Opinion: The case against Rep. George Santos

Zachariah R.L. Rush, Opinions Writer


Illustration by Anaiah Alfred / The Runner

Rep. George Santos was elected to the House of Representatives during the 2022 midterm elections by running a campaign fueled with falsehoods. Santos is a modern-day con artist who successfully crafted a fictional background on which his constituents based their vote.  

Santos should be expelled from the chamber if any sense of ethics remains in the House of Representatives.  

Questions began to rise about Santos’s background before he was even officially sworn in as a representative. The numerous falsehoods told by the new representative began with his education.  

Santos has said he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Baruch College and then continued his studies at New York University; however, neither institution could find records verifying Santos’s claims.  

In a Dec. 26 interview with the New York Post, Santos admitted that he lied about his education:, “I did not graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume.” 

Santos continued the falsehoods in his self-reported work experience, where he claimed to have been employed by notable Wall Street firms Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Both firms announced that they have no record of his employment.  

Santos has since amended this portion of his resume as a misrepresentation of words. He now claims that he never worked directly for these firms, but that he did work with them as an independent contractor. 

The most egregious response from Santos regarding his falsehoods was about his reported Jewish background. Santos claimed that his mother was born in Brazil to Jewish immigrants who fled Ukraine during World War II. However, an analysis of genealogy records in Brazil proved that his grandparents were born in Brazil before the war. The revelations of his true maternal ancestry caused Santos to amend his story once again. 

In the same Dec. 26 interview, Santos said, “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background, I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’” 

Controversy over an animal charity service previously run by Santos is the worst falsehood surrounding the new representative. Anthony Devolder, the name Santos used during this time, ran Friends of Pets United, an unregistered charity revealed to be the source of fundraising fraud. 

Rich Osthoff was a homeless veteran in 2016 when he was put into contact with Santos after learning that his service dog required lifesaving surgery amounting to $3,000. Santos created a GoFundMe account for Osthoff’s service dog that quickly met the goal after a flood of donations.  

Osthoff was ecstatic to be able to pay for his service dog’s surgery, but he faced another hurdle when Santos refused to release the payment.  

Santos would not directly transfer the money to Osthoff and instead made him travel to a different veterinarian than the one who initially diagnosed the service dog’s illness. The new veterinarian claimed that the service dog was not fit for the surgery, contrary to the original veterinarian. Santos would not allow Osthoff to go to a different veterinarian and claimed he would donate the money to a different charity.  

Osthoff’s service dog passed away on Jan. 15, 2017.  

According to a Jan. 22. article from NPR, Osthoff said, “I had to panhandle and beg just to get the money to euthanize and cremate her. It was awful.”  

The Republican Party holds a tight majority in the House of Representatives, so the party has hesitated to punish the freshman representative in fear of an even slimmer majority.  

Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said that Santos will be removed from office if the House Ethics Committee determines he has broken the law, but this is following the Republican Party’s promise to overhaul ethics rules.  

The promise to overhaul the ethics rules has been perceived as an assault on the process. 

Congress has garnered a reputation of disdain from the public over the last three decades, as the role of a representative is now more likely to be a pathway to greed and corruption rather than one of public service. 

According to a July 5, 2022. poll from Gallup, only 7% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in Congress, the lowest recorded since Gallup began the tradition in 1993. 

Congress could use a win in its public relations department to regain any sense of respect or confidence from its constituents. Santos deserves to be expelled from Congress if he refuses to resign, and both parties need to come together on what would be a positive bipartisan move.  

Removing an exposed con artist from the chamber would signal to the public that some sense of ethics remains in the legislative branch. 

George Santos was exposed as a conman before being sworn into the House of Representatives, and the fact that he is still a member of Congress three months after is a stain on the institution.  

Santos sold his constituents a fictional character, lying about every aspect of the background he presented as his platform. The ethical action would be for the representative to resign, but if he refuses, his colleagues must come together to remove him from office.