Republican US Congressman George Santos has been at the center of a web of stunning revelations and allegations, spanning everything from his heritage to jobs he simply never held.
Wednesday the The 34-year-old was arrested in New York on federal charges of fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds.
But the controversy surrounding Santos goes beyond today’s allegations and goes back to after he was elected to represent New York’s 3rd congressional district in November of last year.
He has been accused of fabricating parts of his CV while running for Congress and has refused to resign, despite calls from his critics.
While he denies some of the allegations made against him, he has admitted that some of his CV statements were lies.
Here’s a summary of Santos’ claims, how we got here, and why Republicans “can’t afford to lose” his seat.
Who is Giorgio Santos?
It’s a seemingly simple question, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a straight answer: here’s what we know for sure.
The Brazilian-American was elected in November and became the first openly gay Republican to win a seat in the House as a non-holder.
While his win caused an uproar on Capitol Hill, it was soon overshadowed by the allegations that began in December.
A New York Times investigation found a number of false claims Santos made on his CV, including lies about his education and previous jobs.
From there, it’s all revealed.
His responses also varied. He admitted some were lies, dismissed others, and even backed down on some.
He is “Jewish”, not Jewish
Santos has made conflicting remarks about being Jewish, attending a drag show in Brazil, and the circumstances surrounding his mother’s death.
So let’s start with his legacy.
After his win, he said the summit of the Jewish republican coalition the election meant that “there will now be three” Jewish Republican members of Congress.
But then, he backtracked and told the New York Post that he “never claimed to be Jewish,” and said he was a Catholic, adding, “Because I learned that my maternal family had Jewish roots, I said that I was ‘Jew’.”
He said 9/11 ‘claimed his mother’s life’
It’s also quite confusing when you take a look at the conflicting reports of the death of Santos’ mother, Fatima Caruso Devolder.
While running for Congress in 2021, Santos tweeted that the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York “caused the death of his mother.”
However, on his campaign website, Santos said his mother was in her office in the South Tower on the day of the terrorist attack but “survived” and died “a few years” later of cancer.
However, documents obtained by Sky’s US partner, NBC News, as well as reports from The Washington Post citing immigration documents, suggest that Ms Devolder was not even living in the US at the time of the attack and was in fact living in Rio de Janeiro.
He hasn’t commented on it publicly since.
‘Sue me for a life’
Now let’s move on to another statement, about the deputy’s performance at a drag show.
A Brazilian performer, who uses the drag name Eula Rochard, told Reuters that she befriended the current MP in 2005 in Brazil.
She said that in 2008 she entered a drag beauty pageant in Rio using the drag name Kitara Ravache.
While the congressman initially called the reports “categorically false” on Twitter, when confronted on camera, he told US channel ABC7, “I was young and had fun at a festival – sue me for a life.” .
The Trump effect
Political strategist Rina Shah said only a “handful” of Republicans are calling for Santos to resign and his behavior echoes the “Trump effect”.
The former staffer to two Republican congressmen told Sky News: “The situation certainly highlights the Donald Trump effect.
“[It’s] the impact of the 45th president — quite a rush style to regularly claim to brag in a way about things that just weren’t true and have been proven to be false.”
He added that Santos “took on” that style “in a provocative way that says ‘come and get me because even if you try to get me, I’m still going to lie about it.'”
Despite the lies, Ms. Shah said no senior Republican would take action against him because they “can’t afford to lose” her seat in the House.
Republicans won a razor-thin majority in the House after the midterm, and she warned that removing Santos could endanger the seat.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he would decline judgment on Santos, saying, “In America, you are innocent until proven guilty.”
He hasn’t worked on Wall Street
As the list of allegations against Santos grew, he admitted to lying about a few things.
In an earlier version of his campaign website, Santos was described as a “Wall Street savvy financier” and said he had a finance career working at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.
The New York Times investigation found that neither institution had any records of its employment. Lui admitted to lying about his education and roles at the two companies and told the New York Post, “My sins here are gracing my resume. I’m sorry.”
Stealing from a disabled veteran
But there are some instances where Santos has categorically denied certain claims.
He denied an allegation by veteran Richard Osthoff, who accused him of scamming him out of $3,000 from a GoFundMe campaign page raised for his dying guide dog in 2016.
Mr Osthoff told news site Patch that he was told Anthony Devolder, one of the names Santos used before he entered politics, had a pet charity called Friends of Pets United.
She claimed Mr. Devolder shut down the page and disappeared after the funds were raised.
Santos angrily denied the reports and called them “shocking and insane”.
What makes his “lies” different?
While some might say that lying in politics is nothing new, a psychologist specializing in lying and deception research explains why Santos’ claims and allegations may sound a little different.
Dr Chris Hart, psychology professor at Texas Woman’s University, told Sky News: ‘If we look at the lies that most politicians tell, they are often exaggerations and half-truths.
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“They rarely lie in a way that makes claims that have absolutely no basis in reality and that’s where he’s different.
“The frequency with which he seems to tell her is a bit surprising compared to other politicians.”