Fresh off a House vote that sought to expel him from the chamber, Rep. George Santos (R-NY) agreed to sit down with CNN to explain his various fabrications, falsities, and deceptions, notable because he faces a 23-count federal indictment that aims to convict him for all of those.
The interview does little to explain just what led Santos to make all of those false claims about his life, career, and finances in the first place.
Santos told CNN's Manu Raju that it was a combination of “insecurity” and “stupidity” that compelled him to misconstrue nearly every facet of his life during his run for office. But he provided excuses for most of what he’s been accused of, saying it was his treasurer’s job to handle his finances; how he would prove his grandparents fled the Holocaust; and that he actually did provide a $500,000 loan to his campaign despite having less than $10,000 in his bank account.
“I lost privacy. I lost the ability to just have a normal life,” he said in describing his past year. “Not having the ability to just, you know, take my husband, and let’s go for a walk in the park without the fear of having some psycho try to, I don’t know, hurt me or him.”
Perhaps his most flagrant fabrication has been of his purported Jewish heritage. Santos repeatedly claimed during the 2022 campaign that he was Jewish and a “Latino Jew,” though genealogy records later debunked the claim. Santos then claimed he had actually said he was “Jew-ish”—despite telling groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition that he was of the Jewish faith.
In his CNN interview, Santos again claimed his grandfather hailed from Ukraine (the broadcaster had previously debunked this) and then falsely claimed he had never claimed to be Jewish. He said he had spent the last 10 months hiring genealogists to prove his case, but that Ukraine’s “freaking war” has complicated his efforts to obtain proof.
“You have documented proof that your grandparents fled the Holocaust?” Raju asked.
“I am working on finishing getting the last pieces of it, specifically the piece in Brazil, where they go to Brazil, and then have documents forged, so that they can blend in and all of that,” Santos said. “And once I have everything ready, I will allow the same company I hired to submit the report to the press, with glee, because that is going to be that one thing that I'm going to be able to say, I never intended to hurt anybody. I never wanted anybody to feel like I misrepresented myself or my family's heritage.”
It’s one of the few claims Santos tried to explain throughout the interview. But when it came to the $500,000 loan, a loan federal prosecutors said Santos never made, he maintained he provided the funds. His campaign treasurer Nancy Marks said in her plea deal that she worked with Santos to inflate his funds so he could be taken more seriously by a national political committee.
“People will say whatever they have to say, cut whatever deal they have to cut in order to save their hide,” Santos said about his treasurer. “And this isn't surprising.”
This confluence of scandals has roiled some House Republicans, with a contingent from New York holding a vote to expel Santos last week. The vote failed 179 to 213, but the episode illuminated for Santos what politics was about, he said. However, he added he wasn’t going to continue trying to defend his past mistakes.
“I’m not going to sit here and continuously debate my entire life,” Santos said. “Look, as a human being, have I made mistakes? And have I owned up to them? Yes, I have. But it feels like everybody wants to obsess over that.”