Rep.-elect George Santos’s unraveling biography has sparked multiple law enforcement investigations and calls from Democrats to resign before he is sworn into office next week. But the soon-to-be-lawmaker’s fabrications pose a threat to Republicans nationally as they clutch onto a tight majority in the House next year.
In his home state, many of Santos’s future Republican colleagues have avoided making public statements or stopped short of calling for his resignation, putting the party in a bind as it decides whether it’s worthwhile to keep supporting him.
“They’re going to look like immoral fools, that they actively support lying,” said Douglas Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College. “The GOP becomes the party of liars, and it’s going to be used against them, not only for George Santos, but with all the Republican liars.”
But resigning could mean a lost seat for the Republican party — and a lost speakership for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is struggling to wrangle enough votes to lead the GOP in the House.
“It’s a really tough spot,” said William F.B. O’Reilly, a Republican political consultant. “But I could say every Republican I’ve spoken with is disgusted by what Mr. Santos has done, and there’s nobody who, deep down inside, supports him.”
Republicans will control 222 seats in the House this upcoming year, just four votes more than the 218 needed to claim the majority.
Only six of New York’s other 10 Republican members of the upcoming Congress have publicly chided Santos’s lies, while others — some of whom endorsed him and fundraised for his campaign to flip a blue seat red — have remained silent.
Gothamist reached out to all of them to ask if Santos should step aside. Here’s where they stand:
Rep.-elect Nick LaLota (NY-1)
LaLota, who was elected to represent New York’s first Congressional District on Long Island, was among the first in the delegation to chide Santos, calling for the House Ethics Committee to investigate his soon-to-be-colleague.
“As a Navy man who campaigned on restoring accountability and integrity to our government, I believe a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee and, if necessary, law enforcement, is required. New Yorkers deserve the truth and House Republicans deserve an opportunity to govern without this distraction,” LaLota tweeted Tuesday.
A spokesperson for LaLota said the statement is all the congressman-elect would be saying "for the foreseeable future."
Andrew Garbarino (NY-2)
Rep. Andrew Garbarino has been quiet on the news about his fellow Long Islander. His spokesperson has not responded to questions from Gothamist.
Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4)
The newly elected representative for New York’s 4th Congressional District on Long Island, D’Esposito flipped one of two previously Democrat-held seats there, with Santos taking the other, and the pair winning the area for the GOP.
His office did not respond to requests for comment. While his official statement on social media criticized Santos’s lies surrounding his family history with the Holocaust and urged him to “embrace… sincerity,” it stopped short of calling for an investigation or resignation.
Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11)
“His deceptions only make it harder for good, honest people serving in elected office to earn the public’s trust,” she told the newspaper. “There still remains a lot of questions and his constituents deserve to know the truth.”
Malliotakis has not responded to questions from Gothamist.
Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (NY-17)
A state Assemblyman, Lawler was elected in November to represent the Hudson Valley district in the House, ousting Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney who led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Lawler tweeted a statement Wednesday calling on Santos to apologize to New Yorkers, saying he owed them “the complete and total truth.”
“Attempts to blame others or minimize his actions are only making things worse and a complete distraction from the task at hand. With multiple federal, state and local investigations seemingly underway, Mr. Santos should cooperate fully, if he is to regain the trust of his constituents and colleagues.”
He also did not respond to questions by Gothamist about whether Santos should resign.
Marc Molinaro (NY-19)
The 2018 Republican nominee for governor, and newly elected representative for the state’s 19th Congressional District, Molinaro told WNYC/Gothamist in an emailed response to the controversy surrounding Santos that “this revelation from my colleague is disappointing and distracts from the important work ahead of us. He must deal directly with his constituents- openly, and unflaggingly honestly. I learned a long time ago - as a kid mayor - be honest and transparent, they deserve no less.”
Molinaro did not say whether Santos should step aside.
Elise Stefanik (NY-21)
As one of the highest ranking members of the House GOP, Rep. Elise Stefanik has been a staunch Santos booster, endorsing his candidacy, fundraising for his campaign and boosting Santos on social media.
After election day, she congratulated Santos on Twitter and said he would “take on NYC liberal elites & bring a new generation of GOP leadership to NY and America!” But Stefanik has not taken a public stance on Santos’s lies and has not responded to Gothamist’s requests for comment.
Rep.-elect Brandon WIlliams (NY-22)
Williams, an incoming freshman elected to the 22nd Congressional District in Central New York, has not made any public comments about Santos. Efforts to reach Williams were unsuccessful.
Nick Langworthy (NY-23)
The outgoing chair of the New York state GOP, Langworthy who will represent Western New York and the Southern Tier both endorsed Santos and supported him on social media. His office did not respond to requests for comment and he has remained silent on Santos and the looming investigations.
Claudia Tenney (NY-24)
Tenney, who represents parts of upstate, including Utica and Binghamton, congratulated Santos and other “talented” new Republican leaders on Twitter in November. Now, she says she’s “really disappointed” in him.
“I didn’t know any of this,” she told Fox Business on Thursday. “I didn’t realize any of this was happening until it’s all being revealed.”
Tenney said in the interview that she doesn’t think Santos should resign now, unless investigators find that he has violated ethics or campaign finance laws. She said “it’s really up to the people in his district” to decide whether they want to reelect him. A spokesperson has not responded to Gothamist’s requests for comment.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.