Everything I Learned Watching George Santos' Interminable Public Access Show

A wooden, deeply awkward journey into the heart of ‘Talking GOP.’
Santos in
George Santos as a talk show host. Screenshot via YouTube/Michael Ferrara.

The host is waxen. The silences are bottomless. The dialogue, when it does come, veers between the stultifying and the bizarre. And yet, there are nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from Talking GOP, a short-lived show that aired from January to May 2020 on public access television in Queens, New York. The primary host was George Santos, before he became the nation’s strangest and most scandal-ridden congressman, and to watch Talking GOP—as I did, yes, all of it—is to hunt for yet more clues as to how all of this happened. 


Talking GOP continues to exist online because its producer, a man named Michael Ferrara, uploaded every episode to his YouTube channel. Its existence has previously been reported, mainly when Santos said something that would later prove to be—you’re going to want to sit down for this—not true. (For instance, Santos claimed to be Jewish on the campaign trail, and that his grandparents were Holocaust survivors. On Talking GOP, he said that he was Catholic, and that his maternal grandfather had converted from Judaism to Catholicism before the Holocaust. “I believe we are all Jewish, at the end—because Jesus Christ is Jewish,” he added. “And if you believe in Jesus, and we’re all brothers in Christ, I mean.”) 

While its existence has been acknowledged, no one, as far as I could tell, had plumbed the inky depths of all nine episodes of Talking GOP. I sat down to do so one grim day in early March; the experience proved so toweringly dull that it took me until April to actually complete the journey. Forget about that, though. Here are the major takeaways: 

George Santos deeply, passionately wanted to be famous, and wanted people to like him. 

Talking GOP is primarily an exercise in watching Santos schmooze his guests, a collection of Queens Republican political figures. The show began when he was already campaigning, and he even missed episodes 3, 6, 8, and 9 while out on the trail. (His sometimes co-host, a guy named Gabriel Montalvo, sat in for him. Montalvo is an Army National Guard human resources specialist and a fellow ardently pro-Trump Queens Republican. No love appears to have been lost between the two; Montalvo recently told a Facebook commenter who asked him about Santos, “I was scammed just like you were.”) 

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Santos and co-host Gabriel Montalvo on an episode of "Talking GOP."

The absolute negative amount of entertainment value here cannot be understated; watching Santos interview a Queens borough president candidate or a Republican political consultant showing a disconcerting amount of chest hair does not make for appointment viewing. (“What do you think about socialism?” Santos asked a guy running—confidently but ultimately unsuccessfully—against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The answer would not surprise you.)

And yet, Santos displays a decent amount of New York political knowledge and fawns over and flatters his interview subjects in a way they had to enjoy. To watch it is to understand how he won over the hyper-specific world whose support he needed to win elections. 

Santos desperately wanted to make Republicanism seem young and sexy. 

A central discussion through Talking GOP is why young people aren’t more attracted to the Republican Party, a question the program itself seems to both ask and summarily answer. In trying to woo the youth to attend one local gala, Santos promises, “You get to socialize without it being very boring.” Soon after, he declares that young Republicans are much more fun than advertised. 

“We laugh,” he insists. “We have fun. We go out. The narrative of putting us in a box of we’re some boring old white supremist”—his pronunciation—“people with nationalistic views is out there. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. I mean seriously.” 


Given how few young people, let alone young people of color, the Queens Republican Party had to choose from, these little asides also show one reason why the party was eager to embrace him—even though, as has previously been reported, some prominent Republicans knew early on about the holes and inconsistencies in his biography. 

Santos’ biography and personal life barely surface in the show.

In hindsight, Santos’ general vagueness about his bio over the course of Talking GOP makes a lot of sense. He probably should’ve stuck to it. He doesn’t mention his then-fiancé once in nine episodes, which is something of a feat for most people in long-term relationships. (Santos has tweeted that the two were living together in 2020, when the show aired.)

In episode 1, he mentions being Catholic; in episode 4, he mentions that he has “family who think AOC is the hope of the country.” He says he’s from New York District 14, and was born and raised in Jackson Heights. In episode 3, one Montalvo hosted alone, Santos does make a brief appearance near the end; his chyron, however, reads “George Anthony Devolder,” another name he’s also used. Santos refers to himself as “George Santos” everywhere else in the show, and the discrepancy is not explained or remarked upon. 

