It’s a few weeks into U.S. Rep. George Santos’s tenure, and the media firestorm surrounding him has yet to dissipate.
After The New York Times revealed last month Santos fabricated many aspects of his life while raising serious concerns about how he funded his congressional campaign against Robert Zimmerman, a number of people who have interacted with the congressman over the years have stepped forward with stories of their own.
People like Gregory Morey-Parker, who said he shared an apartment with Santos for several months in Astoria. He told CNN’s Don Lemon that Santos always had “delusions of grandeur.”
“He would just go to bars with rolls of hundred-dollar bills, and then three days later, have no money,” Morey–Parker said. “It just didn’t seem feasible for him to come from all this generational wealth.”
Morey-Parker made another claim that surprised Lemon. He didn’t know his roommate as George Santos, but instead with the name Anthony Devolder —his middle name and mother’s surname.
Morey-Parker also said Santos stole a scarf from him, even wearing it to Washington, where he delivered a speech on Jan. 5, 2021 — the day before a mob attached the U.S. Capitol.
From the jobs Santos claimed he “embellished” to the schools he didn’t graduate from, there was a lot political opponents could have picked up on during campaigns in both 2020 and 2022. That means stronger opposition research by hiring investigators outside the campaign to dig up information like this.
“Given that so much politics and the narrative is happening on social media, the negative on the opponent is increasingly important, in order to sort of meet the media moment and the evolution of where and how politics are covered on Twitter,” Alyssa Cass, a political consultant who works with Slingshot Strategies, told amNewYork. “The very best campaigns understand that dynamic and prioritize opposition research.”
A spokesperson for the Zimmerman campaign said that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had done opposition research on Santos, and found many red flags. But according to this spokesperson, the resources and time to investigate this matter - the way the New York Times was able to - were simply not there. For example, in a two month campaign, the Democrats could not send anyone to Brazil or hire geneaologists to investigate George Santos's background, and thus these red flags were turned over to the media to investigate. Additionally, much attention was on the New York governor's race, which contributed to the loss of many federal and statewide seats in New York for Democrats.
Santos also claimed to have run an animal rescue charity — Friends of Pets United. Once again using the name Anthony Devolder, Patch reported that Santos raised $3,000 for U.S. Navy veteran Richard Osthoff for his dog, Sapphire, who needed lifesaving surgery for a stomach tumor. Santos raised the money, Osthoff said, and then “disappeared.”
“He stopped answering my texts and calls,” Osthoff said. Sapphire died a few months later.
Santos responded to the claims on social media that “reports that I would let a dog die is shocking and insane. My work in animal advocacy was the labor of love and hard work. Over the past 24 hours, I have received pictures of dogs I helped rescue throughout the years, along with supportive messages.”
Since the revelations, one of Santos’s most vocal detractors is Josh Lafazan, the Nassau County legislator who ran unsuccessfully against Zimmerman in the Democratic primary for the seat. He has held a number of news conferences since about Santos, more recently condemning what Osthoff claimed Santos did to him.
Lafazan officially filed this week to run against Santos in the 2024 election.
Anticipating there could still be a special election on the horizon, Newsday reports both Democrats and Republicans are preparing candidates to run. The list on the GOP side include Alison Esposito — who ran on Lee Zeldin’s gubernatorial ticket last November — state Sen. Jack Martins, and Brookville mayor Daniel Serota.
On the Democratic side, names being bandied about include Zimmerman, and even a chance that U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi might step back in and claims his old seat.
Another claim that made the news again was over how and when Santos’s mother, Fatima Devolder, died. Santos has claimed she died as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, contacting cancer and passing away years later after working in the south tower that morning.
NBC News called that claim into question this past week, revealing immigration paperwork showing his mother was in Brazil between 1999 and 2003, and wasn’t even in the country during 9/11.
Santos was also seen back in New York for the first time last week, visiting Shri Saneeswara Temple in New Hyde Park, according to News 12. Religious leaders there said Santos had not been invited, and stayed for three hours. There have been no other reports of Santos making public appearances in the district, although he did state on Twitter he was returning to Washington this week.
Santos also took to social media to boast about being “enshrined in late-night TV history” after a number of shows brought in actors to parody the congressman. Jimmy Kimmel from “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC and Stephen Colbert from “The Late Show” on CBS both introduced actors claiming to be Santos. Bowen Yang played Santos in two different sketches on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, and just a couple floors down in Rockefeller Center, Jimmy Fallon brought in comedian Jon Lovitz as Santos on “The Tonight Show.”
Santos called the impersonations “terrible” on social media,
“Jon Lovitz is supposed to be one of the greatest comedians of all time, and that was embarrassing,” Santos wrote, “For him, not me. These comedians need to step their game up.”
Calls for Santos to resign continue to grow among both Republicans and Democrats, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy appears to show no interest in it, deferring the matter to the House Ethics Committee, which he has already moved to defund.
In fact, McCarthy gave Santos two committee seats — Small Business and Science, Space and Technology.