George Santos’ transformation began in 2019, the year he transitioned from Anthony Devolder to a Republican congressional candidate with a compelling fictional resume.
When the House GOP was freshly defeated by a blue wave in 2018, he joined a group of pro-Donald Trump activists to start his improbable entry into the House. He was young, gay and Latino, and appeared on the conservative scene as activists from more diverse backgrounds gained more attention and became influencers in Republican social media circles.
Santos, a previously apolitical man who posted mostly about celebrities on social media, suddenly embraced conservative politics as he met grassroots Republicans at in-person events and on Facebook. CNN’s KFile reviewed hundreds of his posts on six accounts to document the pivotal shift.
Until 2019, he refrained from posting conservative-leaning content, instead posting enthusiastically on Facebook about ordering “One Nation, No God” shirts in LGBT colors in 2016. a photo In 2014, he shared a photo of him with former “Real Housewives” reality star Bethenny Frankel as an audience member on the set of her short-lived talk show. Footage from the episode shows Santos under a chair checking to see if he’s won a $500 QVC gift card.
Beginning in January 2019, Santos began tweeting about his political views. He sent a lot of people against abortion. Among other things, he made negative comments about politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from the Bronx, and then-Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. Most of the posts went unliked or retweeted, but the lack of engagement didn’t stop him from engaging in politics — and it paid off when he eventually won political office.
Santos was one of about 200 attendees at a pro-Trump rally at Trump Tower that March. Santos held up a homemade “Gays for Trump” sign with a rainbow flag on it, according to a photo on his since-deleted Twitter account.event video programme An angry Santos yelled “go home” at a lone provocateur holding a Confederate flag.
A day later, Santos found himself mix With a local Queens Republican at an event where former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski gave a speech. Also in attendance was Brandon Straka, a self-described ex-liberal who started the “Go Away” campaign — a campaign that Santos will support to encourage minorities and women to leave the Democratic Party. sports.
“We’re going to have Brandon Straka,” Santos said in a vlog ahead of the event. “Tag go away. Yes, you heard me, go away.”
Pictures and video show Santos ebullient Self introduction to local activists.In one photo, Santos constitute Vickie Paladino, an outspoken conservative activist, will be elected to the New York City Council in 2021.Santos wears a bright red tie with a “Gays for Trump” pin known as Paladino — who later supported and promoted his congressional campaign — “was my inspiration.”
Around the same time, Santos began promoting the pro-Trump Facebook group “United for Trump 2020,” saying he was launching “the largest pro-Trump grassroots movement.” Santos said in a video that the group spun off from the recent Trump rallies.
In an introductory video, “George Anthony,” or “Anthony,” as he said he was better known, said he had recently been “onboarded” as the group’s administrator and said he had long supported Trump.
“I’ve been on Trump’s train, long before Trump became president, long before he announced that we’re talking, The Apprentice,” Santos said, referring to Trump’s reality show. “‘You’re Fired’ sign on a birth certificate — exposing Obama’s, you know, improper birth certificate, etc.”
Santos said he did not join the group for personal or financial gain, and said he would help the group form a limited liability company, hire a lawyer to protect against defamation and issue monthly financial reports.
“There was, that was, you know, over $3,000,” Santos said of the money they needed.
CNN found no evidence the group formed an LLC or hired a lawyer, nor did it find any monthly financial reports. Panelists listed as administrators or officials declined to be interviewed by CNN.
Santos is listed as an organizer of two of the group’s events, a GoFundMe that raised $645 for the group’s expenses, and a July 2019 pro-Trump protest in Buffalo, New York, which The protests were mainly organized by other groups. It was not immediately clear whether Santos attended the event, and CNN was unable to identify him in photos or video from the event.
Still, Santos is making connections and befriending local Republican activists, many of whom, like him, are not from groups traditionally considered part of the Republican coalition.
The following week, he participated in two more Get Away campaign events in New York on March 28 and 29.
In the group’s video, Santos is seen Ask the panelists questions and introduce yourself as Anthony Devolder, the founder of United for Trump, to whom he credits last Saturday’s rally at Trump Tower, largely organized by other activists.
In May, he traveled to Washington, D.C., for an event hosted by the group at what was then the Trump International Hotel.
“Hi everyone, I’m Anthony,” Santos said. “We’re on our one-year anniversary of the Walk Away at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC. We’re here to network, promote Trump 2020 and our tour for United. Lots of interesting connections being made.”
On the United for Trump Facebook page, Santos began regularly posting live videos of his views on politics, sometimes from his home or while driving. Members of the group sometimes tune in when Santos is live.
Santos, who calls himself a “social justice fighter fighting for the Republican agenda,” lamented that his Twitter account hadn’t attracted as much engagement as Facebook.
By the end of the year, the group appeared to have largely failed, with members CNN interviewed recalling no other incidents.
CNN has reached out to Santos’ office and his attorney for comment.
In September 2019, Santos decided to take on a new challenge: running for Congress. He began to shuttle between Long Island and Queens, and frequently attended Republican events. Speaking at a Columbus Day dinner at the Queens Village Republican Club on Oct. 3, the activists who introduced him expressed surprise that Santos used a different name while running for Congress.
“Guys, another key speaker, another congressional candidate, George Santos. George, we know him as a friend — I call him Anthony Devolder. So I don’t know where George Santos is from, but this That’s what it says here,” one activist said.
“I’m a victim of circumstances,” Santos said. “My parents are Latino, so my name is George Anthony De Volde-Santos, commonly known as Anthony.”
In January 2020, he began hosting a local public talk show called “Talking GOP,” under his new name George Santos, along with other activists, where he promotes an inclusive republic party.
Meanwhile, Santos also promoted himself through his various Twitter and Facebook accounts under different names; George Santos, Anthony Devolder, George Devolder and George Anthony Devolder-Santos, which he abbreviated as GADS. He became Congressman George Santos in January 2020 on the official Facebook page created by Anthony Devolder in late 2018.
Santos lost his run for the U.S. House of Representatives in a landslide to a Democratic incumbent in 2020, but he stands as a young, gay, successful Wall Street executive and an unapologetic Trump capable of another run for Congress Supporters entered the scene.
santos soon Announce In December 2020, he tweeted about his intention to run for Congress “again in 2022” because of his opposition to spending related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Santos was running against Democrat Robert Zimmerman and joined other New York Republicans in outperforming Republicans nationally to win the House seat.