George Santos can't run from his Jewish lies

I won't allow him to rewrite this very recent history.

In an act of pure gall on the level we’ve come to expect from the freshman lawmaker, Congressman George Santos stood up in front of his colleagues in the US House of Representatives shortly after 1PM last Friday to deliver a brief speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.  “Antisemitism is a plague in this nation,” he said, without a hint of irony, “and it is undoubtedly up to us to ensure this kind of tragedy is never to be seen again.”

Meaningful words, had they not come out of the mouth of a man who lied about being Jewish and lied about having grandparents who survived the Holocaust in order to get support and donations from Jewish voters to win an election in a very Jewish Long Island congressional district. 

Shortly after the initial story exposing him as a total fraud dropped in December, we learned about this religious deceit. A normal person would expect that Santos would keep his distance from the subject. Sure, he took advantage of Jews and defeated an actual Jewish man in the general election, but maybe this despicable lie would fade in importance next to the many, many others. Instead, he’s decided to lean in. And yesterday, he took it a step further by accusing his Democratic colleague of antisemitism and pretending to be a voice on behalf of New York Jews.

Thursday was an upsetting and fraught day to begin with. Because of the Republicans’ razor-line majority in the House, they’re currently on a revenge tour after two years of Democratic control. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and the United States’ tight relationship with the majority-Jewish middle eastern nation since she was first elected in 2018, which has made the Muslim lawmaker persona non grata in a deliberative body mostly full of people who love to conflate anti-zionism with antisemitism. (And many who are too cowardly to admit they share her views.)

Fast forward to this week when the Republicans voted along party lines to oust Congresswoman Omar from the influential House Foreign Affairs committee based on a resolution from one of two Jewish Republicans in the house. After a series of fiery floor speeches by Omar’s Democratic defenders and a speech from Omar herself, the vote went down as expected. And then George Santos decided to talk about Jews. Again.

One of the perpetual thorns in his side has been Congressman Ritchie Torres, a fellow New Yorker from the other side of the aisle who’s made it his mission to get Santos out. Torres is an openly gay, afro-Latino man from the Bronx who, like many of his colleagues, improbably latched onto supporting Israel as a central part of his identity in Congress. There’s much to be said about his misguided jabs at his more progressive colleagues, but there’s no denying his support for Israel is steadfast. So when Torres voted in favor of allowing Rep. Omar to keep her committee assignment, Santos once more made this display of unmitigated gall:

When I saw this tweet, I thought “this might be the thing that breaks me.” We’re watching him actively trying to rewrite very recent history by retrofitting himself into the typical Christian conservative mold of pretending to care about Jews via support for Israel, and pretending like he himself didn’t invent a Jewish identity for political gain.

After weeks of covering this man, I’ve created a mental hierarchy of what he’s capable of, and it’s rare for something outside of stealing money from a veteran’s dying dog to truly shock me. But my hands shook as I watched him refer to “my Jewish constituents,” because those people are my family, my best friends, and people I grew up with. They are real Long Island Jews—some descendants of real Holocaust survivors—who’ve lived the experience that Santos could only fabricate, and now he’s staking a claim over them. How dare he. How dare he. 

As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, I’ve openly struggled with the United States’ relationship with Israel and the singularly bizarre experience of being an American Jew. As a secular Jew with a strained relationship with more religious extended family members, I’ve been afraid to fully own my identity as a Jewish woman, often feeling like it wasn’t mine. Now seeing Santos come in and assume my real identity as his own, it’s never been more clear to me that I am a proud Jewish woman who will not tolerate my people being used as political pawns in some wannabe fascist’s game. Never again means never again.

Each and every day, a new story comes out about Santos that shocks and fascinates, and I more than anyone understand being enthralled. But when I started a daily newsletter about him, the goal wasn’t to be a Santos-specific tabloid: It was to make sure we never took our eyes off this man who fabricated his entire being to con his way into making this country’s laws.

Santos is far from the first liar to be elected to Congress, and he certainly won’t be the last. But when we have an opportunity now to draw a line. It’s incumbent upon us to stand up and say, unequivocally, we have a representative government and this liar has no place in it.

Have a Santos-related tip? Email [email protected]

Join the conversation

or to participate.