Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who fabricated much of his biography, said Thursday he “lived an honest life” and indicated he would seek reelection in 2024 as New York Republicans and four GOP colleagues called for his resignation.
Santos appeared on Stephen K. Bannon’s far-right podcast and responded to a sympathetic questioner — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). The freshman congressman struck a defiant tone and cast himself as an underdog locked in a battle with establishment forces that do not serve the public. He dismissed criticisms he’s received, saying that it would be up to the voters to decide his fate “in two years.”
Bannon was in court Thursday in New York where he is facing charges of defrauding contributors to an organization that sought to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He has pleaded not guilty.
After flipping a crucial seat on Long Island for the Republican Party in November, a firestorm erupted last month after the New York Times and other outlets outlined apparent fabrications in Santos’s work and educational background and personal history. In a complaint filed Monday, Santos was accused of campaign finance violations. And on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported he was paid for work at a company accused of a Ponzi scheme later than previously known.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Thursday “the spectacle that is George Santos speaks for itself.”
“He’s a complete and total fraud,” Jeffries added. “[He] lied to the voters of the 3rd Congressional District in New York, deceived and connived his way into Congress. And it’s now the responsibility of House Republicans to do something about it.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged the scandal that has engulfed Santos but balked at taking any immediate action. The Republican leader said Thursday that Santos has “got a long way to go to earn trust. But the one thing I do know is if you apply the Constitution equal to all Americans, the voters of his district have elected him.” Two Democratic lawmakers filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee on Tuesday, but it is unclear whether the nonpartisan body will investigate.
“If anything is found to be wrong,” McCarthy said of Santos, “he will be held accountable exactly as anybody else in this body would be.”
On Wednesday, Rep. Nicholas A. Langworthy (R), chairman of the New York state GOP, joined Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.) and other local Republican officials in calling for Santos to resign. Joseph G. Cairo Jr., chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee, said Santos’s campaign was “a campaign of deceit, lies, fabrication.” Nassau County legislator Richard J. Nicolello said Santos’s lies “have done violence to the public trust.”
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) on Thursday joined the four GOP lawmakers calling for Santos’s resignation. He “should resign,” Mace said on MSNBC, adding that Santos seemed to be “loving” the attention he was getting on the Hill. And former speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told CNN Thursday afternoon that Santos had run a “fraudulent candidacy.”
“He hoaxed his voters, so of course he should step down,” Ryan went on to say. It was a sentiment echoed in a Thursday evening tweet from Rep. Max L. Miller (R-Ohio).
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, and that 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.
Among the skills Santos listed: “public speaking” and “currency and coin counter.” The Post obtained a copy of the résumé, which was first reported by the Times. Cairo on Wednesday said the résumé was “totally untruthful.”
Republicans on Long Island said they would avoid working with Santos’s office and steer constituents to the neighboring House member, D’Esposito.
On the podcast, Santos said Thursday that the move was “absurd and it’s illegal,” but did not elaborate.
Santos had a message for his critics Thursday: “I just pray for all of you when they come for you that you have the same strength I have.”