It’s hardly unprecedented for politicians to include embellishments on their résumés, but Rep.-elect George Santos appears to have made up a personal biography that’s almost entirely fictional. This is not a run-of-the-mill example of a politician exaggerating his experiences: The New York Republican has made detailed claims about his educational and professional background that bear no resemblance to reality.
After The New York Times broke this story in brutal fashion yesterday, it was inevitable that the incoming GOP lawmaker would respond. To that end, Santos issued a written statement yesterday through his attorney. It read in its entirety:
"George Santos represents the kind of progress that the left is so threatened by — a gay, Latino, first-generation American and Republican who won a Biden district in overwhelming fashion by showing everyday voters that there is a better option than the broken promises and failed policies of the Democratic Party. After four years in the public eye, and on the verge of being sworn in as a member of the Republican led 118th Congress, the New York Times launched this shotgun blast of attacks. It is no surprise that Congressman-elect Santos has enemies at the New York Times who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations. As Winston Churchill famously stated, 'You have enemies? Good. It means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.'"
Just to reiterate, this was the entire statement, not an excerpt, which is unfortunate.
Right off the bat, let’s note that the Churchill quote is fake, and given the fact that Santos stands accused of a spectacular public deceptions, this ironic twist didn’t help matters.
But more important is the fact that the Republican congressman-elect had an opportunity — and by some measures, a responsibility — to set the record straight about his own claims. Santos told the public he attended NYU, graduated in 2010 from Baruch College, worked at Citigroup, spent some time at Goldman Sachs, and helped run a tax-exempt organization. The Times’ reporting suggests none of these claims is true and effectively made up much of his biography.
Confronted with straightforward questions, Santos’ statement never got around to actually denying any of the allegations. Indeed, he never addressed the substance of the controversy at all.
If the Times got any aspect of the story wrong, this was the New Yorker’s chance to defend his honor and explain to the public that he told the truth. Santos chose not to do that — reinforcing suspicions that he lied on a dramatic scale.
There was quite a bit of talk yesterday about a possible ethics investigation, and the chatter seems unlikely to go away anytime soon. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’ll need Santos’ support in order to become House speaker, has so far said nothing, though he’ll probably need to think of some kind of response fairly soon.