Rep. George Santos, the recently elected GOP congressman from New York who has admitted to lying about parts of his resume, is facing escalating backlash from his own party as a growing number of House Republican lawmakers call for him to resign or say he can’t serve effectively even as Speaker Kevin McCarthy has stood by the embattled congressman.
Santos has so far been defiant, pushing back on calls for his resignation – and House GOP leadership has not called on him to do so. Instead, McCarthy, a Republican from California, has indicated he will not join demands from New York GOP leaders, and others, for Santos’ resignation – and has indicated that Santos is on track to still receive committee assignments.
McCarthy told reporters on Thursday that Santos has “a long way to go to earn trust” and that concerns could be investigated by the House Ethics Committee, but emphasized that Santos is a part of the House GOP conference.
“The voters of his district have elected him. He is seated. He is part of the Republican conference,” he said at a news conference on Capitol Hill.
The controversy surrounding Santos is presenting an early test of McCarthy’s leadership as speaker and has created a major issue for the new GOP majority.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, echoed McCarthy, saying, “Obviously, you know, we’re finding out more, but we also recognize that he was elected by his constituents.”
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican who endorsed Santos in his race, would not call on the embattled freshman to resign on Thursday.
“It will play itself out,” she told CNN. “He’s a duly elected member of Congress. There have been members of Congress on the Democrat side who have faced investigations before.”
But the embattled congressman faces growing condemnation from rank-and-file Republicans as new and damaging revelations come out about his past.
Two New York Republican lawmakers – US Reps. Marc Molinaro and Mike Lawler – told CNN on Thursday morning they don’t believe Santos can serve his district effectively.
“There’s no way I believe he can fully fulfill his responsibilities,” Molinaro said.
“I think it’s clear, like I said, he has lost the confidence of people in his own community, so I think he needs to seriously consider whether or not he can actually do his job effectively and right now it’s pretty clear he can’t,” Lawler told CNN.
Lawler later said in a statement, “I believe he is unable to fulfill his duties and should resign.”
Santos refused to address any of the allegations of lying about his resume or his colleagues’ calls for his immediate resignation on Thursday morning, saying only “I was elected by the people” before ducking into his office.
Leaders of the Nassau County Republican Party on Wednesday called for Santos to resign from office over his lies to voters and fabrications about his personal life. Santos, however, swiftly rejected the calls to resign.
“Today, on behalf of the Nassau County Republican Committee, I’m calling for his immediate resignation,” chairman Joseph G. Cairo said at a news conference on Long Island, adding that the congressman’s campaign was made up “of deceit, lies and fabrication.”
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, has also been outspoken in demanding Santos’ resignation.
“America is a very compassionate and forgiving country, and there is a road back for George Santos. It starts with his resignation,” Blakeman said Thursday on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” in response to McCarthy’s stance on Santos, adding in part that “it starts with him trying to rebuild his life not on lies but on substance.”
“But so long as he sits in Congress and stains that institution, I don’t see him being able to rehabilitate himself, and I don’t think he’s going to get a second chance,” he said.
Republican Rep. Anthony D’Esposito was joined Wednesday in calling for Santos’ resignation by others in the US House GOP conference: New York Reps. Nick LaLota, Nick Langworthy and Brandon Williams, as well as South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace. Ohio Rep. Max Miller on Thursday also called for the congressman to resign.
Santos has faced growing criticism from congressional Democrats, and a growing number of Republicans, after he admitted to fabricating sections of his resume – including his past work experience and education.
CNN reported last month that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Santos’s finances. Separately, CNN has reported that Santos’s campaign finances show dozens of expenses just below the FEC’s threshold to keep receipts.
In a separate matter, CNN reported that law enforcement officials in Brazil will reinstate fraud charges against Santos. Prosecutors said they will seek a “formal response” from Santos related to a stolen checkbook in 2008, after police suspended an investigation into him because they were unable to find him for nearly a decade.
Santos admitted to stealing a man’s checkbook that was in his mother’s possession to purchase clothing and shoes in 2008, according to documents obtained by CNN.
CNN’s KFile uncovered even more falsehoods from Santos, including claims he was forced to leave a New York City private school when his family’s real estate assets took a downturn and stating he represented Goldman Sachs at a top financial conference.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.