Long Island’s George Santos has quickly surpassed Anna Sorokin in his shape-shifting journey, trying on various careers and guises to increase his marketability within the G.O.P. even after being unmasked as a pathological fabulist. Having failed to pass as a gay Jewish volleyball superstar financier, Santos’s latest costume is MAGA Martyr: a victim of the mainstream media and the Deep State, who may have lied a bit on the way up, but hey, hasn’t everyone in Washington?
This latest transformation hasn’t surprised members of New York’s Republican scene, especially after the community nearly universally disowned him. (Santos is also being investigated by local and federal prosecutors for his actions on the campaign trail, and by Brazilian authorities for an alleged 2008 fraud.) Ironically, the far right has always been open and accepting, in its way, of weirdos and exiles. “They used to say that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” a New York City-based Republican consultant joked to me. “Now, it is to endear yourself to the MAGA base.”
The abiding question, however, is if this walking meme can actually make lasting allies of the MAGA crowd. Apart from a chaotic appearance on a recent episode of Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, guest hosted by Matt Gaetz, Santos has been largely shunned by members of the “Taliban 20”—the House Freedom Caucus mini bloc that filibustered Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become Speaker earlier this month—and has found himself on the wrong side of the Tucker Carlson Cinematic Universe. It certainly didn’t help matters that he declared early on his support for McCarthy, the kind of MAGA heel turn that only Marjorie Taylor Greene could pull off. Or that he might have once been a drag queen.