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Republican Elected To Congress  Changes His Story About Family Fleeing Nazis And Going To College

Republican George Santos, who in November was elected to represent New York's third congressional district, admitted to lying.
Congressman-elect George Devolder Santos joined the newly elected GOP members of the Senate and Congress during a press conference on November. 9, 2022 in Baldwin, New York. Santos had claimed his maternal grandparents were refugees who fled the Nazis to Brazil. ALEJANDRA VILLA LOARCA/JNS

Republican George Santos, who in November was elected to represent New York’s third congressional district, admitted on Monday to lying on the campaign trail, including falsely claiming that his mother is Jewish, and his grandparents fled the Nazis. He also admitted to not having received a degree from Baruch in 2010.

In an interview with The New York Post, Santos said that he “never claimed to be Jewish. I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’” 

CNN spoke to multiple genealogists who said there was no proof of the claims. Santos’ misrepresentations of his family history were first reported by The Forward on Wednesday. Records from the Holocaust Museum and the International Center on Nazi Persecution, which contain records on Jewish refugees, also show no mention of Santos’ grandparents.

Megan Smolenyak, an author and professional genealogist who helped research Santos’ family tree at CNN’s request, said in email, “There’s no sign of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage and no indication of name changes along the way.”

“My grandparents survived the Holocaust, so these regimes of socialism, Marxism, they don’t work, and they’re followed up by a lot of hurt, and we’re seeing that currently and what’s happening in Ukraine with the Russians,” Santos said in a May 2022 interview.

US Representative-elect George Santos (R-NY) speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022. He also admitted to never graduating from any college, despite previously claiming to have received a degree from Baruch in 2010. WADE VANDERVORT/JNS

On his campaign website, Santos had claimed his maternal grandparents were refugees who fled the Nazis to Brazil. He also spoke of his mother’s “Jewish background beliefs.” 

“I am not a criminal,” Santos said during the interview. “This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good.” 

In a subsequent interview with the City & State outlet, Santos added, “It just strikes me as so odd that people are rushing to disinherit me from being Jewish or for even allowing [me] to care for Israel and Judaism in a time and era where antisemitism is at an all-time rise.” 

The Republican Jewish Coalition said Santos would not be welcome at the group’s future events after misleading its members about his ties to their faith according to Yahoo News.

“He deceived us and misrepresented his heritage,” said Matt Brooks, the coalition’s chief executive. “In public comments and to us personally, he previously claimed to be Jewish.”

Two of his fellow incoming House Republicans from New York – Nick LaLota and Anthony D’Esposito – said residents across Long Island were troubled by his statements.

LaLota called for a House Ethics Committee probe “and, if necessary, law enforcement” involvement.

“My grandfather grew up Jewish. My grandfather, during the Soviet issues, escaped to Belgium,” said Santos. “And then that was a great move. Met my grandmother, married, and crazy enough, the Nazis became a thing. And that’s when he said, ‘Oh my God, this is all over again.’ They converted to Catholicism, had their kids, raised them Catholic. And I’m Catholic, but that’s pretty much little history of my family into Judaism.”

He continued to recount a story in which, after the controversy broke, he had received a message from a friend saying, “George, I don’t care what they say, you’re still a M-O-T” (Member of the Tribe). Santos also confessed he had “never worked directly” for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, a misunderstanding he said had been caused by a “poor choice of words.” 



Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate.

(Additional reporting provided by )

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