Who is elected Republican candidate George Santos and why has he been accused of lying?

Republican elect George Santos has come under fire. Credit: AP

By Multimedia Producer Lottie Kilraine

A Republican candidate elected in the US has come under fire for allegedly concocting bizarre lies surrounding his education, personal life, and career during his successful campaign for a seat in the US House.

George Santos, Republican elect for New York's 3rd Congressional District, admitted last month that he had "embellished" his resume, after a newspaper investigated his past - but more questions have since been raised.

Mr Santos, 34, is facing pressure to resign for having now reportedly made false claims about his education, employment history and religious heritage.

He also faces allegations that he may have participated in financial fraud.

But what exactly is he accused of making false claims about and why is it seen as such a big deal?

Republican George Santos pictured at Capitol Hill in Washington Credit: AP

What are the false claims?

Mr Santos first ran for Congress in 2020 and lost.

He ran again in 2022 and won in the district that includes some Long Island suburbs and a small part of Queens, New York.

In December, the New York Times raised questions about the life story that Mr Santos had presented during his campaign.

The Queens resident had said he had obtained a degree from Baruch College in New York, but the school said that couldn’t be confirmed.

Mr Santos then admitted he hadn't graduated from any institution of higher learning, and added that he was embarrassed but "we do stupid things in life."

He had also said he had worked for investment bank and financial services Citigroup and Goldman Sachs - but neither company could find any records verifying that.

The Republican elect then admitted to the New York Post that he had “never worked directly” for either financial firm, saying he had used a “poor choice of words.”

False claims about family history

Jewish-American news outlet The Forward then questioned a claim on Mr Santos' campaign website that his grandparents had “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during World War Two.”

But Mr Santos told the Washington Post: “I never claimed to be Jewish.

“I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”

According to CNN, the Republican Jewish Coalition has now disinvited Mr Santos from appearing at any of its events because he “misrepresented his heritage.”

CNN reported that in a radio interview in 2020 Mr Santos falsely claimed that his mother “fled socialism” in Europe and moved to the United States.

He also claimed in another interview from 2020 that he “grew up with a White Caucasian mother, an immigrant from Belgium.”

But his mother was born in Brazil, according to genealogical records.

Mr Santos told the Washington Post: “I never claimed to be Jewish." Credit: AP

A fabricated animal charity

On an early version of his campaign website, the lawmaker claimed to have founded and run what has been alleged to be a fake non-profit animal rescue group called Friends of Pets United.

Mr Santos said the group rescued 2,400 dogs and 280 cats and that it trapped, neutered and released over 3,000 cats from 2013 to 2018.

However, there’s no evidence that has been presented publicly showing the charity ever existed.

'Outrageous' claims of dressing in drag

Since reports first surfaced about his false claims, Mr Santos has made efforts to downplay his alleged fabrications as mere “embellishments.”

However, he has continued to deny some claims - including reports that he has previously performed in drag.

A photograph of a person who resembles Mr Santos, wearing a wig and makeup, has been circulating on social media - with some users claiming it is the politician.

Mr Santos has strongly denied these claims saying they are "categorically false" and criticised the reports as "outrageous".

On Thursday he tweeted: "The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or “performed” as a drag Queen is categorically false.

"The media continues to make outrageous claims about my life while I am working to deliver results. I will not be distracted nor fazed by this."

What happens next?

Despite calls to resign from both Democrats and local officials, Mr Santos has insisted he will not stand down.

Republicans have such a slim House majority that even losing one Republican seat makes it that much tougher to pass legislation.

Newly-elected speaker of the House Republican Kevin McCarthy appears to have taken the position that the voters will have the final say in the matter in 2024, when Mr Santos would be up for re-election.

It was announced on Thursday that McCarthy has put forward Mr Santos to serve on two committees: the House Small Business Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

So despite his "embellishments" and alleged lies, it looks like Mr Santos is set to remain in Congress for the time-being.

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