NEW YORK - Republican George Santos, who won the election for New York's 3rd Congressional District, in November, has now admitted to fabricating parts of his background, the New York Post reported on Monday.
Last week, serious questions arose about the congressman-elect after the New York Times reported that Santos misled the public on key aspects of his life, including his education and employment history.
Santos confirmed some aspects of the report to the Post but insisted that he will show up in January to be sworn into Congress.
"I am not a criminal," Santos told the Post in an interview. "This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good."
Santos apparently misrepresented his education, employment history, and even personal background in his official bio that appeared on his campaign website. He claimed that he graduated from CUNY's Baruch College, worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, runs a family investment firm, owns multiple properties, and his grandparents escaped the Holocaust.
Well, Santos admitted to the Post that he either lied or stated things "poorly."
"I didn't graduate from any institution of higher learning. I'm embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume," Santos said. "We do stupid things in life."
Santos admitted that he never worked for either Goldman Sachs or Citigroup but that he worked for a firm that did business with them. He said his link to those financial giants "was stated poorly" and that he would be "clearer about that."
Democrat Robert Zimmerman, the man Santos defeated in the November election, called Santos a "fraud."
"The person who the voters voted for was a fiction, was a fraud. George Santos presented a resume and a background to the public that he admits was a complete lie," Zimmerman told Fox 5 News. "He defrauded the citizens of our congressional district. This is much bigger than Democrat and Republican politics."
In an interview with Skye Ostreicher of Political Personalities with Skye on cityandstateny.com, he denied being a fraud or a liar.
"Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did," Santos told Ostreicher. "And I'm sorry."
He also said he is Catholic, not Jewish, and that his grandmother told stories about being Jewish and later converting to Catholicism.
The Forward had questioned the claim on the Santos campaign website that his grandparents "fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII."
"I never claimed to be Jewish," Santos told the Post. "I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was 'Jew-ish.'"
He echoed that statement in his interview on Political Personalities with Skye.
"I'm Catholic but I'm also 'Jew-ish,'" he said, "as in 'ish.'"
The Post didn't report if Santos addressed the specific claim that his grandparents fled from the Nazis.
Officials with the Republican Jewish Coalition posted a message on Twitter saying that Santos began his tenure on the "wrong note" and will not be welcome at any future RJC event.
Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph Cairo Jr. said in a statement that Santos has "broken the public trust" and has to work to "regain the trust" of voters and constituents.
"I am deeply disappointed in Mr. Santos, and I expected more than just a blanket apology. The damage that his lies have caused to many people, especially those who have been impacted by the Holocaust, are profound," Cairo said in the statement. "Residents want him to deliver tax relief and pass laws that will make our neighborhoods and our nation safer. What's more, George Santos will have to continually prove that he has learned his lesson."
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, said he is angry that Santos waited a week to tell the truth.
"Obviously he has emotional issues and he has to address those emotional issues because a normal person wouldn't do what he did," Blakeman said.
While Blakeman and other Republican leaders stopped short of saying that Santos shouldn't be seated next week, Legislator Josh Lafazan, a Democrat, continues to call for Santos to resign.
"How is he going to serve us if he's busy keeping himself out of jail or if he's busy cleaning up his lies and reputation," Lafazan said.
Some voters who live in the 3rd District, which covers parts of western Nassau County and eastern Queens, and New York lawmakers have called for Santos to step down before he even takes office in January.
However, Santos doesn't appear to be backing down from going to Washington. He told the Post he intends to "deliver on the promises" he made during the campaign.
Fox 5 News has repeatedly asked the Santos team to comment or be interviewed, either on camera or by phone. He wouldn't speak to Fox 5 on Tuesday but a Santos campaign spokesperson released a statement.
"As a millennial, George did what he had to in order to evade smear campaigns put forth by elitist organizations like the New York Times. The NYT shamefully launched this open season against the first openly gay person to be elected to Congress to draw a veil over Santos's admirable qualifications," spokesperson Gabrielle Lipsky said. "This is an attack on not only George but all working class Americans. Santos is wholeheartedly ready to claim the decisive victory he earned in Congress and be the voice of New York's Third District. Santos is strong and he is very much ready to stand tall and do the peoples' work."
With FOX 5 NY's Jodi Goldberg.