Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., admitted to being "a terrible liar" in an interview this week, while also continuing to push dubious claims about his mother's having been in the Twin Towers on 9/11 and his "Jew-ish" ancestry.
Host Piers Morgan grilled Santos about how he thought he could get away with the numerous fabrications on his résumé, including claims that he graduated from a college he never attended. Santos said he didn't think he'd ever be found out, because "I ran in 2020 for the same exact seat for Congress, and I got away with it then."
The 40-minute discussion aired Monday on YouTube. Questions about Santos' biography have swirled since a New York Times investigation last year showed that much of his background appeared to have been manufactured, including claims that he owned numerous properties, was previously employed by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and had attended and graduated from Baruch College.
Santos told Morgan, "I have been a terrible liar." But, he added, "this wasn't about tricking people. This was about getting accepted by the party here locally." He later sought to blame vague issues in local politics, saying: "This stems more deeper into the political apparatus and the political culture of New York state. And that would take a lot more time than this program to go over to explain."
The Times report also raised questions about how he was able to lend his congressional campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars, and subsequent reporting has raised additional questions about his claims of Jewish heritage and his mother's death's being tied to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Santos told Morgan that he never claimed to be Jewish and that he claimed to be "Jew-ish" as "a party favor."
"That was always a joke. Everybody used to laugh it up. I’d said it to a room with 1,000 people in November. People were hysterically laughing. It was funny to them. They loved it," he said, referring to a speech he delivered to the Republican Jewish Coalition. In his remarks, which were broadcast on C-SPAN, Santos said his election meant that “now there will be three” Jewish Republican members of Congress, a comment that was greeted with applause, not laughs.
"I don’t think Jewish people find it funny," Morgan shot back.
Santos had also made other references to Judaism in his 2022 congressional campaign, including distributing a position paper in which he claimed to be “a proud American Jew.”
Genealogy records disputed claims that Santos has Jewish heritage and that his grandparents fled the Holocaust, but Santos insisted those records are wrong.
"This is the one that I’ll battle to my grave, to the point that I’ve already ordered those DNA test kits, and I’ve gotten four of them so far, and I’m just waiting for their returns," he said.
As for his claim that his mother, who died in 2016, was present in the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks, Santos said, "That's true."
Morgan noted that immigration records show she wasn't even in the country during the attack and that there's no record of her having worked in the buildings. "She wasn't one to mislead me," Santos said. "I stay convinced that's the truth."
Asked about his more recent claim to a Brazilian TV network that he was the victim of an assassination attempt, Santos said: "It wasn’t an assassination attempt. It was a death threat. This is poorly translated Portuguese-to-English language."
He was also asked about a homeless veteran who said Santos raised money with a GoFundMe campaign for his dog to have an operation, only to disappear with the cash. Santos denied he was responsible, saying he didn't manage many of his GoFundMe pages.
"I’m not denying if there’s a GoFundMe page and if they’re going to present me with one, I’m not going to deny that, but I’ve never met him. I’ve never took on this case, and I never took the money from his dog," he said.
The FBI is investigating the alleged GoFundMe scheme, as well as Santos' campaign finances. Santos is also being investigated by the Nassau County district attorney’s office, and the New York attorney general’s office has said it’s “looking into a number of issues” tied to him.
Santos told Morgan that lying about having had a college education was "one of my biggest regrets in life."
Asked whether he thought he wouldn't get caught, he responded: "If you’re going to make up a lie, are you thinking at all? I just think it was a stupid decision on my part, very stupid decision that I regret every day."