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New York GOP leader calls accusation of faked bio for new GOP House member 'serious'

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

A freshman Republican congressman-elect from New York appears to have faked much of his life's story. George Santos won a House race on Long Island in November. He made claims about his education and business career that sources tell NPR are untrue. A top Republican leader in New York now says the accusations against Santos are, quote, "serious." NPR's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: During the campaign, George Santos described his career and his life's story as a shining example of the American dream. Here he is speaking on CBS Channel 2 before the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE SANTOS: I'm a private sector guy. I was born and raised in abject poverty in this country. And only in this country does somebody who comes from a basement apartment in Jackson Heights, like I did, is able to rise to become a successful businessperson, to then run for the United States Congress.

MANN: But it turns out much of Santos' backstory appears untrue. Santos claimed in his official campaign bio he graduated from Baruch College with a bachelor's degree in economics and finance. In a statement sent to NPR, the school says it searched its records for Santos and, quote, "could not find a match." The New York Times, which broke this story, also found Santos appears to have fabricated his history working for prestigious Wall Street firms. In a statement to NPR, a Citigroup spokesperson said they were, quote, "unable to confirm Mr. Santos' employment with Citi." A Goldman Sachs spokesperson also told NPR he could find no record of Santos ever being employed by their company.

NPR tried repeatedly to contact Santos without success. A top New York State Republican, Joseph Cairo Jr., however, issued a statement Monday calling the accusations against Santos serious. Cairo, who chairs the influential Nassau County Republican Committee on Long Island, said Santos, quote, "deserves an opportunity to address the claims." Every person deserves an opportunity to clear his or her name in the face of accusations, Cairo added. Santos, who is gay, also claimed in an interview with WNYC Public Radio that four of his employees died when a gunman opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in 2016.

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SANTOS: Which I happened to, at the time, have people that worked for me in the club. My company at the time, we lost four employees that were at Pulse Nightclub.

MANN: Santos said he has tragic memories of that deadly mass shooting. But The New York Times investigation could find no link between any of the 49 victims and firms or companies tied to Santos. Late Monday afternoon, the Santos campaign released a statement from his attorney, Joseph Murray, who called reporting about Santos' biography, quote, "defamatory allegations." But Murray didn't offer documents or other information to refute claims that Santos invented major parts of his resume.

Some Democrats are calling for Santos to resign before taking office. That would likely trigger a special election in a competitive House district. The scandal could also complicate Congressman Kevin McCarthy's bid for the House speakership. McCarthy has been struggling to secure enough votes from GOP members to win the gavel. Santos committed yesterday on Twitter that he would vote for McCarthy. But Santos' own future in Washington is now in serious question.

Brian Mann, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAMA GECKO'S "BACKREST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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