Rep. George Santos addresses "drag queen" photo controversy

Embattled U.S. Congressman George Santos, who is accused of lying about multiple aspects of his background, including his work history, ancestry and that his mother was in the World Trade Center on 9/11, has responded to some of the accusations he faces.

When he landed at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Saturday, Santos, a Republican representing part of Long Island, was bombarded with questions from reporters and heckled by a man who yelled, "Con artist!"

One of the questions Santos commented on involved photos circulating online that appeared to show him dressed as in drag at a festival in Brazil. Last week, he tweeted that the claims "that I am a drag Queen or 'performed' as a drag Queen" are "categorically false."

In speaking with the reporters, he gave a somewhat different response. "I was young and I had fun at a festival. Sue me for having a life," said Santos.

Santos is openly gay but has supported policies many consider anti-LGBTQ, including Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, which restricts conversations about sexuality in schools. "The Left is hellbent on creating a false narrative because they want to groom our kids," he said on Facebook in April. "As a gay man, I UNAPOLOGETICALLY support this law!"

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) leaves the U.S. Capitol on January 12, 2023 in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Getty Images
Rep. George Santos (R-NY) leaves the U.S. Capitol on January 12, 2023 in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Getty Images

Santos is also accused of falsely claiming on his campaign website that his mother was in the World Trade Center on 9/11. His mother's immigration documents show she was in Brazil at the time of the attack, a source told CBS News.

When a reporter at the airport asked Santos if his mother was at the World Trade Center on 9/11, Santos replied, "Guys, look, this isn't how you conduct an interview."

Though many constituents and local Republican leaders have called for Santos to resign, he claimed to be working on their behalf.

"I have spoken with the voters," Santos said at the airport. "I have been in the district the whole week. I have been taking constituent calls. I have received federal grant applications for projects in the district, and I look forward to serving the people."

CBS News made calls last week to his office in New York's 3rd Congressional District — which still had his predecessor's name on the building — but they were forwarded to a neighboring congressman.

Santos was also recently accused of stealing money from a GoFundMe meant to help a homeless veteran and his ailing dog. The veteran, Rich Osthoff, said Santos helped raise $3,000 through Santos' pet charity, as Patch first reported. But Osthoff said he never got the money from Santos, and his dog died six months later. GoFundMe blocked Santos after the incident.

Santos denied the story: "Fake," he said in a text to the news outlet Semafor. "No clue who this is."

In a tweet last week, Santos called the accusation "shocking & insane." "My work in animal advocacy was the labor of love & hard work," he tweeted. "Over the past 24hr I have received pictures of dogs I helped rescue throughout the years along with supportive messages. These distractions won't stop me!"

Santos is also accused of taking an expensive scarf from his former roommate, Gregory Morey, and wearing it to a Trump rally.

A formal complaint with the House Ethics Committee, filed by two New York Democrats, alleges Santos violated federal laws in his financial disclosures.

Despite all the accusations, Santos secured seats on two congressional committees with the backing of House Republican leadership.

CBS News political correspondent Caitlin Huey-Burns contributed reporting.

Khanna says centrist Democrat could challenge Biden in 2024

Monterey Park community reels after mass shooting

Experts predict lower housing prices in 2023