News & Politics

An Inflatable George Santos Flopped Around the National Mall Tuesday

As winds gusted and Congress made moves to expel the Republican lawmaker, protesters flew a balloon version of him in front of the Capitol.

Photograph by Evy Mages

If your brain hasn’t yet been completely broken by 2023 in Washington, you might have noticed a 15-foot-tall inflatable version of US Representative George Santos in front of the Capitol Tuesday.

Sporting his trademark spectacles, a suit, and a red tie that reads “full of lies,” the balloon doppelgänger jostled about in the wind for a couple hours Tuesday morning while political junkies waited to hear whether the representative from New York’s Third District would resign or be expelled by his peers later this week. Amid the chaos, said MoveOn’s campaign director Kelsey Herbert, the group was on hand “to make a scene.”

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MoveOn, a progressive political action group that hosts many petitions across a range of issues, has been railing against Santos since he took office after using a fabricated background on the campaign trail. Despite his many scandals, Santos has survived two earlier votes to expel him from Congress, which is what brought MoveOn and their flying friend to Capitol. Nothing seemed to be working, Herbert said, and called the demonstration “the natural next step.”

Photograph by Hunter Spears.

Over the summer, the organization placed a custom order through Texas-based for a few thousand dollars and had it shipped to a member’s house in Great Neck, New York. After a successful backyard test run, MoveOn waited for the perfect moment. “We were waiting for a time when the attention was on him and there was momentum,” Herbert says. So after the House Ethics Committee released a report that accused Santos of various audacious financial shenanigans and said he has “brought severe discredit upon the House,” the balloon took a trip down to DC.

On a strip of the National Mall directly in front of the Capitol and between the National Gallery of Art and the National Museum of the American Indian, the protestors marched with the giant Santos flopping behind them. The occasional gust of wind would sweep him off his feet, resulting in goofy cartwheels that brought laughter to the protestors who kept him tethered to the ground.

Photo by Evy Mages.

One couple visiting from Minnesota took a break from their sightseeing to witness the spectacle. “I think it’s a clever way to protest,” said one. “It’s effective because it’s unusual.”

Her husband chimed in: “She’d rather be talking about climate change over this guy full of hot air.”

After about two hours of the inflatable’s antics, Andrew Nazdin, a member of a group called Glasgow Actions Team that was assisting with the demonstration, gave the call to let the air out of the bloated lawmaker, which led to a comedic sequence of members hugging and body slamming the air out of a giant politician. 

Photograph by Hunter Spears.

Just a few hours later, Congress announced that a third expulsion vote will in fact be held this week. So what will happen to the balloon if Santos is kicked out of Congress? There’s no official plan, Herbert said, adding that the group may hold a funeral of sorts in Santos’ district where they list all of his “accomplishments” while in office, such as allegedly using campaign money for Botox and OnlyFans. 

“This is very cathartic,” one volunteer exclaimed as she jumped atop the balloon in an attempt to deflate Santos before he could be rolled up and packed for his trip home to New York. Another rammed the inflatable’s side only to be bounced backwards. “The Botox is fighting back!” she exclaimed. 

Photograph by Hunter Spears.


Editorial Fellow

Hunter is a cat-loving Coloradoan who enjoys history, Halloween and board games. He studied audio production and radio storytelling at Hofstra University before moving to DC in 2022. During his editorial fellowship with Washingtonian in the fall of 2023, he ran Halloween Hunter, a section featuring local stories for the spooky season.