December 2, 2023

Immigration Marriage

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‘Openly Gay’ Rep.-Elect George Santos Didn’t Disclose Divorce With Woman

Republican congressman-elect George Santos is under new scrutiny after a New York Times report earlier this week uncovered a string of apparent outright fabrications at the heart of some of the most fundamental facts of his life, but that backstory may also be notable for what Santos did not include—a publicly undisclosed marriage.

Santos, who claims he has “never experienced discrimination in the Republican Party,” broke barriers this year when he became the first openly gay non-incumbent GOP candidate elected to Congress.

But according to court records obtained by The Daily Beast, Santos appears to be the subject of a previously unacknowledged Sept. 2019 divorce with a woman in Queens County, New York. The divorce—which Santos has not discussed publicly—adds new uncertainty to his already shaky biographical and political claims.

“I am openly gay, have never had an issue with my sexual identity in the past decade, and I can tell you and assure you, I will always be an advocate for LGBTQ folks,” Santos told USA Today in October, responding to criticism about his support for Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay Bill” signed into law this year by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Less than two weeks after his divorce was finalized, Santos filed the official paperwork to launch his 2020 campaign. And while his 2022 campaign bio mentions his husband, who according to Santos lives with him and their four dogs on Long Island, he’s kept this previous marriage out of the public eye entirely.

It’s entirely possible that Santos, who claims he has “never experienced discrimination in the Republican Party,” has been living comfortably as an openly gay man for, as he says, more than a decade. People get married for countless reasons. But Santos’ situation is curious because he never disclosed his divorce to voters, and never reconciled his prior marriage to a woman—which ended just 12 days before he established his first congressional campaign—with his claims of being an out and proud gay Republican.

Santos, 34, made his first bid for Congress in 2020, losing to Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) before toppling Democratic opponent Robert Zimmerman this year. But following a New York Times investigation that suggested Santos had fictionalized key elements of his resume, he’s already facing calls to resign, as well as a possible ethics investigation.

The colleges Santos says he attended don’t have a record of him; Citigroup and Goldman Sachs don’t either, though he claimed to work there; the IRS has no record of his nonprofit; he still faces “unresolved” legal trouble in Brazil; his past business ventures appear flimsy; and even his address was called into question.

In response to the Times report, Santos’ attorney Joseph Murray released a statement that, while stopping short of denying the accusations, painted his client as a victim, because he “represents the kind of progress that the Left is so threatened by—a gay, Latino, immigrant and Republican who won a Biden district in overwhelming fashion by showing everyday voters that there is a better option than the broken promises and failed policies of the Democratic Party.”

The Times story set off a rapid-fire round of criticism that extended not just to the congressman-elect, but to Democratic opposition researchers, Republican vetters, and media who had not called attention to the now-glaring holes in his story before the election.

While those details went largely unnoticed during the campaign, the Times investigation prompted reporters and internet sleuths around the country to dig deeper into Santos’ past—or what they could find of it.

It’s unclear why Santos has not disclosed his apparent marriage and divorce, but it doesn’t fit well with his current biography.

He has previously told U.S. and Brazilian media that he was engaged to a man, a fellow Brazilian whom Santos has identified as a pharmacist, and his campaign bio claims he lives on Long Island with his husband. (The Daily Beast could find no public record of the man’s work in that field, nor could we find a marriage record.)

But New York court records show that, in 2019, someone named George Devolder Santos, with a second initial of “A,” finalized an uncontested divorce with Uadla Santos Vieira Santos. Public records searches only reveal one person in the United States with that name.

Uadla Santos and George Santos did not reply to calls or questions sent via text message to numbers associated with them. (A deed for a $750,000 house purchase in Union County, New Jersey, this June lists Uadla Santos as the buyer, and says she is married; she is the only purchaser listed on the property documents.)

George Santos, whose middle name is Anthony, sometimes uses Devolder, his late mother’s maiden name. He incorporated it into his campaign—“Devolder Santos for Congress”—as well as his own supposed financial services company, the Devolder Organization.

Santos has shifted between different combinations of those four names over the years, sometimes embracing his father’s Santos surname, other times going by his mother’s Devolder.

Santos’ mother died in 2016, according to an online crowdfunding campaign Santos launched to raise money to cover “the costs of the wake.” The GoFundMe page lists “Anthony D Santos” as the beneficiary—and Anthony Devolver of Sunnyside, New York, as the organizer—and the fundraising campaign remains open.

Santos’ campaign bio page claims his mother was “the first female executive at a major financial institution,” though the specific institution is unnamed. The bio also says “George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower” on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“She survived the horrific events of that day, but unfortunately passed away a few years later”—about 15 years later.

And on Wednesday, Jewish outlet The Forward added still more intrigue, suggesting Santos may also have been untruthful when he claimed during the campaign—including on his website—to have Jewish ancestry. The report led incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to declare his future colleague a “complete and utter fraud.”

But the divorce revelation, and the apparent secrecy around it, complicates a central piece of the image Santos has burnished as a dynamic and culturally revolutionary figure.

In an election season where many of his fellow conservatives spouted nonsensical allegations of pedophilia among Democrats, targeted benign drag brunches as epicenters for “grooming,” and inflamed a hateful anti-gay and anti-trans movement—as attacks on the LGBTQ community skyrocketed—Santos made history as the first non-incumbent gay Republican to ever be elected to Congress.

But after achieving that victory, and just two weeks before his barrier-breaking inauguration, Santos’ relationship with the truth is facing tests he somehow dodged for two campaigns.

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