George Santos admits he lied to be “accepted” by Republicans: “I got away with it” before

But Santos continued to deny allegations that he lied about being Jewish and that his mom was in WTC on 9/11

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published February 21, 2023 11:00AM (EST)

Incoming U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) waits as fellow Representatives cast their votes for Speaker of the House on the first day of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Incoming U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) waits as fellow Representatives cast their votes for Speaker of the House on the first day of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., admitted in an interview on Monday that he has been a "terrible liar" but said he pushed falsehoods about his past to be "accepted" by the Republican Party.

Santos in a lengthy interview with host Piers Morgan acknowledged that he made up key parts of his biography ahead of his 2022 election win.

"I was a Wall Street superstar, I was this, my family were this, and it was all untrue," Morgan said. "I don't characterize these as mistakes. I think they're part of your process of, cathartic process of redemption if you'd like. It's gotta start from 'I've been a terrible liar,' I mean, would you be prepared to say that?"

"Well, I've been a terrible liar on those subjects," Santos replied, before claiming that his intention was not to deceive people but simply to be accepted by the local GOP.

"What I tried to convey to the American people is I made mistakes of allowing the pressures of what I thought needed to be done in order to — this, this wasn't about tricking anybody… This was about getting accepted by the party here locally," he said.

Morgan rejected Santos' explanation, rebutting that the "whole thing was about tricking people."

Morgan pressed Santos on why he thought he could blatantly lie and "think no one would find out."

"Well, I'll humor you this. I ran in 2020 for the same exact seat for Congress and I got away with it then," Santos said.

"Fine," Morgan said. "Well that's honest, stupid. So you thought, actually, that they're not gonna find out?"

"No, I didn't think so," Santos replied. "But to that effect, it's embarrassing, it's humbling to have to admit your faults as a human being."

Santos ran for the House seat in New York's 3rd Congressional District in 2020 but lost by double digits to then-Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y. But Santos won his race by about eight points in November after Suozzi opted for a failed gubernatorial bid instead.

Despite acknowledging some of his lies, Santos continued to dodge responsibility during the interview.

The congressman admitted that he lied about graduating Baruch College in Manhattan, calling it a "very stupid decision" but insisting he lied because of "expectation on society" and "pressure." And when Morgan pressed Santos about a claim on his resume that he also received a Master's degree in business from New York University with a GMAT score of 710, Santos contended that the document did not come from him.

"The reality is I don't know where that GMAT comes from. I never put that out on my website or my bio," Santos said, claiming that the resume was "never furnished or supplied by me."

"I didn't supply it and nobody associated with me supplied it. That came from the GOP, and I'm still trying to understand where that came from," he added.

Santos during another part of the interview denied that he ever said he was Jewish, claiming that he repeated a "party-favorite joke" that he was "Jew-ish."

And he insisted that his claim that his mother was in the World Trade Center on 9/11 was true, even though records suggest she was not even in New York at the time.

"That's true," Santos said of his claim. "I won't debate my mother's life as she passed in [2016] and it's quite insensitive to try to rehash my mother's legacy."

Morgan confronted Santos for appearing to admit to "certain big lies" while denying "other big lies."

"Because you've claimed on campaign bios you went to this school and this volleyball team and achieved this degree, big Wall Street big hitter, and all these things turned out not to be true," Morgan said. "So when you now look me in the eye and say well actually, no, this is true, I don't know what to believe."

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Santos responded that he believes he will still be able to repair his credibility.

"No, I understand, and look, that's a position I've put myself in, right," he said. "My credibility is what I'm gonna have a hard time and a long road to recover, and I stand clear and I stand certain that I'll be able to do that."

But he acknowledged that he is bothered by the backlash from his own party, whose members have increasingly called for him to resign.

"It's uncomfortable," he said. "I can't stand it and a lot of people think I love it, I just can't stand it... you need to learn how to deal with it and that's what I'm doing."

Watch the full interview below:

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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