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- George Santos offered a rare public denial of claims made about his past on Thursday.
- He called reports that he performed in drag more than 14 years ago an “outrageous” lie.
- Santos faces more pressing questions, but performing in drag could hurt his standing with fellow Republicans.
Republican Rep. George Santos of New York, facing yet another barrage of stunning revelations about his past, offered a rare public statement of denial on Thursday morning.
“The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or “performed” as a drag Queen is categorically false,” Santos, who is gay, wrote on Twitter, calling the recent allegations an “outrageous claim.”
—George Santos (@Santos4Congress) January 19, 2023
This came after a 58-year-old performer in Brazil named Eula Rochard told both Reuters and reporter Marisa Kabas that Santos performed as a drag queen and engaged in cross-dressing between 2005 and 2008, when he was living in Brazil. According to Rochard, who also provided photos allegedly showing Santos in drag, Santos performed under the name “Kitara Ravache.”
“He’s changed a lot, but he was always a liar. He was always such a dreamer,” Rochard told Reuters.
—Marisa Kabas (@MarisaKabas) January 18, 2023
—Marisa Kabas (@MarisaKabas) January 19, 2023
While performing in drag and partaking in drag culture isn’t especially out of the ordinary for a gay man, it’s Santos’ position as a conservative Republican that likely makes him quick to offer a public denial, even as more pressing questions remain.
In recent years, Republicans have centered drag queens and drag culture within a broader culture war against what they claim is the sexualization of children and encroaching cultural liberalism. Nearly three dozen of Santos’s Republican colleagues introduced a bill taking aim at drag queen story hours.
Jonathan Hamilt, executive director of Drag Story Hour, told Insider in October that such legislation is “just part of a nationwide program attacking LGBT people.” He said that attempts to criminalize their work is rooted in “tired homophobia and transphobia and hate and misinformation.”
As he settled into Congress, Santos has found a largely sympathetic audience among the right flank of the House Republican caucus, and has been friendly with Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of George for at least a couple of years. Since Santos’s fabrications became known, Greene has been among the few Republicans willing to offer a full-throated defense of the Long Island congressman.
But she’s also one of the most vociferous critics of drag queens.
—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) June 16, 2022
Santos has been found to have fabricated much of his purported background and faces investigations related to potential campaign finance violations. Questions continue to swirl around a $700,000 loan he made to his campaign, as well as the Devolder Organization that he purportedly ran prior to running for Congress.
But while he has at least partially admitted to lying about certain aspects of his resume, religious background, and marriage history, he hasn’t addressed questions about his financial situation in a direct manner.
In an appearance on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” show earlier this month, he repeatedly dodged questions from fellow Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida about the origins of the $700,000 loan.
“I’ll tell you where it didn’t come from. It didn’t come from China, Ukraine, or Burisma,” Santos said.
But Santos is also the first non-incumbent gay Republican elected to Congress, and is one of just a handful of out gay Republicans to ever serve in Congress.
That’s already been a complicated identity for him to navigate. Last year, he took to social media to offer a full-throated defense of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act — colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which forbids classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for students in the third grade and younger.
—George Santos (@Santos4Congress) April 16, 2022
If Santos has any hope of outrunning the litany of investigations he faces and serving as an effective member of Congress, he will have to maintain relationships with at least some of his Republican colleagues.
And in today’s Republican Party, performing in a drag pageant over 14 years ago may pose a larger threat to those relationships than potential violations of federal law.