Republican Congressman-elect George Santos is engulfed in the scandal of a lifetime before even taking the oath of office after the New York Times reported huge portions of his biography appeared to be “Catch Me If You Can”-style fiction.
But the scale of his alleged deception is so glaring — even cursory fact checks seemed likely to find holes — that it’s already spawned a secondary scandal: How did both news outlets and Democratic opposition researchers in the largest metro area in America miss this until after the election?
“We always knew Santos was running a scam against the voters in our congressional district,” Robert Zimmerman, Santos’s Democratic opponent in the race, told Semafor. “And we raised many of these issues and questions, but we were drowned out in a governor's race, where crime was the focus.”
While his campaign didn’t have the full story, Zimmerman pointed to bread crumbs that were publicly available during the race that the press failed to follow in time to give voters a clearer picture of Santos.
A Cook Political Report evaluation of the race quoted a “senior House GOP aide” saying they were concerned about his business background, and were “not touching him with a 10-foot pole.” A DCCC opposition research book largely focused on his ties to January 6th ralliers and his position on abortion, but did note his purported animal rescue group did not appear to be registered with the IRS.
The Leader, a local news outlet that covers Long Island’s North Shore, reported Santos’ filings in 2020 were $5,000 and then leaped to $11 million. The article quoted an anonymous Republican leader asking: “Are we being played as extras in 'The Talented Mr Santos'?"
The New York Times expose ended up going much further, finding no evidence to support his claims he worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, graduated from Baruch College, or that he was a landlord who’d been hurt by pandemic policies protecting renters from eviction, among many other revelations. Reporters also found no support for a claim he had “lost four employees” in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, in which a gunman killed 49 people.
In campaign ads, Santos portrayed himself as trying to “save his family’s dream” after growing up in an immigrant household, and emphasized a tough stance on crime, in line with other New York Republicans.
With the race now over, Zimmerman is calling for an immediate investigation by the House Ethics Committee and by the US Attorney's Office as well.
Democratic sources expect him to run again, but Zimmerman is hedging for now when asked about his future plans. “Today is not the day to talk about my political agenda,” Zimmerman told Semafor.
Santos did not return requests for comment. His attorney Joe Murray told Axios earlier: "George Santos represents the kind of progress that the Left is so threatened by — a gay, Latino, immigrant 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." He offered no apparent rebuttal to any of the New York Times story's individual claims.