Congressman-elect George Santos is facing increasing calls to resign following admissions that he fabricated parts of his resumé, including information about his education and employment history.
In a bombshell investigation published Dec. 19, The New York Times said it was unable to substantiate many of Santos’ alleged qualifications, such as that he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and had graduated from Baruch College.
Santos, who made LGBTQ political history when he won the November race for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of Long Island and Queens, admitted to what he described as “overstat[ing]” and “embellishing” his qualifications in at least three interviews Monday.
“A lot of people overstate in their resumes or twist a little bit,” he said in an interview with radio station WABC. “I’m not saying I’m not guilty of that.”
In another interview with the New York Post, he said he did not graduate from Baruch College or any institution of higher learning.
“I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume,” he said, according to the paper. “I own up to that … We do stupid things in life.”
And in an interview with City and State, Santos apologized, saying, “Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did. And I’m sorry, and it shouldn’t be done.”
In a previous version of his campaign website, Santos said he “began working at Citigroup as an associate” after graduating from Baruch College and, later on in his career, was “offered an exciting opportunity with Goldman Sachs” that “was not as fulfilling as he had anticipated.” In Monday’s interview with the New York Post, however, he described his claims that he worked for these two companies as “a poor choice of words” and said he did business with them while he served as the vice president of a company called LinkBridge.
Santos denied reporting from The New York Times that he has unresolved 2008 criminal charges for check fraud in Brazil.
“I am not a criminal here — not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world,” Santos told the New York Post. “Absolutely not. That didn’t happen.”
Santos is also facing scrutiny for his previous claims that he has Jewish heritage. His campaign website biography previously said that his mother’s parents “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.” As of Tuesday, the biography had been removed.
Santos has said in previous interviews that his family converted to Catholicism when they moved to Brazil and that he is not Jewish. But the Forward, a Jewish publication based in New York City, on Tuesday shared a copy of a position paper in which Santos called himself a “proud American Jew.”
However, in his interview with the New York Post, Santos said he’s “clearly Catholic” and, according to the paper, “claimed 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.’”
This week’s interviews are among Santos’ first responses to the Times investigation, and his comments have led to widespread criticism, including from fellow Republican officials.
In a statement shared with NBC News Tuesday, Nassau GOP Chairman Joseph Cairo said, in part, he is “deeply disappointed” in Santos and “expected more than just a blanket apology.”
“The damage that his lies have caused to many people, especially those who have been impacted by the Holocaust, are profound,” Cairo said. “He must do the public’s will in Washington … George Santos will have to continually prove that he has learned his lesson.”
Matt Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a political group that supports Jewish Republicans, said in a statement Tuesday that Santos “deceived us and misrepresented his heritage.”
“In public comments and to us personally he previously claimed to be Jewish,” Brooks said. “He has begun his tenure in Congress on a very wrong note. He will not be welcome at any future RJC event.”
There is at least one Republican defending Santos: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. In a Twitter thread posted Tuesday afternoon, Greene stated the “real reason” Santos is being attacked by “the left” is that he’s the “first openly gay Republican elected and they hate him for it.”
“I’m glad George is being honest with his district now and look forward to seeing how George legislates & votes,” Greene wrote.
Reps. Ted Lieu and Eric Swalwell, both California Democrats, said Santos should not be allowed to serve in Congress.
Santos’ competitor in the November election, Democrat Robert Zimmerman, also called on him to resign and run against him again in a special election.
“Face the voters with your real past & answer questions about your criminal history,” Zimmerman said on social media. “Let the voters decide.”
Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., called for the House Ethics Committee to investigate Santos due to a portion of The New York Times report about his finances. The report found that Santos was issued a warrant of eviction in 2017 due to unpaid rent for his apartment in the Queens borough of New York City, but that financial disclosure forms also show that he lent his campaign more than $700,000 during the midterm election. NBC News was able to confirm that Santos has faced at least two evictions since 2014.
In his interview with the New York Post, Santos said that at the time of the 2017 eviction lawsuit, his family was “engulfed in debt” due to his mother’s cancer battle.
“We had issues paying rent at the time,” he said. “It’s the vulnerability of being human. I am not embarrassed by it.”
He said his mother, Fatima Devolder, died of cancer in December 2016 after living in the apartment with him.
NBC News attempted to reach George Santos overnight but has not yet received a response.
Santos is also facing scrutiny for his claim that his mother was a survivor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A previous version of his campaign website stated that she was a financial executive working in the World Trade Center’s South Tower during the time of the attacks.
“She survived the horrific events of that day, but unfortunately passed away a few years later,” his website previously stated. He also reiterated the 9/11 survivor claim in a June 2021 interview with WABC radio.
Public employment records only show one employer for Santos’ mother: Imports by Rose, a company based in Queens that shuttered in 1994. The New York Times reported that Santos’ mother was a domestic worker, not a financial executive.
When asked about Santos’ claims regarding his mother, Santos’ attorney, Joseph Murray, referred NBC News to Kevin Connors, whom Murray said would be handling Santos’ press inquiries. Connors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Questions have also arisen about Santos’ sexuality after The Daily Beast reported Thursday that he did not publicly disclose that he was married to a woman. According to public records, Santos was married to a woman from 2012 until 2019, shortly before he ran for Congress the first time as an out gay candidate. Santos also implied in an October interview with USA Today that he had been “openly gay” for at least a decade.
Santos confirmed his previous marriage to the New York Post Monday and said the issue is “personal” and that he is now happily married to a gay man.
“I’m very much gay,” he told the New York Post. “I’m OK with my sexuality. People change. I’m one of those people who change.”
Despite the widespread criticism, Santos maintained in the Monday WABC radio interview that he didn’t “defraud” voters.
“I’m not a criminal who defrauded the entire country and made up this fictitional character and ran for Congress,” he said.