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Could disgraced former Congressman George Santos have a future in Hollywood?

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., faces reporters at the Capitol in Washington, early Thursday.
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., faces reporters at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 30. The next day, he was expelled from the House.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
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The House of Representatives may have ejected George Santos from its ranks last week, but it seems the culture might not be ready to let him go. And vice versa.

In the days since the former New York congressman’s expulsion from the halls of power in Washington, D.C., on Friday, there’s been a flurry of speculation about his potential next act. Many have wondered whether the attention-hungry, scandal-plagued Santos could find a more welcoming home in Hollywood, which has always had a soft spot for phoenixes rising from the ashes of their own misdeeds (also a place famous for its love of Botox, like Santos).

“The truth is, this man never belonged in Congress — he belongs on Bravo,” late-night host John Oliver cracked on Sunday’s edition of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” suggesting the same qualities that made Santos a disaster in politics could make him ideal for a reality show like “Real Housewives.” “I don’t want him to be in my government and I don’t want to sit next to him on an airplane,” Oliver said. “But I definitely want him in Andy Cohen’s menagerie of damaged human beings.”

Cohen quickly shot down that idea the following day on his SiriusXM show, saying flatly, “Let me be clear. We don’t want him.”

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Others have suggested that Santos could wind up as a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” a show that has helped political figures like onetime Trump White House spokesman Sean Spicer and former House majority leader Tom DeLay, indicted in 2006 in a money-laundering scheme, rehab their images. While ABC reportedly has not discussed the idea with Santos, he seems open to it. “If I find the chutzpah to go on television and embarrass myself with my four left feet, maybe someday,” he told reporters last week.

Should crooning be more his forte, Santos could always try to land a spot on Fox’s “The Masked Singer,” which showcased disgraced former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani last season.

Whether or not he winds up doing jazz hands or belting out pop tunes in costume, Santos’ improbable story is already bound for the small screen: On Monday, HBO confirmed it has optioned the rights to journalist Mark Chiusano’s newly released nonfiction book “The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos,” with “Veep” and “Succession” executive producer Frank Rich on board to help adapt it.

A movie about former Rep. George Santos helmed by ‘Succession’ and ‘Veep’ executive producer Frank Rich is in the works at HBO Films.

Dec. 4, 2023

Speaking to The Times by phone on Monday, Chiusano said the HBO project, which could take the form of either a film or a limited series, will chronicle how Santos seemingly came from out of nowhere to lie and grift his way to a perch of genuine power.

“Everyone is still figuring out what the arc of the story is because it’s still happening,” Chiusano said. “My book was basically an attempt to get inside Santos’ head and understand what makes him do the things he does, to show some of his insecurities and the chip on his shoulder that he’s had for a long time that I think explains some of his behavior. I think we’ll certainly be using that sort of psychological bent in this project as well.”

While Santos’ right-wing politics are repugnant to most people in Hollywood, his cartoonish persona makes him an undeniably appealing target for satire. In recognition of what a gift he has been to comedians, over the weekend he received a musical farewell on “Saturday Night Live,” with Bowen Yang as Santos singing an Elton John-derived ballad titled “Scandal in the Wind.”

“On one level, he is kind of an ordinary person — he’s kind of messy and excitable and can be awkward at times — so a lot of people can recognize themselves in him,” said Chiusano. “He’s a figure of hustle and grift who doesn’t have the access to the nuclear codes, so it’s a little bit easier to laugh about it and marvel at this wild story, as opposed to fearing what he could do next. That being said, it doesn’t speak that well about our democracy that this is the kind of person that was able to get elected.”

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‘Saturday Night Live’ featured a musical goodbye to New York Rep. George Santos, who was expelled from Congress this week, and actor Emma Stone hosted.

Dec. 3, 2023

Before people get too ahead of themselves planning Santos’ possible next act in Hollywood, Chiusano points out that he still faces very real legal peril. The Republican has been hit with 23 felony charges, including identity theft and wire fraud, with the possibility of being sentenced to 22 years in federal prison. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

“I think the thing that people are forgetting is that he has this very intense legal challenge ahead of him,” Chiusano said. “His trial is set for September, so he doesn’t have a ton of time left.”

For the moment, Santos has taken the route favored by many D-list celebrities before him: He’s set himself up on the clip-sharing website Cameo, billing himself as a “Former congressional ‘Icon’ ” and charging $200 for personalized videos.

In one Cameo video, Santos suggests the recipient should treat themselves to a gift. “It could be anything from Botox to luxury goods of any kind, like a trip to Hermès or makeup from Sephora or a subscription to OnlyFans,” he said, referencing the same items he had been accused of using campaign funds to buy for himself. (As of Tuesday, Santos’ Cameo account was listed as “temporarily unavailable.”)

Santos also has flirted with getting his story out in other ways, including perhaps writing a memoir. While mainstream news outlets may shy away from giving such an infamous serial liar a platform, on Saturday satirical comedian Ziwe invited Santos on Twitter to partake in a “pay-per-view interview,” and he replied, “Let’s do it.”

Chiusano, who spoke frequently with Santos when he was reporting on his political rise and fall for Newsday, said he is not surprised to see him trying to cling to the public’s attention and leverage it however he can to help pay his legal bills.

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“My understanding is that he toggles between bravado and real hopelessness and concern about the future — and the public side of that, of course, is the bravado,” Chiusano said. “He certainly needs the money. He’s not a wealthy man and that congressional salary was a boon for him. His whole life, he has gone from one hustle to another.”

Sounds like a Hollywood story to us.

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