(NEW YORK) — New York Republicans on Wednesday called on newly sworn-in Rep. George Santos to resign following revelations that he fabricated or embellished much of his background while running for Congress last year.
At a press conference, Nassau County GOP Chair Joseph Cairo said that Santos’ campaign was filled with “deceit.”
“His lies were not mere fibs,” Cairo said. “He disgraced the House of Representatives.”
Cairo was joined by local party leaders and freshman New York Republican Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, who was remote. D’Esposito called for Santos to step down.
“I join with you and I join with my colleagues saying that George Santos does not have the ability to serve here in the House of Representatives and should resign,” D’Esposito said.
On Capitol Hill, Santos said he had no plans to leave office, telling ABC News’ Rachel Scott that he would not step down.
He reiterated that in a short statement on social media. “I was elected to serve the people … 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,” he wrote on Twitter.
In the weeks after Santos was elected to New York’s 3rd Congressional District, reports first in The New York Times and then other news outlets, including ABC News, noted major discrepancies in Santos’ biography — including over where he went to high school and college, where he worked and whether he had run an animal charity.
Santos has since acknowledged he didn’t graduate from college, as he claimed, and didn’t work directly for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. But he has insisted he was guilty of routine resume exaggerations.
Wednesday’s press conference marked a sharp escalation of local criticism of Santos. Cairo had said last month that he was “deeply disappointed” by Santos and that he “will have to continually prove that he has learned his lesson.” In late December, D’Esposito also came out against Santos, saying that he must “pursue a path of honesty,” but did not call for his resignation.
On Wednesday, Cairo specifically referenced Santos’ past claim about his maternal grandparents fleeing persecution in Europe during World War II. Santos subsequently said he is “Jew-ish.”
“I look at those families that were touched by the horrors of the Holocaust. We feel for them. He has no place in the Nassau County Republican Committee nor should he serve in public service or as an elected official,” Cairo said.
Republican leaders in Washington declined to comment on the controversy before the new Congress began last week. But they have since said they are looking at it.
“This is something that’s being handled internally,” Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said on Tuesday. “Obviously, there were concerns about what we had heard and so we’re gonna have to sit down and talk to him about it.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said on Wednesday that Santos would not serve on top committees in the House, though freshman lawmakers don’t typically receive such assignments.
When asked about local GOP leaders calling on Santos to leave office, McCarthy said that he had not read anything about it yet and that he would respond at a later time.
Democrats have repeatedly spoken out about Santos. “He appears to be a complete and utter fraud,” Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters in December.
New York Democratic Reps. Daniel Goldman and Ritchie Torres on Tuesday filed an official complaint with the Ethics Committee calling for an investigation into Santos, who is also being looked at by the New York attorney general, federal prosecutors in New York and the Nassau and Queens County district attorney’s offices.
Santos has not been accused of any crimes and told The New York Post in December: “I am not a criminal.”
A copy of the Democrats’ ethics complaint, obtained by ABC News, shows they are requesting the panel investigate Santos’ financial disclosures for possible violations of the Ethics in Government Act — which requires officials to timely, accurately and completely submit reports.
“The House of Representatives has an obligation to police itself, and this is just the start of our mission to hold George Santos accountable to his constituents and the American people,” Goldman said in a statement to ABC News.
“George Santos, by his own admission, is an outright fraud. He has admitted that he didn’t graduate college, didn’t work on Wall Street or in private equity, doesn’t own property, and isn’t Jewish — all of which he asserted in order to dupe the voters in Queens and Nassau County,” Goldman continued.
ABC News’ Katherine Faulders, Gabe Ferris, Alexandra Hutzler, Lalee Ibssa, Noah Minnie and Lauren Peller contributed to this report.
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