Former friends of Republican congressman George Santos said Wednesday that he performed as a drag queen in Brazil, more than a decade before he was elected as a member of the party that is now pushing to limit drag shows across the country.
Eula Rochard, a 58-year-old drag queen in the Brazilian town of Niteroi, published a photo to her Instagram last week purportedly showing her and Santos, who allegedly went by the drag name Kitara Ravache at the time. She repeated that claim in interviews with the newsletter The Handbasket and Reuters, and another person from Niteroi told Reuters that Santos competed in drag pageants and wanted to be Miss Gay Rio de Janiero.
Santos, who has taken to ignoring most of the questions about his largely invented resumé, and who has reportedly presented himself under numerous aliases over the years, vehemently denied the allegation in a Thursday tweet. “The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or ‘performed’ as a drag Queen is categorically false,” Santos tweeted. “The media continues to make outrageous claims about my life while I am working to deliver results. I will not be distracted nor fazed by this.”
Rochard told The Handbasket on Wednesday that she met Santos, who then went by the name Anthony Devolder, when he was a teenager. Rochard said she knew Santos as someone who routinely stretched the truth.
“George always lied about everything,” Rochard told the Handbasket. “He used to create stories, usually involving money—like that his dad was rich. But then people wondered why his mom was a cleaning lady.” Santos’ former New York City roommate, who has accused Santos of stealing rent money and clothing from him, told CNN the congressman had “delusions of grandeur” and spoke of “generational wealth” that the roommate thought “didn’t seem feasible.”
Nearly every facet of Santos’ public profile prior to his election to Congress last November has been called into question. High schools and colleges he claimed to have attended and businesses where he claimed to have worked have said they have no records of him, and a disabled veteran accused him of stealing thousands from a GoFundMe for his dying dog under the guise of a pet charity of which the IRS has no record. And while Santos has claimed his mother was a 9/11 survivor who was in the South tower of the World Trade Center when the attack happened, immigration documents show Fatima Devolder was not in the U.S. at the time, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
Santos’ parents were born in Brazil, and he spent several years of his life there. In 2008, Santos was accused of stealing and using a checkbook in Brazil; prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro said earlier this month they would attempt to revive the case against the freshman congressman.
Santos is openly gay. He attended a conservative LGBTQ event in 2019 and asked a conservative transgender YouTuber how she can “help educate other trans people from not having to follow the narrative the media and Democrats put forward,” according to a video posted by the Twitter account Patriot Takes last week.
But he has also implicitly cosigned onto the GOP’s increasingly anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies, saying last year that he supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to restrict discussion of LGTBQ issues in public schools that critics have branded as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The DeSantis administration has also banned Medicaid recipients from receiving transgender healthcare and is now pushing Florida colleges and universities to release data on students receiving transgender healthcare, Politico reported Wednesday.
“As a gay man, I stand proudly behind not teaching our children sex or sexual orientation,” Santos said in a video posted to his campaign’s Facebook page. “That’s incumbent on the parents, not educators. DeSantis, you have my full-blown support and I support your decision to protect our children’s innocence.”
The party to which Santos belongs has also associated transgender identity with drag shows, and has targeted the events as part of an all-out attack on transgender rights, including healthcare. A bill filed in the Texas legislature this month, for example, would ban bars and restaurants from hosting drag events unless they’re classified as “sexually oriented” businesses.
House Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana has also filed a bill that would ban local governments and entities that receive federal dollars from hosting “sexually oriented events like drag queen story hours and burlesque shows.” Drag queen story hours, or drag queens reading stories to children in settings such as public libraries, are not “sexually oriented,” but they have been targeted by right-wing protesters who have accused the performers and hosts of “grooming” children.
As of Thursday, Johnson’s bill has 38 Republican cosponsors, though Santos isn’t among them.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.