Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) has admitted to fabricating a number of aspects of his life and career but has denied having been a “performer” at drag events in his native Brazil. But former friends and artificial intelligence photographic analysis tools say otherwise.
The latest controversy for the far-right Republican began on Wednesday after Eula Rochard, a popular drag queen in Rio de Janeiro, accused Santos of having participated in drag events in 2007 and 2008 before he moved to the United States and began creating a new identity as a far-right Republican who openly aligned himself with anti-LGBT Christian supremacists who have accused drag performers of trying to sexually abuse children.
The accusation was first reported by journalist Marisa Kabas, who also reprinted a low-quality photo that Rochard said was of Santos and herself.
After Kabas’s report spread like wildfire around the internet and through political Washington, Santos issued a vehement denial of the allegation early Thursday morning.
“The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or ‘performed’ as a drag Queen is categorically false,” the far-right Republican wrote on Twitter. “The media continues to make outrageous claims about my life while I am working to deliver results.”
Santos’s angry disputation was soon undermined after Rochard released a high-quality photo which appeared to show Santos wearing the same red feathered dress as in the first image.
Many critics also noted that Santos had not actually denied the accusations.
“When Santos carefully says he didn’t ‘perform’ as a drag queen and isn’t presently a drag queen, he’s not denying that report,” Will Saletan, a writer for the conservative website The Bulwark, replied to the GOP congressman’s tweet.
Reuters reported on Thursday evening that an anonymous former friend of Santos said that he had participated in multiple drag queen beauty pageants and that Santos had aspired to be Miss Gay Rio de Janeiro.
The person in the red dress shared by Rochard appears to closely match known photos of Santos available from his social media accounts and official government portraits.
An artificial intelligence-based comparison of the red dress photo with a known image of Santos performed by TYT using Amazon’s Rekognition service found that there was a 98% chance that Santos was the person depicted in the image produced by Rochard.