WASHINGTON (JTA) — George Santos, the New York Republican congressman in trouble for a string of lies about his education, his career and his background, said his claims of Jewish identity were a “party favor joke.”
Santos made the comments on Monday in an interview on “Piers Morgan Uncensored,” which appears on a number of platforms, including several associated with Sky and Fox News.
“I’ve always made this as a party favor joke, I’ve done it on stages across the country… not falsely claiming I’m Jewish, I’d always say I was raised Catholic, but I come from a Jewish family. So that makes me Jew-ish,” Santos said, claiming the line always elicited laughs.
Before a succession of exposes in December revealed his lies, Santos has claimed to have been of Jewish descent, and at other times had identified as wholly and even “halachically” Jewish, using a term denoting Jewish law. Morgan read Santos a number of quotes in which he claimed to be Jewish.
Jewish Republicans, Jews in his Long Island district, Democrats and a number of other Republicans have expressed disgust with Santos’s lies about his Jewish background and have called on him to resign. He is under multiple investigations for his lies and for alleged irregularities in his fundraising.
Pressed by Morgan to explain the multiple occasions in which he claimed to be Jewish without qualification, Santos resorted to a phrase denoting voracious Jewish greed originated by William Shakespeare in “The Merchant of Venice.”
“Now that everybody’s canceling me, everybody’s pounding down for a pound of flesh,” he said.
In the interview, Santos again claimed falsely that his maternal grandparents were Jewish. Researchers have shown that to be false, including his claim that his grandparents survived the Holocaust.