Embattled Republican Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., has denied claims that he performed as a drag queen. His denial comes just days after a Brazilian drag performer posted a photo of herself and another person in drag, whom she identified as the newly elected congressman, on social media.
“The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or have ‘performed’ as a drag Queen is categorically false,” Santos, who has been the subject of international headlines for weeks for forging parts of his résumé, tweeted Thursday morning. “While I am working to deliver results, the media continues to make outrageous claims about my life.”
Last week, Brazilian drag artist Eula Rochard shared a photo of herself with someone wearing a red feathery dress, bright red lipstick, and dangling chandelier earrings on Facebook and Instagram. Rochard, who appears in the photo as Eula Rorard, claims the other person in drag goes by the stage name Kitara Ravache and is, in fact, Santos.
“Me with the American Republican congressman who wouldn’t leave my house,” Rochard wrote on Facebook in Portuguese. “Bite your tongue, whoever said I was a liar.”
NBC News has not independently confirmed the images posted on Rochard’s social media accounts, which she claims were first published in a Brazilian newspaper in 2008. The images had been widely circulated on social media and news websites as of Thursday afternoon.
Journalist Joâo Fragah told NBC News that he interviewed Kitara Ravache in a videotaped exchange.
Fragah stated that he was certain Santos was the person he interviewed and the person in the photos Rochard shared. The journalist, however, noted that the interview was conducted a long time ago.
When the interview took place, Fragah said the performer was “name-dropping” and trying to get the media’s attention.
Rochard told NBC News that she met Santos in 2005 and last saw him in 2008 through Niterói’s gay community, but she only knew him as Kitara Ravache and Anthony (Santos has gone by various combinations of the name George Anthony Devolder Santos, the full name listed on a Federal Election Commission filing from 2019). Rochard said she recognised Santos as a recently elected US lawmaker after seeing a photo of him in a Brazilian news outlet. When asked why she posted the image she claims is of herself and Santos, she replied, “Because I wanted to.”
Rochard, dubbed the “RuPaul” of Brazil, said she knew Santos when he was “coming up” in the drag world and served as a mentor to him. He had a “outgrown sense of grandeur,” she said, adding that “he lied all the time.”
Rochard’s claims about Santos, who has positioned himself as a conservative Republican and has aligned himself with some of the party’s most hard-right lawmakers, come at a time when the GOP has thrust drag into the centre of a simmering culture war.
At least six states are considering bills this term that would ban minors from attending drag performances and seek to classify any business that hosts drag shows as a cabaret or a “sexually oriented business,” according to an NBC News analysis of new legislation targeting LGBTQ rights and queer life.
A Tennessee bill would prohibit drag queens from performing on public or private property in the presence of a minor. Repeat offenders could face felony charges and up to six years in prison if the bill is passed.
The anti-LGBTQ legislation comes at the same time as a recent wave of far-right protests and threats aimed at drag events.
According to the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, there were at least 141 protests and significant threats aimed at drag events in 48 states last year. A report from the Crowd Counting Consortium, a public interest and scholarly project that documents crowds and contention in the United States, found a sharp increase in anti-LGBTQ demonstrations over the last two years, with drag-related events being a common target last year.
Santos’ lawyer did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment on the congressman’s stance on the proposed policies regarding drag performances. Santos previously told NBC News that he sees no conflict between his gay identity and his party’s policy positions, saying, “I have never experienced discrimination in the Republican Party.”
Santos’ biography first came under scrutiny on December 19, when The New York Times published a bombshell investigation into whether he lied about his education, work history, and finances. Santos later admitted to “embellishing” his credentials and apologised for doing so.
Since then, Democratic lawmakers and a number of Republicans have called for Santos’ resignation.