Is George Santos The Biggest Liar Ever Elected to Congress?

George Santos is likely the biggest liar ever elected to Congress
George Santos at a June 2022 campaign event for Lee Zeldin (Bruce Adler)
Photo by Bruce Adler

Freshman U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens), the national laughingstock ignoring calls to resign amid investigations into his campaign finances, is the lead contender for biggest liar ever elected to Congress, experts say.

Given politicians’ propensity for spinning narratives that favor their agenda, the competition is fierce. In the past century, the one who historians say came closest to stunning the nation for his lies was former U.S. Rep. Douglas Stringfellow (R-Utah), who admitted exaggerating his service in World War II, claiming he was the sole survivor of an espionage unit who was captured and tortured in a concentration camp — a fabrication the U.S. Army later shot down.

“No doubt many members over the years have embellished their resumes, but I can’t think of any one who lied so extensively and flagrantly as Santos has,” Dennis F. Thompson, a professor of political philosophy at Harvard University, told the Press.

Throughout the nation’s history, there have been only five members whose misdeeds went well beyond lying and resulted in expulsion from the U.S. House of Representatives between 1861 and 2002 — three for defecting to the Confederacy during the Civil War and two in modern times for bribery and other financial crimes. But since financial disclosure forms have only been in existence for half a century, it’s impossible to discern what financial treachery may have gone undetected prior to those Watergate-era reforms. A proposal to expel Santos is pending, but it is unclear if House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will allow it to come up for a vote.

“Enough is enough,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx). “If Kevin McCarthy refuses to hold George Santos accountable, then we will.”

Fellow freshman U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Rocky Point), a former commissioner at the Suffolk County Board of Elections, backed the proposal.

“I didn’t see a more provable case of election fraud in my seven years as elections commissioner than the fraud committed by George Santos,” LaLota tweeted. “His lies were the very reason he was nominated, got donations and votes. I’m for election integrity. I’m for expelling George Santos.”

 Several dozen community members and leaders gathered outside the New York Congressional District 3 office in Douglaston on Saturday, Jan. 7, to protest against Congressman George Santos. (Photo by Adrian Childress)
Several dozen community members and leaders gathered outside the New York Congressional District 3 office in Douglaston on Saturday, Jan. 7, to protest against Congressman George Santos. (Photo by Adrian Childress)

While the Nassau County, New York State, and federal investigations — the House Congressional Ethics Office and U.S. Federal Elections Commission are also being urged to investigate — into the widely reported laundry list of alleged campaign finance irregularities are striking on their own, what makes the ever-growing Santos scandal one for the history books is the abundance of smaller lies that don’t necessarily amount to crimes, but are not typical resume padding, as he suggests. Santos admitted lying about being a college graduate who worked at high-profile Wall Street investment firms, but has tried to talk his way out of immigration records that show his mother was not in New York during or after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as he suggested, reportedly lied about having employees in the Pulse nightclub massacre, and genealogical records disproved his claims of being a descendant of Jews who fled the Holocaust — just to name a few. The FBI is also looking into allegations that Santos stole money raised to pay for surgery for a homeless veteran’s dying service dog.

Santos beat Democratic rival Robert Zimmerman in the 3rd Congressional District in northern Nassau and northeastern Queens to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), but revelations that Santos fabricated much of his resume didn’t become widely known until well after Election Day.

The Nassau Republican Committee, which joined widespread calls for Santos to resign, said it will revamp its vetting process in the future and also that it relied too heavily on the Queens GOP’s recommendation. The Queens GOP stood by Santos, refused to call for his resignation, and said he’s entitled to due process. 

The New York Times reported that the Santos campaign learned about some of his lies in 2021 when it commissioned a vulnerability study to test what dirt opponents might find — and his staff resigned when he refused to drop out. The Nassau GOP said they were not aware of that study.

“If 142 people ask for me to resign, I’ll resign,” Santos told ABC News, later clarifying that he meant the “142,000 voters who voted for me.” 

Although McCarthy needed Santos’ vote to secure his leadership of the incoming Republican majority following 15 rounds of voting in January, Santos’ future in Congress remains as cloudy as his backstory. But he appears to have secured his place in congressional infamy regardless of what comes next. 

Related Story: A List of All the Lies George Santos Has Told