I never claimed to be Jewish’: Santos suggests his false Jewish claims were a ‘party favor joke’ in new interview


George Santos, R-NY, on the House floor before President Joe Biden during the State of the Union address from the House chamber of the United States Capitol in Washington. Xxx 20230207 News President Joe Biden State Of The Union Address 26 Jpg A Oth Usa Dc

Jacob Kornbluh, The Forward

Rep. George Santos, the freshman Republican from New York who is under investigation over a web of lies about his background, appeared to double down in a new TV interview on Monday about his false claim that he had Jewish grandparents, and openly denied calling himself a member of the Jewish faith.

“I never claimed to be Jewish,” Santos said in a tense exchange with British television host Piers Morgan for the Piers Morgan Uncensored program, which airs in the United Kingdom and on the Fox Nation streaming service. Santos said it was a “party favor joke” he used in public appearances to claim he was ‘Jew-ish’ since “my grandparents are Jewish on my mother’s side.”

Santos publicly raised his Jewish ancestry and called himself a “Latino Jew” and “halachically Jewish” during last year’s campaign. He claimed his grandparents fled anti-Jewish persecution in Ukraine and then Belgium during World War II. In a two-page document that the Santos campaign shared last year with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other Jewish groups, Santos described himself as a “proud American Jew.” In a speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference after his election in November, Santos said he was proud to be one of three Jewish members of the Republican caucus.

In a January 2020 conversation on a cable TV show he hosted at the time, titled Talking GOP, Santos told its co-host Gabriel Montalvo that his maternal grandfather, Paulo Horta Devolder, grew up Jewish but converted to Catholicism before the Holocaust and raised his children Catholic. He then added: “I believe we are all Jewish, at the end — because Jesus Christ is Jewish. And if you believe in Jesus, and we’re all brothers in Christ, I mean.”

However, a Forward review of genealogy websites showed that both of his maternal grandparents were born in Brazil before the Nazis rose to power. Santos’ claims have sparked controversy, with some of his Republican colleagues in Nassau County accusing him of appropriating Jewish identity for political gain.

Confronted about this discrepancy by Morgan, Santos said he was never “falsely claiming” he was a member of the Jewish faith. “I would always say I was raised Catholic, but I come from a Jewish family. So that makes me ‘Jew-ish,’” he said.

He suggested that “everybody’s pounding out for a pound of flesh” because of his remarks.

“Because you are not Jewish,” Morgan responded.

Santos also called himself “one of the most staunch pro-Israel, most staunch pro-Judaism people in Congress today.”

Last week, Santos promoted a protester tied to a political movement started by an antisemitic conspiracy theorist to get back at Rep. Ritchie Torres, a pro-Israel progressive and one of his chief rivals in Congress.

Amid a congressional inquiry, Santos has stepped aside from committee assignments. His Jewish Republican colleagues both in Congress and back in New York have called for his resignation, and a number of Democratic members introduced a resolution calling for his expulsion.