Three weeks into his first term in Congress, New York Rep. George Santos is finding it very hard to make friends.
Following accusations that he lied about much of his resumé and facing long list of legal issues, Santos has now been slammed by his fellow Republicans in Congress as a “bad guy” and an “imposter,” and in one case, he’s been compared to a character from Fatal Attraction. But given that Santos is essential to House Republicans’ thin majority, few outside of his home state are calling on him to resign for now.
On Monday, Sen. John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana told CNN reporters that the 34-year-old congressman—who has also been known as Anthony Devolder, Anthony Zabrovsky, and by a bunch of other aliases—was “nutty as a fruitcake” and compared him to Glenn Close’s doomed character in the 1987 film.
“That’s why I called him a bunny boiler,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know if you’ve seen Fatal Attraction but there are people like that out there.”
Rep. James Comer, the new chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said Santos’ lies were “pretty despicable” in an interview with CNN last week, though he didn’t call for the freshman to resign.
“Look, he’s a bad guy. This is something that, you know, it’s really bad,” Comer told CNN. Referencing the fact that Santos is currently the subject of a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint, Comer said: “It’s not up to me or any member of Congress to determine whether he can be kicked out for lying. Now, if he broke campaign finance laws, then he will be removed.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, the chair of the influential House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in an interview with CNN last week that Santos would likely face an inquiry from the House Ethics Committee. He also questioned how Santos—who won a formerly Democratic-held seat based on Long Island—managed to win in the first place.
“I don’t know how he got through the process, being such an imposter,” McCaul said. “I don’t know why his opponent didn’t bring this out in the election.”
So far, the list of allegations against Santos includes: stealing money from a dying dog’s GoFundMe (which he has denied); lying about where he went to college and the companies he’s worked for (which he has admitted); and lying about his mother’s death during 9/11 (she died in 2016 and documents indicate she wasn’t in New York at the time), his grandparents’ story of Holocaust survival (they were born in Brazil), and his Jewish ancestry (he later said that he is “Jew-ish.”)
After photos and video surfaced of Santos in drag in Brazil, he said claims he’d performed in drag were “categorically false.” But on Monday, while Santos continued to deny he was drag queen Kitara Ravache, he told a reporter from ABC 7 that he was “young and had fun at a festival.”
“Sue me for having a life,” Santos told ABC 7.
A big reason for Santos’ successful run for Congress and his ability to remain in office so far, however, lies in his tacit support from the Republican leadership. Speaker Kevin McCarthy admitted last week that he “always had a few questions” about Santos’ resumé—after Santos voted for him to be Speaker 15 times over the course of several days. McCarthy also headlined a fundraiser for Santos weeks before the election, according to CNN.
And New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the House GOP conference chair and the fourth-ranking GOP Republican in the House, is drawing heat from top Republican donors who say she vouched for Santos, CNN reported Tuesday.
“I would have never donated without Elise,” Ken Salamone, who contributed more than $25,000 to efforts to elect Santos, told CNN Tuesday. “I assumed she did her homework. I always do my homework and didn’t. Shame on me.”
A Stefanik aide also reportedly advised Santos’ campaign, CNN reported. Stefanik’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News, but denied that an aide advised Santos, and downplayed Stefanik’s role in getting Santos elected.
“Congresswoman Stefanik supported all GOP nominees in targeted New York seats just like every other New York Republican elected official, candidate, NRCC, NYGOP, and the entire House Republican leadership team,” Stefanik’s office told CNN, adding that the five-term Congresswoman wasn’t “aware of the allegations (against Santos) prior to the New York Times reporting.”
If Santos were to leave office, a special election would be held to replace him—which would give Democrats a prime opportunity to cut even further into McCarthy’s razor-thin majority. President Joe Biden easily won New York’s Third Congressional District in 2020, and the previous congressman was Democrat Tom Suozzi, who defeated Santos by double-digits in 2020.
Stefanik’s backing aside, Santos is clearly the most unwelcome member of New York’s congressional delegation. Six House Republicans from New York have called on him to resign, as has the chair of the Republican Party in Nassau County, where the overwhelming majority of Santos’ constituents live.
“He deceived the voters of the Third Congressional District, he deceived members of the Nassau County Republican committee, elected officials, his colleagues, candidates, his opponents and even some of the media,” Nassau County GOP chair Joseph Cairo said earlier this month.
“He’s disgraced the House of Representatives and we do not consider him one of our congresspeople.”
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