US Representative George Santos competed as a drag queen in Brazilian beauty pageants 15 years ago, two acquaintances told Reuters on Wednesday, adding to contrasts that have drawn criticism of the openly gay Republican congressman's staunchly conservative views.
The embattled freshman congressman has also faced calls from fellow New York Republicans to step down over fabrications about his career and history.
A 58-year-old Brazilian performer, who uses the drag name Eula Rochard, said she befriended the now-congressman when he was cross-dressing in 2005 at the first gay pride parade in Niteroi, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Three years later, Santos competed in a drag beauty pageant in Rio, Rochard said.
Another person from Niteroi who knew the congressman but asked not to be named said he participated in drag queen beauty pageants and aspired to be Miss Gay Rio de Janeiro.
The congressman said on Twitter on Thursday that claims "that I am a drag Queen or 'performed' as a drag Queen" are "categorically false," adding: "I will not be distracted nor fazed by this."
First openly gay Republican
Santos is the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat in Congress as a non-incumbent, but has positioned himself as a staunch conservative on many social issues.
He has backed Florida's "don't say gay" bill, which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Republicans are increasingly denouncing drag shows and performers, claiming they are harmful to children.
Santos, responding in October to criticism of his support for the "don't say gay" bill, told USA Today: "I am openly gay, have never had an issue with my sexual identity in the past decade, and I can tell you and assure you, I will always be an advocate for LGBTQ folks."
Rochard said the congressman was a "poor" drag queen in 2005, with a simple black dress, but in 2008 "he came back to Niteroi with a lot of money," and a flamboyant pink dress to show for it. Santos competed in a drag beauty pageant that year but lost, Rochard said.
"He's changed a lot, but he was always a liar. He was always such a dreamer," Rochard said.
"He's changed a lot, but he was always a liar. He was always such a dreamer."Eula Rochard