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New York GOP leader calls accusation of faked bio for new GOP House member 'serious'

Representative-elect George Santos, R-New York, speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday, Nov. 19 in Las Vegas.
John Locher
Representative-elect George Santos, R-New York, speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday, Nov. 19 in Las Vegas.

Updated December 19, 2022 at 5:21 PM ET

A leading New York Republican says accusations that GOP Congressman-elect George Santos, R-N.Y., faked much of his biography are "serious."

"I believe that George Santos deserves an opportunity to address the claims detailed in the article," said Joseph Cairo Jr., the influential chairman of Nassau County's Republican committee.

He referred to a story in The New York Times that appears to show key details of Santos' official campaign bio were fabricated.

"Every person deserves an opportunity to 'clear' his/her name in the face of accusations," Cairo added, saying he looks forward to hearing Santos' response.

In his official biography, Santos claims to have graduated from Baruch College with "a bachelor's degree in economics and finance."

That appears to be untrue.

In a statement sent to NPR, Baruch College said it had checked its records for "a George Santos, born on July 22, 1988, with a graduation year of 2010, and could not find a match."

NPR left messages for Santos but has not heard back.

His campaign released a statement on Twitter late Monday afternoon from an attorney representing Santos.

"It is no surprise that Congressman-elect Santos has enemies at the New York Times who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations," said Joseph Murray.

However, Murray offered no facts, evidence or documents to contradict the Times article, which also found Santos appears to have fabricated key details of his business career.

Wall Street firms say Santos wasn't an employee

Santos has frequently pointed to his success outside politics as an example of the American dream.

"I'm a private sector guy who was born and raised in abject poverty," Santos said during an appearance on CBS Channel 2 in New York.

"Only in this country does somebody who comes from a basement apartment in Jackson Heights, like I did, is able to rise to become a successful businessperson, to then run for United States Congress."

Citigroup and Goldman Sachs told the newspaper they had no record of Santos working for their firms, as the candidate claimed in his bio.

In a statement to NPR, a Citi spokesperson said they were "unable to confirm Mr. Santos' employment with Citi."

A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs also told NPR "we have no record of his employment."

Santos, who is gay, also claimed in an interview with WNYC public radio last month that his employees died in 2016 when a gunman opened fire at the Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, Fla.

"I happened to, at the time, have people that worked for me in the club," Santos said. "My company at the time, we lost four employees that were at Pulse."

Santos added that he has "tragic memories" of that deadly mass shooting.

But the New York Times investigation could find no link between any of the 49 victims and companies or firms linked to Santos.

"He's most likely just a fabulist — a fake"

Some journalists raised questions about Santos before the election.

In an editorial before the election, the North Shore Leader newspaperendorsed Santos' Democratic opponent, Robert Zimmerman, and voiced skepticism about Santos' credibility.

"[H]e's most likely just a fabulist — a fake," the newspaper said.

It is unclear how these accusations might affect Santos and his ability to take office.

His surprising win came as part of a Republican red wave in New York that helped give the GOP a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives.

Santos has yet to address the controversy on his social media feeds but on Twitter he did say he plans to vote for Rep. Kevin McCarthy to serve as House Speaker.

"We have the opportunity of a lifetime to deliver real results for the American people. We MUST give the gavel to [McCarthy]," Santos wrote.

McCarthy, who is still struggling to secure enough votes to secure the speakership, has not yet commented publicly on the controversy surrounding Santos' biography.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.