Embattled U.S. Rep. Santos continues to court controversy

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) – U.S. Representative George Santos competed as a drag queen in Brazilian beauty pageants 15 years ago, two acquaintances told Reuters on Wednesday, adding to contrasts that have drawn criticism of the openly gay Republican congressman’s staunchly conservative views.

The embattled freshman congressman has also faced calls from fellow New York Republicans to step down over fabrications about his career and history.

A 58-year-old Brazilian performer, who uses the drag name Eula Rochard, said she befriended the now-congressman when he was cross-dressing in 2005 at the first gay pride parade in Niteroi, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Three years later, Santos competed in a drag beauty pageant in Rio, Rochard said.

Another person from Niteroi who knew the congressman but asked not to be named said he participated in drag queen beauty pageants and aspired to be Miss Gay Rio de Janeiro.

Emails to the congressman’s press office and a newly hired communications director on Wednesday evening were not returned.

Santos is the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat in Congress as a non-incumbent, but has positioned himself as a staunch conservative on many social issues.

He has backed Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill, which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Republicans are increasingly denouncing drag shows and performers, claiming they are harmful to children.

Santos, responding in October to criticism of his support for the “don’t say gay” bill, told USA Today: “I am openly gay, have never had an issue with my sexual identity in the past decade, and I can tell you and assure you, I will always be an advocate for LGBTQ folks.”

Rochard said the congressman was a “poor” drag queen in 2005, with a simple black dress, but in 2008 “he came back to Niteroi with a lot of money,” and a flamboyant pink dress to show for it. Santos competed in a drag beauty pageant that year but lost, Rochard said.

“He’s changed a lot, but he was always a liar. He was always such a dreamer,” Rochard said.

Santos has admitted to fabricating much of his resume

An online petition calling for Santos’ resignation has been started by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit ethics watchdog organization.

Santos has admitted to fabricating much of his resume, including that he holds degrees from New York University and Baruch College and that he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. He also claimed he was a Jew whose grandparents escaped the Nazis during World War Two.

“He’s a complete and total fraud. Lied to the voters of the 3rd Congressional District in New York. Deceived and connived his way into Congress,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, also from New York, told reporters.

Santos, is also mired in a growing scandal over a series of outlandish lies, is facing accusations of stealing $3,000 from a homeless veteran raising money for his dying dog.

The newly elected Congressman allegedly took the money from a collection he set up for Richard Osthoff, who came forward with his claims this week after recognising Mr Santos as the person who allegedly conned him in 2016.

Republican Representative of New York George Santos, currently under federal investigation, leaves Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA. Santos has faced calls to resign from fellow House Republicans following allegations he has fabricated part of his resume. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER

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