The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Rep. George Santos faces calls to resign from fellow N.Y. Republicans

Members of the 118th Congress, including Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), center, are sworn in.
8 min

Top New York Republicans, including freshman Rep. Anthony D’Esposito and the chairman of the state GOP, called on Rep. George Santos (R) to resign over his multiple fabrications about his biography that have prompted inquiries into his finances and campaign spending.

Chairman Joseph G. Cairo Jr. of the Nassau County Republican Committee, which initially backed Santos’s candidacy, said Wednesday morning that the lawmaker, who was elected in November, no longer had the support of Republicans in the 3rd Congressional District.

“George Santos’s campaign last year was a campaign of deceit, lies and fabrication,” Cairo said during a news conference at the GOP’s Long Island headquarters. He called for Santos to resign immediately. “He’s disgraced the House of Representatives, and we do not consider him one of our congresspeople.”

D’Esposito (R), from the neighboring 4th District, said Santos told “outright lies” and “does not have the ability to serve in the House of Representatives and should resign.” He is the first elected GOP House member to pressure Santos to step down.

Within hours, other top New York Republicans had joined the call for Santos’s resignation. Rep. Nicholas A. Langworthy (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the state’s Republican Party, said he supported the Nassau County GOP. He said it’s clear that Santos “cannot be an effective representative and it would be in the best interest of the taxpayers to have new leadership.”

Langworthy said he would continue to work to ensure that “trust and dignity” are restored to the 3rd Congressional District that includes parts of Long Island and Queens. Gerard Kassar, chair of the Conservative Party of New York State, also said in a statement that Santos’s “profound use of mistruths” “morally disqualifies” him from serving.

A defiant Santos told reporters at the Capitol that he had no intention of resigning, and in a tweet said he was elected to “serve the people … not the party & politicians.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made clear he would take no immediate action against the lawmaker and signaled he would appoint Santos to House committees.

“In America today, you’re innocent until proven guilty, so just because somebody doesn’t like the press you have, it’s not me that can oversay what the voters say,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol. “The voters are the power. The voters made a decision, and he has a right to serve. If there is something that rises to the occasion that he did something wrong, then we’ll deal with that at that time.”

On Jan. 11, House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) "has a right to serve" despite pressure for Santos to resign. (Video: The Washington Post)

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) who endorsed “my friend” Santos last August and is featured in his Twitter banner photo, on Wednesday declined to speak with reporters about him.

Joining Cairo at the Long Island headquarters, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman (R) said: “When he called himself a Jew, that was ridiculous.” State Sen. Jack M. Martins (R) said: “These aren’t embellishments. These are lies,” and he called for Santos to be removed “one way or another.” Nassau County legislator Richard J. Nicolello said Santos’s lies “have done violence to the public trust,” and Mayor Pamela D. Panzenbeck of Glen Cove said, “We were all duped.”

Former senator Alfonse D’Amato (R) said in a statement that Santos is “a disgrace” and “must not continue to serve in Congress.”

Santos, 34, was elected in November and flipped a crucial seat for the Republican Party, which owes part of its narrow House majority to gains in New York. A firestorm erupted last month after the New York Times and others outlined apparent fabrications in Santos’s work and educational background and personal history.

Republicans have a slim advantage in the House, and a resignation and special election later this year in a swing district could prove politically costly for McCarthy. Republican leaders recently have said that the Santos issue would be dealt with internally.

Santos, who has denied any criminal wrongdoing in the United States or elsewhere, told WABC radio in New York last month, “If I disappointed anyone by my résumé embellishment, I’m sorry.”

The talented Mr. Santos: A congressman-elect’s unraveling web of deception

A copy of the résumé that Santos submitted to the Nassau County GOP showed that he claimed to have graduated summa cum laude from Baruch College in 2010 with a 3.89 GPA. He also said he received a master’s in business from New York University in 2013 after scoring 710 on his GMAT exam. In fact, Santos did not get a degree from either school.

He also described, among his skills, “public speaking” and “currency and coin counter.” The Washington Post obtained a copy of the résumé. The Times first reported on it.

On Wednesday, Cairo told reporters that Santos had submitted a résumé that is “totally untruthful.”

In June 2020, Santos wrote on Twitter that he is the “grandson of Holocaust refugees.” This month, Jewish Insider cast doubt on that claim, noting that the dates Santos cited for his grandparents’ departure from Belgium to Brazil do not line up, nor do immigration records support his version of his family’s history. The Republican Jewish Coalition, which featured Santos as part of its annual November conference in Las Vegas, denounced his false claims about his heritage and said that “he will not be welcome at any future RJC event.”

In March, Santos said in a podcast interview that he was “raised Catholic, born to a Jewish family — very, very confusing religious background.” More recently, he told the New York Post: “I never claimed to be Jewish.”

Santos also spoke at a rally in D.C. on Jan. 5, 2021, asking the assembled crowd a day before the Capitol riot: “Who here is ready to overturn the election for Donald Trump?”

Democrats have demanded his resignation, while complaints have been filed against the freshman lawmaker. Two Democratic New York colleagues, Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel S. Goldman, filed a complaint Tuesday with the House Ethics Committee, seeking an investigation. The two said Santos “misled voters in his District about his ethnicity, his religion, his education, and his employment and professional history, among other things.”

A complaint filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission accused Santos of wide-ranging campaign finance violations. The alleged wrongdoing includes masking the true source of his campaign’s funding, misrepresenting his campaign’s spending and using campaign resources to cover personal expenses.

The complaint, filed by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, could propel a formal investigation into Santos by the federal regulator, the latest chapter in a saga testing the boundaries of political falsehood.

Santos reported loaning his campaign more than $700,000 in the 2021-22 cycle despite having only $55,000 in earned income during his previous run for Congress in 2020, according to a financial disclosure. The center called his claims of earning millions over the previous two years from the Devolder Organization “vague, uncorroborated, and noncredible in light of his many previous lies.”

On Tuesday, four House Democrats sent a letter urging McCarthy to exclude Santos from accessing classified information, which is regularly available to members of Congress.

“We cannot put our nation at risk by allowing Mr. Santos to sustain access to classified information or appointment to any Congressional Committee that may require this information,” wrote Reps. Pat Ryan (N.Y.), Seth Moulton (Mass.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.) and Jeff Jackson (N.C.). They also called Santos “a direct threat to national security” and asked that he not participate “in any Committee work that might involve the use of classified information.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) had told reporters on Tuesday: “This is something that is being handled internally” and “we’re going to have to sit down and talk to him about it.”

But Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) told reporters Wednesday there are “some legitimate concerns being raised” and that he felt Santos should not be seated on any committee “until the Ethics Committee has a fuller understanding of exactly what he did.”

In late December, the top prosecutor in Nassau County said her office would investigate Santos after the reports that he fabricated large parts of his personal and professional history.

“The numerous fabrications and inconsistencies associated with Congressman-Elect Santos are nothing short of stunning,” Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly (R) said in a statement. “The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress. No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”

At the Nassau County event Wednesday, Cairo said he had not spoken to McCarthy about Santos. Cairo said Santos had submitted a résumé, answered the organization’s questions, and noted “he was recommended from Queens County,” though he noted it was “not enthusiastically.” Cairo also said the organization will change how it vets candidates, adding, “We have to really investigate backgrounds.”

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Nebeyatt Betre, sought to draw attention to the Republican infighting, and said in a statement that Santos “is a fraud who doesn’t deserve to be in Congress” and “represents the worst of politics.”