GREAT NECK, NY – Just before Christmas, when incoming Rep. George Santos, RN.Y., promised voters in his district that he would soon declare himself if revelations surfaced that he had embellished or outright invented parts of his biography.
“To the people of #NY03 I have my story to tell and it will be told next week,” said Santos tweeted on December 22. “I want to assure everyone that I will answer your questions and that I will remain committed to achieving the results I have been campaigning for; Public safety, inflation, education and more.”
It’s been more than a month since that post and Santos, though he’s given a handful of interviews to local and conservative media outlets, including the New York Post, has only scratched the surface of the allegations he’s faced — which have increased significantly since his death. Tweet from December.
Santos himself apparently acknowledged he had more to say, telling NBC News on Jan. 9, “I’ll be addressing the media shortly. On my time, okay?”
On Tuesday, after the publication of this story, when NBC News insisted on when he would talk to the media, Santos replied, “Soon.”
In New York’s 3rd Congressional District, voters who spoke to NBC News said not only do they believe their congressman has more to say, but his comments so far have not adequately explained the issues.
Roberta Stern, a moderate Republican from Great Neck who said she voted last fall for Democrat Robert Zimmerman, Santos’ opponent, said “it’s clear” that Santos “hasn’t said enough.”
“I think being quiet for so long has really worked against him,” she said. “Now he’s in denial mode and seems to be doing his business and not really caring.”
At the time, Stern said it’s “probably too little, too late” for Santos to answer the litany of questions about his background, but added that “it can’t hurt”.
“I don’t see what he could say that’s going to make a difference,” she said. “But saying nothing is the worst response for me.”
Anthony, a district Republican who voted for Santos and asked for his full name to be kept secret, told NBC News that he, too, felt Santos had not explained himself enough.
“He just avoids it,” he said. He puts up a wall. … He is like a compulsive liar. I feel sorry for the man.”
The Santos revelations began in earnest on December 19, when The New York Times published its investigation into the lies in Santos’ resume. That same day, representatives from Baruch College and New York University told NBC New York that they had no record of Santos attending school there, despite his claims otherwise. Citigroup and Goldman Sachs also said they could find no evidence of his employment. Days later, the Forward reported that Santos’ grandparents were not on the run from the Holocaust as he had claimed.
Those reports preceded his series of interviews. Santos told City and State New York that he embellished his resume and defended himself on WABC radio by claiming he had never committed crimes at home or abroad. In an interview with the New York Post on December 26, Santos said he did not graduate and that his claim to have worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs amounted to a “bad choice of words”. In the same interview, he said he never claimed to be Jewish, but was “Jewish.”
This was just the beginning of Santos’ infamous start in Congress, as he has become the subject of federal, state, local and international investigations, while Nassau County GOP leaders and more than half a dozen House GOP lawmakers , mainly from his home state, have called for him to resign.
In recent days, a Navy veteran accused Santos of raising $3,000 from a GoFundMe campaign to help his dying service dog. to deny this in a tweet – and new immigration documents obtained by NBC News and other outlets showed his mother was not in New York on 9/11 after he claimed she was in one of the Twin Towers that day. (He did not address this claim.)
After footage surfaced of Santos dressed in cross-dressing, Santos insisted it was “categorically untrue” that he had ever performed as a cross-dresser. Confronted by reporters Saturday as he walked through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Santos addressed the reports by saying, “I was young and I was having fun at a festival — sue me for having a life.”
One person who closely attended Santos’ campaign said he understood that the first interview with the New York Post was an attempt by Santos to explain himself to voters in his district.
“Obviously there’s been an avalanche of things that have come out since then,” this person added, noting that Santos has recently addressed some new claims on Twitter.
This individual said that much of the response is “dictated” by Santos’ lawyers, who are “in control.” The seat itself, this person said, is Santos’ best lever for moving forward — especially with the slim majority of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Enjoy, and Santos’ critical voice in securing McCarthy as speaker.
“You can kind of see where this is going,” said this person. “It’s the second full week of convention and there’s a long runway ahead of him. And voters really do have a short memory.”
Santos representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Late Sunday, Santos tweeted he has “a surprise for the ‘journalists’ assigned to stake out my office… can’t wait to see you!”
As Stern reflected on the Santos ordeal, she told NBC News that the whole situation has become “an embarrassment” for the district.
A Siena College poll released Monday found that many New York voters seem to agree with Stern’s assessment. Only 16% of New York voters said they viewed Santos favorably, including just 15% of Republicans. In addition, 59% of New York voters said Santos should step down, while only 17% said he should not. Restricted to Republicans only, a significant number supported Santos’ resignation.
The scandal, Stern said, is “sort of an indication of what’s wrong in this country and what you can get away with if you have a little bit of power.”