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A look at some of the falsehoods that made Congressman George Santos a household name

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 2/1/2023 David Smiley, Miami Herald

The list is long, but here are just five of the debunked tales that U.S. Rep. George Santos has told about his life and career since being elected to Congress in November.

Under scrutiny, the Republican New York congressman has walked back various claims about his life and résumé, retracting tales about his education, professional career and heritage. He is reportedly under investigation, and has become the focus of internet memes and been spoofed on Saturday Night Live.

The Miami Herald has also found gaps in his campaign’s reported spending in South Florida, with one listed vendor saying Santos’ listed expenses seemed “impossible” and another saying he had no record of the campaign’s spending among his receipts.

Four employees died in the Pulse nightclub shooting

In an interview with New York Public Radio shortly after his election, Santos claimed that four employees from his company died at Pulse, the gay club in Orlando where a gunman killed 49 people in the summer of 2016.

“My company, at the time, we lost four employees that work that were at Pulse nightclub,” Santos, who is gay and registered to vote in the Orlando area at the time, told WNYC.

Santos didn’t identify the name of the company. But reporting by The New York Times revealed that none of the victims killed in the shooting appeared to have worked at any of Santos’ known companies.

The congressman subsequently changed his story. In a late-December interview with WABC, he claimed that his company was in the process of hiring four of the victims.

Santos is Jewish

When he was running for office, Santos’ biography on his campaign website stated that his grandparents fled “Jewish persecution” in Europe. He also claimed at various times during his congressional campaign that he was a non-observant Jew, and told a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition that, with his election, the number of Jewish Republicans in Congress would increase.

Both CNN and The Forward have since published reports highlighting information contradicting Santos’ story about his maternal grandparents, reporting that they appear to have both been born in Brazil.

Santos has denied lying about his grandparents, but has walked back his story that he is Jewish.

“I never claimed to be Jewish,” Santos told the New York Post in December. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”

He was a star volleyball player at Baruch College

Santos claimed during his campaign that he graduated from Baruch College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance. In a 2020 interview on WABC, Santos claimed he attended the Manhattan school on a volleyball scholarship and played so hard he required knee-replacement surgeries.

Santos, it turns out, didn’t graduate from Baruch — which has told reporters it has no record of Santos attending — much less play volleyball for the school.

His mother was at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11

Santos’ campaign website claims that his mother was “in her office in the South Tower” of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and survived.

Multiple news outlets have reported that U.S. immigration records show that Santos’ mother, Fatima Devolder, was living outside the United States, in Brazil, from 1999 until 2003. She died in 2016, according to multiple news reports.

He worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup

One of the first threads to unravel in Santos’ biography was his claim that he worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Santos has since said that he unintentionally gave the impression that he worked for the giant investment firms, saying instead that a company where he worked, Link Bridge, did business with those firms.

©2023 Miami Herald. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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