U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos, a Republican from Long Island, spoke to the New York Post on Monday, admitting that he lied on the campaign trail about his education and work experience — but insisting that the controversy won’t deter him from serving out his two-year term in Congress.
“I am not a criminal,” Santos said at one point during his exclusive interview. “This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good.”
Don’t miss: Incoming Republican Rep. George Santos faces scrutiny over claiming he worked at Goldman, Citi
Santos’s professional biography was called into question earlier this month after the New York Times reported that he misrepresented a number of claims, including where he attended college and his alleged employment history with high-profile Wall Street firms.
“My sins here are embellishing my résumé. I’m sorry,” Santos said on Monday in an interview with the New York Post. He also spoke with WABC-AM radio in New York.
Santos confessed he had “never worked directly” for Goldman Sachs
chalking that fabrication of professional qualifications up to a “poor choice of words.”
The 34-year-old now claims instead that a company called Link Bridge, where he served as a vice president, did business with both of the financial giants.
“I will be clearer about that. It was stated poorly,” Santos said.
At Link Bridge, Santos said, he helped make “capital introductions” between clients and investors, and Goldman Sachs and Citigroup were “LPs, Limited Partnerships,” that his company dealt with.
He also admitted that he never graduated from any college, despite previously claiming to have received a degree from Baruch College in 2010. “I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my résumé,” he said. “I own up to that. … We do stupid things in life.”
Santos, elected to Congress in Nov. 8 to represent the Long Island- and Queens-based 3rd District, was also accused of lying about his family history, saying on his campaign website that his mother was Jewish and his grandparents escaped the Nazis during World War II.
Santos now says that he’s “clearly Catholic,” but 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.’ ”
Santos, purported to be the first openly gay nonincumbent Republican elected to the House, also faced accusations that he lied about his sexual orientation, with the Daily Beast reporting last week that he was married to a woman until shortly before he launched an unsuccessful 2020 congressional campaign against Democrat Tom Suozzi.
The soon-to-be lawmaker confirmed to the Post on Monday that he was indeed married to a woman for about five years, from 2012 until his divorce in 2017, but insisted that he is now a happily married gay man.
“I dated women in the past. I married a woman. It’s personal stuff,” Santos said, adding that the relationship “got a little toxic.”
“I’m very much gay,” he says now. “I’m OK with my sexuality. People change. I’m one of those people who change.”
Santos also acknowledged being a deadbeat tenant in Sunnyside, Queens, where the New York Times reported he was ordered by a judge to pay more than $12,000 to a former landlord who claimed nonpayment of several months’ worth of rent — as well as that Santos had tried to pass a check that bounced.
On Monday, Santos claimed that, at the time of the lawsuit, his family was deep in medical debt from his mother’s cancer battle. “We were engulfed in debt,” he said. “We had issues paying rent at the time. It’s the vulnerability of being human. I am not embarrassed by it.”
Santos said his mother died of cancer on Dec. 23, 2016, after living with him at the Queens apartment and acknowledged the judgment against him.
Asked if he ever actually paid the arrears, Santos admitted: “We didn’t pay it off. I completely forgot about it.”
Santos also admitted to lying when he claimed that he owned 13 different properties, saying he now resides at his sister’s residence in Huntington but is looking to purchase his own place. “George Santos does not own any properties,” he said, speaking in the third person.
Santos was defiant in his denial of an allegation raised by the Times that he had an unspecified criminal charge filed against him in Brazil. “I am not a criminal here — not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world,” Santos said. “Absolutely not. That didn’t happen.”
The incoming congressman dismissed concerns that his lies will impact his effectiveness representing New Yorkers in the lower chamber in the new year. “I campaigned talking about the people’s concerns, not my résumé,” Santos told the Post.
“I intend to deliver on the promises I made during the campaign — fighting crime, fighting to lower inflation, improving education,” he added, saying: “The people elected me to fight for them.”
“I came to D.C. to bring results on those issues, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Senior House Republicans were apparently aware of inaccuracies and embellishments of the congressman-elect’s biography, and the topic became a “running joke,” multiple insiders close to House GOP leadership told the Post over the weekend.
“As far as questions about George in general, that was always something that was brought up whenever we talked about this race,” said one senior GOP leadership aide. “It was a running joke at a certain point. This is the second time he’s run, and these issues we assumed would be worked out by the voters.”
Last week, a top Long Island Republican asked that Santos explain himself after his lies began to unravel. “While I have indicated that the congressman-elect deserves a reasonable amount of time to respond to the media, voters deserve a sincere accounting from Mr. Santos,” said Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph Cairo. “I will be listening attentively, and I want to hear meaningful remarks from George Santos.”
That same day, Santos, broke his three-day silence since reports of his fibbing emerged, tweeting: “To the people of #NY03 I have my story to tell and it will be told next week. I want to assure everyone that I will address your questions and that I remain committed to deliver the results I campaigned on; Public safety, Inflation, Education & more.”
He then added: “Happy Holidays to all!”