It’s the case of the curious congressman-elect.
Voters elected Republican George Santos in November to represent parts of Long Island and Queens in Congress but did not know the candidate was running on a resume filled with apparently fabricated claims about his schooling and work — leaving more questions than answers about how he will now navigate a planned move to Washington.
And now even some Santos allies are calling on the politician to step forward and either verify or explain the misleading aspects of the biography he ran on.
“We have reached out to his office directly to ascertain whether they are true. These allegations, if true, are deeply troubling,” said Matt Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which has featured Santos at events and in videos alongside the party’s top leaders, including former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Brooks said in a statement to CBS News the organization is concerned about the allegations. “Given their seriousness, the Congressman-elect owes the public an explanation, and we look forward to hearing it.”
Repeated attempts by CBS News to reach Santos directly by phone were unsuccessful. His campaign manager referred CBS to a general email address for the campaign. In a statement, Santos’ attorney Joseph Murray accused the New York Times of “attempting to smear [Santos’] good name with defamatory allegations,” but provided no evidence or documents to refute any of the reporting.
The New York Times broke the news this week that Santos may have been making false claims about his past. CBS News has followed up on several of them, including his assertions that he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. A spokesperson from Goldman Sachs told CBS News that the firm has no record of his employment. And a representative from Citigroup told CBS News the company could not confirm Santos’ employment.
An earlier version of Santos’ campaign website stated, “George Anthony began working at Citigroup as an associate and quickly advanced to become an associate asset manager in the real asset division of the firm,” and in the next paragraph mentioned that “George Anthony was then offered an exciting opportunity with Goldman Sachs but what he thought would be the pinnacle of his career was not as fulfilling as he had anticipated.” Neither bank is currently named on his website.
There are also questions about Santos’ educational history. His campaign website still says, “George graduated from Baruch College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance.” But a spokesperson from Baruch College told CBS News no record of his attendance could be found. And the Internal Revenue Service could find no public record of Friends of Pets United, a tax-exempt animal rescue charity Santos claimed to have founded. The animal rescue, too, appears on an older version of his website but has been removed.
Santos helped Republicans win a narrow majority in the midterm election by flipping a Democratic seat, a district that includes parts of Queens and Long Island. During the campaign. The North Shore Leader, a Long Island news site, raised questions about his finances.
Democrat Robert Zimmerman, who lost to Santos in November, told CBS News his campaign had raised some of the issues during the contest. “But it’s a very important reminder of the urgency to be vigilant about our public officials and to put partisanship aside and to make sure that we always put integrity first in choosing our public officials,” he said.
“Whether you’re Democrat or Republican is not the issue,” Zimmerman said. “We can certainly have our political differences, but we should all be able to feel confidence in respecting the integrity of our public officials. George Santos has violated that confidence. He’s demonstrated he’s not a public official with and not with any integrity and does not belong in public office.”
Local Democrats have called on Santos to resign. “If you’ve seen Inventing Anna on Netflix, this is Inventing George Santos,” said Joshua Lafazan, a Nassau County legislator at a protest on Tuesday.
The chairman of the Nassau County Republican Party has called the allegations “serious.”
Joseph Cairo Jr. said Santos “deserves an opportunity to address the claims detailed in the article, which have been repeated by other news sources. Every person deserves an opportunity to “clear” his/her name in the face of accusations. I am committed to this principle, and I look forward to the Congressman-Elect’s responses to the news reports.”
Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have been silent. On Monday, Santos tweeted his support for McCarthy’s bid to be speaker, declaring, “We have the opportunity of a lifetime to deliver real results for the American people. We MUST give the gavel to @kevinomccarthy to ensure we stop the disastrous policies the Dems have pushed for the last 2 years.” But the link to that tweet now says the page “no longer exists.”
McCarthy is taking the helm of a narrow Republican majority and has little room for error in garnering support from his conference.
Ethics watchdogs are also monitoring developments. Susan Lerner, executive director for Common Cause New York, called on Santos to resign. Lerner told CBS News she had never seen an instance like this. “This is really, really breathtakingly shocking,” Lerner said. “There have been instances where candidates have exaggerated their background…haven’t seen anybody who’s made up an entirely false life story.”
It’s unclear whether House GOP leadership will urge any action. “There are always charlatans who will try and fool the system. And the question really is, can the system protect itself? And that’s what we’re going to see,” Lerner said. “Can Congress set standards for who is appropriately a member of the House of Representatives or not?”