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Mostly, Santos sticks to broad outlines—he’s young and a Republican, he repeats, so many times one is tempted to check his birth certificate and voter registration. At another moment, he mentions that he was unable to attend a Veteran’s Day parade because his investment firm “didn’t have the day off.” (In 2021, the SEC filed a complaint against that firm, Harbor City, claiming it defrauded investors to the tune of millions of dollars, in what the agency called “a classic Ponzi scheme.” The company shuttered the same year.) He says he “went to school for economics and finance,” leading to his fandom of Donald Trump. (Those claims, except the Trump fan part, were not true.) 


“My family is—long story but I’ll keep it short,” Santos tells his lawyer and fellow guy with some secrets, Joe Murray, then a candidate for Queens District Attorney. “Brazil is the common point for both my parents. They just went out of a 12 year—13 year—socialistic regime. Last year. Two years ago.” He and his family, he says “have to drive bulletproof cars” when they’re in Brazil in order to feel safe. And not just normal bulletproof cars, he adds, but ones that are effective against “AK-47s, AR-15s, or in some cases automatic machine guns.” (“It’s so frustrating,” Murray agrees, “because that’s what’s happening here.” Which is true, albeit perhaps not in the way he meant, which was in reference to what he believed would happen if the city closed Rikers Island.) 

Santos also claims to Murray that he’s been “given the title of neighborhood watch camera”—his words—for his habit of constantly calling the cops while out walking his dogs over things like “suspicious cars” or “a suspicious screaming.”

Interestingly, one of Santos’ more strongly-stated personal beliefs was that Trump advisor Roger Stone should not be granted a political pardon. “You don’t get to lie under oath,” he said. 


His ability to mangle words and sentences is almost impressive. 

“That’s nothing to sneeze on,” Santos declares, shortly into the first episode. He pronounces the word “disdain” with a collection of improbable Zs scattered throughout, a mixture of a New York accent and his own inimitable flair. “It’s good to renovate the blood,” he says, confidently, at another point, talking about rejuvenating Republicanism. A gaffe of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson “really resignated,” in his opinion. He declares himself to be a fan of Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports (specifically, his anti-union stance). But Santos mangles Portnoy’s last name so hopelessly it’s nearly impossible to figure out who he’s talking about, until he references “Barstools” a moment later. His sentences meander endlessly, a thicket of prepositions and dead-end clauses, until he eventually finds his point. 

Santos has absolutely had an expensive makeover since the show aired. 

The New York Times and other outlets have reported on a mysterious unregistered campaign fund that raised a large amount of money for Santos over the course of his campaign. One might also wonder what undeclared stylists are working on the congressman, who’s traded the extremely tight and awkwardly-fitting sweaters of his Talking GOP era for much better tailoring. Santos has also taken to wearing a pair of Clark Kent glasses—on most of the show, he’s glasses-free, until a somewhat unfortunate pair makes an appearance in episode 7—and appears to have lost a significant amount of weight. His lips also look fuller, which could simply be due to the exuberance of elected office, but could also indicate a spot of cosmetic assistance. Santos, recall, famously told a would-be job seeker to “stop going to Colombia for your diluted Botox.” (That job-seeker, Derek Myers, is now suing Santos for sexual harassment; Myers’ application was rejected, Santos’ office said, because he was charged with wiretapping the previous year.)

The glasses make their appearance.

It’s very hard not to read into this whole thing, with the benefit of hindsight.

The last mini-episode of Talking GOP was a four-minute clip shot at what Santos said was his house, and which aired on May 26, 2020. “Quarantine, it’s been so crazy, right?” he asks the camera. In the frame with him, in a bit of visual overkill, is a New York license plate that reads QUEENS, a Trump hat, an American flag, a stack of conservative books, and a slightly blurry photo of a bunch of yellow cabs. 

“I did contract COVID,” Santos offers, adding, with his incredible flare for the run-on sentence, “I did recover from COVID. I’m well and alive. I’m not dismissing the threat of COVID, I just don’t think that we shouldn’t be able to get back to everyday lives and engage in our livelihoods and our activities and stay happy and sane, life’s already short and we’ve killed two and a half months out of our lives already and I don’t know if we’re going to get that two and a half months ever made up to us.” 

Talking GOP's last episode.

Santos declares that he can’t wait to get back in the studio and give the public an update, and “some entertainment.”  

“Americans never back down,” Santos proclaimed, before signing off for what proved to be the final time. “We double down.” That, at least, was prescient.