The Talented Mr. Santos

george santos and his fabrications
“One person said to me there at 60 to 80 crazy people running. We can’t investigate them all,” Robert Zimmerman told Bill about his entreaties to the media to investigate George Santos. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
January 25, 2023

In the early morning hours of December 19, a month after the self-proclaimed redeemer George Santos pulled off his somewhat surprising victory in New York’s uber-wealthy 3rd congressional district, The New York Times published its first gangbusters, multi-bylined, report unraveling his various tall tales, lies, mistruths, and fabrications. Surprise, surprise, Santos had never worked at Goldman Sachs, nor Citigroup, nor was he Jewish. Nor did his mother die on 9/11, nor is his given name George Santos. It’s hard to keep up, to be honest.

Before he’d even been sworn in to support Kevin McCarthy’s narrow Republican majority in the House, Santos was already an enigma, seemingly spun-up by central casting as ready-made for a sublime Jon Lovitz send up. In November, he defeated candidate Robert Zimmerman by some 20,000 votes, 53.8 percent to 46.2 percent to carry a big chunk of Long Island’s so-called Gold Coast, including such tony north shore towns as Locust Valley, Syosset, Roslyn, Old Brookville and Oyster Bay, as well as parts of northeast Queens—a very prosperous district with a median household income of around $130,000 and population of about 750,000. 

Zimmerman had no idea the New York Times piece was coming. A friend texted him at 5:30 in the morning telling him about the story. He quickly read it online. He was dumbfounded. He had had his doubts about parts of the Santos biography but did not realize the full extent of his opponent’s deception until he read the article. “On one level I was thinking, ‘Thank goodness it finally got out’,” Zimmerman told me by phone recently. “And then I shouted into my pillow a couple of times, ‘Why didn’t this happen in October??!!’ I’m not gonna lie. But look, I’m not a journalist. I understand. My agenda shouldn’t be a journalist’s agenda. I get it.” He stared at the ceiling a few more times, wondering again why the story didn’t come out in October. He sighed. “We all knew nothing about this guy added up,” he continued. “This is not a master criminal. He’s a sociopath. And we all knew he was a liar. No one I think fully appreciated the fact that every aspect of his life was an entire lie. No one, I think, could grasp that in full. But you saw a lot of the issues where there clearly were lies.”