Just as it seemed the well of bizarre stories about George Santos might have begun to run dry, it was reported on Friday that the New York Republican congressman told potential donors he was a producer on the notoriously ill-fated Spider-Man musical.
Bloomberg News said: “The lead producer, Michael Cohl, denied Santos’s involvement, saying through an assistant that [Santos] wasn’t a producer on the musical. Santos’s name also never appeared in the playbills for the show.”
Santos and his lawyers did not immediately comment.
Santos, 34, won election to Congress in New York’s third district in November. Since then, he has been consumed by revelations about his largely made-up educational and professional résumé; disproven claims about his family history including supposed links to the Holocaust and 9/11; allegations of criminal behaviour; and even reports that he once appeared as a drag queen in Brazil.
He has admitted embellishing his résumé but denied wrongdoing and said he will not resign from Congress, which Republicans in his district and state and many leading Democrats have repeatedly demanded.
Amid investigations at the local, state, federal and international levels – including of his campaign finance filings, personal wealth and business activities under a different name, Anthony Devolder – Santos this week stepped down from two committees to which he was named by Republican leaders.
He said he wanted to “focus on serving the constituents of New York’s third congressional district and providing federal level representation without distraction”.
That seems unlikely.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark featured ambitious stagecraft and songs by U2’s Bono and the Edge but was badly reviewed and never trouble-free, including a number of performers suffering injuries. Its Broadway run lasted from 2011 to 2014, when it closed with losses of millions of dollars.
Bloomberg noted that during the time the musical was on Broadway, Santos went from living in Brazil to working at a call centre in Queens and founding a charity to raise money for sick animals that is now being investigated after a military veteran accused Santos of absconding with money raised for his dog.
The dog died. Santos denies the claim.
Santos remains in the House as a valuable vote for Kevin McCarthy, the Republican speaker who must work with a narrow majority. Santos doggedly supported McCarthy through 15 votes for the position of speaker early last month.
On Thursday night, meanwhile, a recording emerged of Santos firing an aide who had been on staff a little more than a week.
The aide, Dan Myers, was previously a reporter in Ohio who faced criminal charges for publishing recorded legal testimony.
In Myers’s recorded exchange with Santos, the congressman boasted about messaging with a CNN host.
“Don Lemon just texted me – I’m sorry, I’m listening to you – Don Lemon just texted me!” Santos said.
He also discussed the merits and costs of Botox treatments before saying Myers’s past problems in Ohio were “not concerning to us, it’s concerning to this institution”.
Myers gave the recording to Talking Points Memo. He told the website that as Santos spoke, he was “thinking to myself, ‘I’m a threat and concern to this institution –George Santos, you’re George Santos!’”