New York — Just before Christmas, then-incoming Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., promised constituents in his district that he would soon explain himself in light of allegations that he inflated or downright created aspects of his history.
“I have a story to tell to the people of #NY03, and it will be told next week,” Santos tweeted on December 22. “I want to reassure everyone that I will respond to your questions and that I am still committed to delivering the results I campaigned on, including public safety, inflation, education, and other issues.”
It’s been more than a month since that post, and Santos, although giving a couple of interviews to local and conservative sites, including The New York Post, has just scraped the surface of the charges against him – which have expanded significantly since his late December tweet.
Santos himself appears to have confirmed that he has more to say, telling NBC News on January 9: “I’ll be speaking to the media shortly. Please respect my time.”
Voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional District told NBC News that their congressman not only needs to explain himself more, but that his comments thus far have not adequately clarified the issues at hand.
Roberta Stern, a moderate Republican from Great Neck who said she voted for Santos’ opponent, Democrat Robert Zimmerman, last October, said Santos “has not been saying enough.”
“I think his silence for so long has worked against him,” she explained. “Now he’s in denial and appears to be going about his work without much concern.”
At this point, Stern believes it is “probably too little, too late” for Santos to respond to the barrage of questions about his background, but he adds that “it can’t harm.”
“I don’t see anything he could say that would make a difference,” she remarked. “However, I believe that not saying anything is the worst approach.”
Anthony, a Republican from the district who voted for Santos and requested anonymity, told NBC News that he, too, thought Santos had not justified himself sufficiently.
“He’s just trying to dodge it,” he explained. “He’s erecting a barrier….” He’s like a serial liar. “I feel sorry for him.”
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The Santos discoveries kicked off in earnest on December 19, when The New York Times published a stunning investigation into the inaccuracies in Santos’ résumé. The same day, authorities for Baruch College and New York University told NBC New York that they had no record of Santos attending either institution, despite his assertions. Citigroup and Goldman Sachs both stated that they had no record of his employment. The Forward reported days later that Santos’ grandparents did not fled the Holocaust as he claimed.
These reports came before his interview schedule. Santos informed City and State New York that he exaggerated his résumé and defended himself on WABC radio by stating that he had never committed a crime in the United States or abroad. Santos told the New York Post on December 26 that he did not finish college and that his claims to have worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs were a “bad choice of words.” In the same interview, he stated that he was “Jewish” but never claimed to be Jewish.
Santos’ disastrous start in Congress has only begun, as he has become the focus of federal, state, local, and international investigations, while Nassau County GOP leaders and more than a half-dozen House GOP colleagues, largely from his home state, have called on him to quit.
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In recent days, a Navy veteran accused Santos of stealing $3,000 from a GoFundMe campaign to help his dying service dog — a claim Santos denied in a tweet — and new immigration documents obtained by NBC News and other outlets revealed that his mother was not in New York on 9/11, despite his claim that she was in one of the twin towers. (He has not responded to this claim.)
After photos of Santos dressed in drag surfaced, he said it was “categorically incorrect” that he had ever performed as a drag queen. When confronted by reporters as he traveled through LaGuardia Airport in New York City on Saturday, Santos responded, “I was young and I had fun at a festival – sue me for having a life.”
According to one individual close to Santos’ campaign, the initial New York Post interview was Santos’ attempt to explain himself to voters in his district.
“Obviously, there’s been an avalanche of material that’s come out since then,” this person stated, noting that Santos had lately addressed some new claims on Twitter.
According to one source, Santos’ attorneys are “dictating” most of the response and “calling all the shots on this.” The seat itself, according to this source, is Santos’ strongest leverage moving forward, especially given House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.narrow ,’s majority and Santos’ vital vote in giving McCarthy the speakership.
“You can kind of see where this is going,” said one person. “It’s the second full week of Congress, and he has a long runway ahead of him. And voters have a very short memory.”
Santos’ representatives did not respond to several requests for comment. Santos tweeted late Sunday that he has “a surprise for the ‘journalists’ ordered to hang out outside my office… I can’t wait to see you!”
Stern told NBC News that the Santos scenario has become a “embarrassment” for the district as she reflected on the situation.
According to a Siena College poll issued on Monday, many New York voters appear to agree with Stern’s judgment. Only 16% of New York voters approved of Santos, including only 15% of Republicans. Furthermore, 59% of New York voters believe Santos should resign, while 17% believe he should not. With only Republicans voting, a sizable majority supported Santos’ resignation.
Stern described the issue as “kind of an indicator of what’s wrong in this country and what you can get away with if you have a little bit of authority.”