Asked for his Oscars predictions, the Republican congressman and fabulist George Santos said he liked actors who were “genuine”.
“I have my favorite actors,” said the New Yorker, who has been shown to have made up most of his résumé and whose behaviour before and after entering politics is the subject of multiple investigations.
“And then I have the actors I think are charismatic. JLo, The Rock. Melissa McCarthy. They’re genuine.”
None of them were however nominated for the Academy Awards set to be handed out in Hollywood on Sunday night.
Santos has admitted “embellishing” a résumé shown to include false claims about his family, educational and professional background, fueling questions about his very identity, given activities under another name, Anthony Devolder.
He has repeatedly said he has done nothing illegal, even as his campaign finances, an allegation of sexual harassment and multiple claims of financial wrongdoing are investigated at local, state, federal, congressional and international levels.
He has rebuffed calls to resign from constituents in Queens and Long Island as well as Democrats in Congress and his fellow New York Republicans.
He withdrew from committee assignments but retains the support of Republican leaders, after backing Kevin McCarthy through 15 votes for House speaker, a role the Californian must play with a narrow majority, prey to rightwing rebellion.
Santos discussed the Oscars and his film tastes with Matthew Foldi, a reporter who has also interviewed him for the Spectator, in an interview published on Sunday on Pirate Wires, a site “focused on the intersection of technology, politics, and culture”.
The discussion started with “the Slap”, the moment last year when Will Smith left the Oscars audience to hit the host, Chris Rock, over a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith’s wife.
“Quite frankly, it was fucking stupid,” Santos said. “Chris Rock is a genius.”
Santos said he would not watch the Oscars this year, because “they won’t really put box [office] sellers there” and he did not want to see a celebration of “fancy people” and “elitists” such as Quentin Tarantino and James Cameron.
Those two directors and Steven Spielberg (who has three nominees for The Fabelmans to one for Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water) had “fallen to the woke”, Santos said.
Santos said he liked comedy and horror films, adding: “Let’s be honest, Saw was a fucking great horror movie. But the Oscars don’t have a horror category. Resident Evil, great cinematics. Milla Jovovich is arguably one of my favorite actresses of all time. It’s her, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and Gerard Butler.”
Bassett is nominated this year for best supporting actress, for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Santos said she should be up for best actress, because: “I’m not trying to be racist, but she’s Meryl Streep, the Black version. She’s just as good. She’s fantastic.”
The congressman lamented the academy’s relative neglect of Leonardo DiCaprio (who won best actor for The Revenant in 2016) but criticised Tom Cruise, producer and star of Top Gun: Maverick, a best picture nominee this year.
“Tom Cruise has given me enough evidence of what he thinks of America to make me not like him,” Santos said, going on to criticise the actor Jane Fonda in similar terms, for “decid[ing] to make her entire life political”.
The professional politician professed not to know the “political beliefs” of actors including Bassett, Freeman, Denzel Washington and Mel Gibson, “because they don’t share them. And you know why that is? Because we look to them for entertainment. I appreciate these people so much because they’re not activists.”
Of Gibson, Foldi wrote: “We do know his views on Jews … and they are not favorable.”
Santos’s claim to be Jewish has been debunked. Openly gay, he was once married to a woman. Accusing Hollywood of caving to Chinese censors – although “as a good old capitalist, I don’t blame them” – he told Foldi: “Woke wants everything gay, and pro-China-beholden-Hollywood can’t have that.
“To me, it becomes a cannibalistic event that I would actually enjoy watching. That’s a movie I would watch. Woke Hollywood takes on Chinese-influenced Hollywood.”
Santos also lamented the declining fortunes of other favourites including Steven Seagal, the pro-Putin action star who Santos said once shone in “hyper-action police movies” but was out of favour because “instead of giving the police a platform, we just want to defund them and burn them to the ground”.
In comedy, Santos said, “You’re not going to see another Adam Sandler or Vince Vaughn or Chris Rock or Kevin Hart. Well, Kevin Hart survives because – I guess he gets a pass because he’s a little Black guy. People aren’t gonna want to make his life miserable.”
Towards the end of the interview, Foldi said, the man whose performance as a politician has captured the national spotlight “turned reflective”.
“I’m very, very close-minded about actors these days,” Santos said. “Because the more I learn about your non-performative career, the less interested I am in you.”
A spokesperson for Santos did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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