Even as more and more of his past lies come to light, George Santos is as defiant about clinging to office as he has been brazen about lying, and he has the support of his Republican leadership. Kevin McCarthy, having squeaked out a speaker win, cannot afford to lose even a single member, and there’s a good chance a Democrat would win a special election to replace Santos. So they’re standing together, insisting, hilariously, that somehow it would violate the will of the voters for Santos to resign because he was elected.
After the county Republican Party in Santos’ district called on him to resign, Santos tweeted, “I was elected to serve the people of #NY03 not the party & politicians, I remain committed to doing that and regret to hear that local officials refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living. I will NOT resign!”
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I, I, I. What does “I” or “me” even mean, coming from George Santos? If everything voters know about a candidate other than his party affiliation is a lie, were they really voting for him? In a dark red district the party affiliation is probably all that matters, but in swingy NY-03, not so much. Voters elected a guy descended from Holocaust survivors, with a degree from Baruch College, a career in the finance industry, a pet rescue charity, and a significant real estate portfolio. They got a guy not descended from Holocaust survivors, with no college degree, recent employment at a Ponzi scheme, no pet rescue charity, and not only no real estate portfolio but a record of evictions. Can Santos in any meaningful way claim voters elected him, the person he actually is?
Then again, saying “voters elected me” on questionable grounds is far from the most blatant lie he’s told, so of course he’s not self-conscious about making the claim.
In fact, what we know about Santos’ lies continues, unbelievably, to grow. At the time of the original New York Times report on his essentially fake identity, it didn’t seem like there could possibly be much left to uncover. And yet every couple of days there’s a new revelation. That Santos didn’t actually attend Baruch College, as he claimed, is old news. That he told the chair of the Nassau County GOP that he was a volleyball star at Baruch is new. Not just a star—one who led the team to a “league championship.” At the school he was lying about having attended.
During Santos’ time in Brazil more than a decade ago, the most significant lie we know of that Santos told was the criminal one, in which he fraudulently used checks belonging to a deceased former patient of his mother’s. That wasn’t a victimless crime. Mother Jones reports that a store clerk who accepted Santos’ fraudulent checks had to pay back more than $1,300 to cover what Santos stole. But Santos’ lies in Brazil are still coming to light, with a television show now reporting that Santos used multiple different names and nationalities on dating apps in the country. While Santos can legitimately claim two nationalities—Brazilian and U.S.—there’s no credible evidence that he’s Russian, which he also claimed.
Voters have a reasonable expectation that biographical information from a major party nominee for Congress is more reliable than biographical information from some rando on a dating site, but this highlights that Santos didn’t just start lying to get elected to Congress. He’s a longtime prolific liar who doesn’t just lie for fun. He lies to get things from people. But getting elected to Congress was probably the biggest thing he’s gotten from his lies—and there’s no doubt that it was his lies that made him look like a serious candidate.
But despite all this, Santos will maintain the support of House Republican leadership because they need him too much to do the right thing. On Wednesday, McCarthy chimed in with a “but the voters” message similar to Santos’ tweet, telling reporters, “He has to answer to the voters”—something that conveniently won't happen for nearly two years—and “it's the voters who made that decision he has to answer to the voters, and the voters get to make another decision in two years.” And Kevin McCarthy is not worrying about two years from now. He’s trying to survive day to day with a narrow Republican majority and substantial internal opposition.
Santos is under criminal investigation by federal and local prosecutors, so we may yet get to see whether McCarthy will stick by him through criminal charges in this country in addition to the ones outstanding in Brazil. And honestly, I wouldn’t bet against it.
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On the first episode of season two of The Downballot, we're talking with Sara Garcia, the strategy and outreach manager at Crooked Media—home of Pod Save America—about everything her organization does to mobilize progressives and kick GOP ass. Sara tells us how Crooked arose to fill a void in the media landscape, how it not only informs listeners but also gives them tools to take action, and some of her favorite shows that she loves to recommend to folks.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also discuss the Republican shitshow currently unfolding in Congress—and starkly different outcomes in two state legislatures that just elected new House speakers via bipartisan coalitions; the landslide win for the good guys in a special election primary in Virginia; why George Santos faces serious legal trouble that will very likely end with his resignation; and the massive pushback from progressive groups and labor unions against Kathy Hochul's conservative pick to be New York's top judge.