Who is George Santos and what are some of his lies?

New Republican congressman is being investigated by ethics committee after career full of debunked claims

US Representative George Santos sits in the House Chamber at the US Capitol in Washington, on February 7. Reuters
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The US House of Representatives ethics committee has launched an investigation into Republican George Santos, who has been embroiled in controversies over debunked claims he has told throughout his career.

Mr Santos, a first-term representative for a district in New York state, has defied repeated calls to step down from his role.

Here, The National takes a look at Mr Santos and some of his claims.

What is the House committee's investigation?

The House panel plans to investigate whether Mr Santos engaged in illegal activity over his 2022 campaign, failed to properly disclose information required on House statements, broke federal laws concerning his role in a financial company, and engaged in sexual misconduct towards someone seeking a job in his Washington office, the committee said.

Based on the findings of the investigation, the panel could impose a fine or a recommendation for disciplinary action, such as a formal censure or reprimand.

His official account tweeted, “Congressman George Santos is fully co-operating.”

Apart from the House panel, Mr Santos is facing investigations by local and state authorities in New York, as well as the Federal Election Commission.

Some of the lies he has told

Education: Mr Santos said he had degrees from New York University and Baruch College, despite neither institution having any record of him ever attending. He later said he did not graduate from college.

False resume: He falsely claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. There is no evidence of him working as a financier at either.

Religion: He falsely said he was Jewish and described himself a “proud American Jew” in a campaign pamphlet. He later said to the New York Post that he is Catholic and “never claimed to be Jewish”.

Genealogy: Mr Santos said that his grandparents escaped the Nazis during the Second World War, while CNN found that the claim contradicted research found on his family tree.

About September 11, 2001: He falsely spoke and tweeted about how his mother died in the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks, but news organisations found that she was not in the country in 2001. His mother didn't die until 2016.

Campaign and other financial issues

There are questions about how his campaign was funded and where his money comes from.

Since announcing his candidacy in 2021, Mr Santos reported lending his campaign $705,000, a stark change from having financial problems up until a few years ago that led to apartment evictions.

His financial disclosure form in 2020 listed a modest $55,000 salary from a financial company and no significant assets.

He then took a job selling investments in a company that the Securities and Exchange Commission later accused of being a Ponzi scheme

Last summer, Mr Santos filed a financial disclosure report suggesting an explosion in his personal wealth.

He reported he was making $750,000 a year from his own company, the Devolder Organization, had $1 million to $5 million in savings and owned an apartment in Brazil worth up to $1 million.

Mr Santos has yet to fully answer questions about how he got rich so quickly.

In an interview with Semafor, he said he worked as a consultant for “high-net-worth individuals”, helping to broker the sale of luxury items such as yachts and planes.

Has Santos admitted to lying?

In an interview with TV presenter Piers Morgan in February, Mr Santos admitted to some of the lies on his resume.

“I have been a terrible liar” on certain issues, he said.

Mr Santos told media outlets that he has not committed crimes amid his falsehoods. He admitted to the New York Post that “my sins here are embellishing my resume”.

“To get down to the nit and gritty, I’m not a fraud. I’m not a criminal who defrauded the entire country and made up this fictional character and ran for Congress,” he said to WABC in December.

What does his future look like?

Mr Santos has repeatedly said he won't resign, while a recent Newsday/Siena College poll found most voters in his New York district say he should.

The influential Nassau County Republican Party in the state also called for him to step down.

He said he was loving his job, although he has voluntarily suspended his participation in committees while investigations are under way into his conduct.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: March 07, 2023, 8:49 PM