did not have evidence of him ever attending.
His campaign funding: In 2020, Santos reported holding no assets and having a salary of $55,000 from his position at LinkBridge. The Daily Beast reported that just two years after that, Santos claimed a net worth as high as $11.5 million—all of it coming from the newly-formed Devolder Organization, from which Santos claims to have received $750,000 in salary and between $1 and $5 million in dividends. Some $700,000 of the organization’s money funded Santos’ campaign, in what looks to be a potentially illegal laundering of big-money donations.
The Pulse shooting: In an interview with WYNC, Santos said that four people who worked for him were killed during the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016 that left 49 people dead. The New York Times did not find any evidence for that claim.
Of course, tons of politicians exaggerate, embellish, and stretch the truth. But in the party of Herschel Walker, Donald Trump, and company, it seems “George Santos”—if that’s really even his name—will fit right in.
This post was updated.