Democrats call for George Santos to resign seat over résumé 'lies'
The Washington Post December 28, 2022
Democratic lawmakers are calling for Rep.-elect George Santos to resign from the House seat he won in November, after the Long Island Republican admitted to "résumé embellishment" — dialing up the pressure on GOP leadership to respond.
"GOP Congressman-elect George Santos, who has now admitted his whopping lies, should resign," tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), urging Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to call a vote to expel Santos if he does not quit.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) said that if Santos takes his new seat, it would set a precedent encouraging others to seek public office by falsifying their credentials, while Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) in a tweet accused Santos of "defrauding the voters of Long Island about his ENTIRE resume."
Congressional Republicans largely stayed silent about the controversy on Tuesday. Spokespeople for McCarthy, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) did not return requests for comment. Scalise is slated to become the No. 2 House Republican next year and Stefanik will be GOP conference chair.
Now that Santos has apologized "if I disappointed anyone by résumé embellishment" — and acknowledged publicly Monday that he did not graduate from college or work at certain companies that had been listed in his biography — questions remain about what action, if any, the incoming House majority leader will take. Santos's win helped Republicans secure a narrow majority in the next term.
Democrats have called for a House ethics probe since the Times report, and the New York attorney general's office has said it was "looking into a number of issues" surrounding Santos.
A spokesman for Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), the highest-ranking Republican on the House Ethics Committee, said Guest could not comment on the issue. "Congressman Guest is bound by the Committee's Confidentiality Rule and has no comment on matters that are or could come before the Committee," Rob Pillow said in an email.
Rep.-elect Nick LaLota, a Republican who will represent a nearby House district on Long Island, said in a statement: "I believe a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee and, if necessary, law enforcement, is required."
Rep.-elect Anthony D'Esposito, a Republican who will represent a House district next to Santos's district, said in a statement that people "are deeply hurt and rightly offended" by Santos's "lies and misstatements." Although Santos's "fabrications regarding the Holocaust and his family's history are particularly hurtful," D'Esposito said Santos has taken a "first step" by "coming clean" about other parts of his background.
The chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee, Joseph G. Cairo Jr., said in a statement that Santos "has broken the public trust" with his false statements, but indicated that he should be seated as a member of Congress, where he can work to repair his reputation. "The damage that his lies have caused to many people, especially those who have been impacted by the Holocaust, are profound," Cairo said in the statement. "He must do the public's will in Washington," including "to deliver tax relief and pass laws" to boost public safety. Cairo said Santos "will have to continually prove that he has learned his lesson."
The representative-elect has remained defiant about his future: In an interview with New York's WABC radio, he said: "I will be sworn in. I will take office."
In his admissions Monday night, Santos sought to explain his claims by saying that "a lot of people overstate in their résumés," and he downplayed the impact of his actions. He did briefly address how his wealth has skyrocketed in recent years, allowing him to lend hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign.
Santos told City and State NY that after different jobs, he opened his own firm and "it just worked because I had the relationships and I started making a lot of money. And I fundamentally started building wealth."
"I decided I'd invest in my race for Congress," he added. "There's nothing wrong with that."
Santos also suggested that his soon-to-be colleagues in Congress could not withstand such scrutiny, saying if members of the media "dig deep" on other lawmakers' "deepest secrets," then "we wouldn't have a single congressman in the House, and I bet you we wouldn't have a single senator in the Senate."
The Times report raised questions about whether Santos had fabricated much of his biography and noted that Santos claimed he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Spokesmen for the two companies confirmed to The Washington Post that they had no record of his employment. Santos said in the radio interview Monday that the language in his résumé stated he had "worked 'for,' not 'on' or 'at' or 'in.'"
He said that he learned a lesson — but that it doesn't mean "I'm some fictional character."
Santos also claimed on his campaign website that his grandparents fled the Nazis. In an interview with the New York Post, he explained his claims of Jewish heritage. "I never claimed to be Jewish. I am Catholic," he said. "Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was 'Jew-ish.'"
A statement from the Republican Jewish Coalition expressed the group's disappointment with Santos and said he would no longer be welcome at any of its events.
"We are very disappointed in Congressman-elect Santos. He deceived us and misrepresented his heritage," the RJC statement said. "In public comments and to us personally he previously claimed to be Jewish. He has begun his tenure in Congress on a very wrong note."
Santos also said in the New York Post interview that, contrary to his biography that claimed he was a Baruch College graduate, he had not graduated "from any institution of higher learning."
"We've seen people fudge their resume but this is total fabrication," Castro tweeted, arguing that the congressman-elect should be "investigated by authorities."
Robert Zimmerman, his Democratic opponent in the November race, called on Santos to resign and run against him in a special election to see whether the people of the district would reelect him after the revelations.
Peter T. King, a former Republican congressman from New York, said he believed Santos should face an "immediate ethics investigation" by the House. He also said he did not see how McCarthy could seat Santos on any committee given the allegations against him.
"It puts Kevin in a tough spot," said King, who added he supports McCarthy.
McCarthy faces a challenging speaker's race in which he is struggling to line up enough votes to prevail, which makes it difficult for him to alienate any Republican member - no matter how scandal-plagued.
"To have a cloud over one of the people who's supposed to be supporting you obviously creates if nothing else a logistical issue," King said.
The Washington Post's Hannah Knowles, Michael Kranish and Azi Paybarah contributed to this report.