What I Learned Investigating George Santos

Investigating George Santos

Investigating George Santos, on November 07, 2023 in Washington, DC, Rep. George Santos (R-NY) shows up for the weekly House Republican conference meeting in the U.S. Capitol’s basement. Just days before the deadline for the government shutdown on November 17, Republicans in Congress are getting together to talk about the prospect of a continuing resolution for the budget.

Investigating George Santos

Investigating George Santos When my editor assigned me a typical piece about a new congressional candidate in 2019, I first heard the name George Santos. I was writing one or more items a day for Newsday’s newsletter about New York politics at the time, and I was relieved to have what appeared to be a quick hit.

Santos instantly dialled the phone number. But it was an odd phone call. He claimed he was beginning his campaign as we spoke, but he was also in Florida for a business conference.

He sounded hazy on several ideas, but he was adamant on his personal story, which included being a first-generation American (his words) and working in private equity his entire career (which I later realised was incorrect).

I wrote the piece, he shared it on Facebook, and in another universe, this might have been the last I heard or wrote about the Queens newbie. But Santos’ peculiar behaviour provided plenty of fuel for me in the months that followed.

Such as not knowing whether he lived in the district or seeking funds for a “recount” campaign committee for a contest he’d clearly lost.

He made some outrageous things regarding abortion. Even yet, not many people were paying attention to him. So he’d pick up the phone even after bad news.

He eventually went into hiding, though. By his second campaign in 2022 (“second time’s the charm,” he properly stated), he had skipped an endorsement interview and had rushed away when he noticed me in the men’s room before a Newsday debate. (His opponent was approved by the editorial board.)

Following his victory, the New York Times published a blockbuster report that related many of his lies and oddities. But now I just had more questions about this guy who had been circling my head for years. He had obviously lied about practically everything, but why?

So my quest to get into George Santos’ thoughts began. He made it abundantly obvious from the start that he would not be “lending” his voice (his words) to my book, The Fabulist, and that neither he nor anybody on his team was interested in speaking with me. That’s fine with me.

I found lots of people willing to talk to me, including over 100 people who knew him, ranging from friends and relatives to previous professors and dates. I spoke with those he defrauded as well as people who just remembered him as a kind guy.

I learnt about his quips and acts, as well as how expensive a wine bottle he’d order ($200, according to one source). Even without a personal interview, these helped flesh out his profile—and even if he had, how could I have trusted him not to lie?

Investigating George Santos I travelled to many locations in quest of him. I realised that Brazil had been a major beacon in his late teens–perhaps even a brilliant time of true happiness–and so I spent weeks there learning more about his adolescence and experiments with drag and romance.

This is how I wound up in a “sauna” where sex could be purchased for $8, to watch Santos’ drag mentor perform the type of act that Santos used to watch and copy.

Santos has downplayed his drag past, and there are only a few images and brief films, so seeing Santos’s mentor in person was the only way to fully understand the origins of Santos’s routine.

I listened to every podcast I could locate where he did say something. I read many novels by KrisAnne Hall, a fiery political author he claimed to like, and collected images and video of Santos from before he became famous.

I walked in locations he had walked, like the now-closed College Point cube where he worked as a young man in a drab contact centre, a spot where the sound of jets taking off from LaGuardia would have reminded him of all the places he wished he could fly but couldn’t.I observed him in federal court.

Where he wore bright red shoes and a funereal dark jacket, saying nothing to reporters but blowing a kiss on the courtroom steps. The chase may be solemn or bizarre, and I could feel both far and close to him, as when someone sent me a photograph of his literal passport, as well as half-naked photos of him in the bath.

I also knocked on a lot of doors in New York, which irritated him: “We have video proof of you trespassing inside various buildings where my family members reside and leaving notes under their doors,” he said of my regular shoe-leather reporting.

I did leave plenty of notes and knock on a lot of closed doors, but you never know what can happen when your knuckles are flexed. I once spoke to a Greek man in an apartment unit associated with Santos’s father who, while not Gercino dos Santos.

Was so excited about his connection to the entire Santos story that he banged on a few other portals and got some neighbours out on the landing to marvel the afternoon away.

You may also come upon someone you’ve been seeking for. My hunt for the actual Santos entailed knocking and calling till the very last second. On the final day I was scheduled to submit the book, I successfully tracked down a buddy of Santos’s in Queens since there was a narrative I needed to factcheck.

Santos, by the way, declined to conduct fact-checking. “This is your journey,” he texted me in answer to my request. “Now own up your short coming [sic] and know I will challenge any and all thing [sic] inaccurate in your book.”

Even when the book was finished, the chase continued. I was recently told a great anecdote about Santos “bidding” on a bowtie in an impromptu political raffle while speaking with a Nassau GOP functionary.

This occurred during a GOP leaders conference in the autumn of 2022. Santos left with the bowtie, but the party allegedly never received a cheque.

 

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