It’s something unpredictable, but in the end, it’s right.
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
George Santos was not in the House for very long, but in the 11 months before he was expelled on Friday, the New York congressman made more of a splash than many of his former colleagues would in their entire careers. Thanks to his apparently compulsive habit of lying, a no-holds-barred approach to his Republican critics, and a few more tricks up his sleeve, Santos’s brief run in Congress will go down as one of the more notorious, tabloid-friendly sprints in modern American politics. As we grapple with the idea of a much more boring (but still extremely dysfunctional) House GOP caucus, here are some of the more unusual moments from Santos’s time in Congress.
Any questions about whether or not Santos would tone down his pre-political antics were promptly addressed during one of Santos’s first acts as a congressman. In January, one of his first speeches on the House floor was to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. For most representatives, this would be a somber occasion without any weird subtext. But Santos had just been caught lying about how his “grandparents survived the Holocaust” and that his mother’s parents fled from Ukraine to Brazil to escape the Nazis. To many, the speech was a wink at getting caught in one of his more brazen lies — and a sign of the circus acts to come.
In his first weeks in the House, Santos learned that his totally fabricated résumé meant that he would be tailed by a gaggle of reporters whenever he was at work. So he decided to have some fun with it:
“Since you guys are staying out here all day, I just wanted to make sure you guys are taken care of,” Santos told reporters as he plopped a Chick-fil-A bag on the desk outside his office. “Eat up, while it’s warm.” But there may have been ulterior motives: Staffers reportedly considered bugging the snack table to listen in on what journalists were talking about just outside his office.
At the State of the Union, as Santos was shaking hands with Republican Senate leaders, Mitt Romney came up to let Santos know that his presence wasn’t welcome there. Later, Romney told reporters that his colleague is a “sick puppy” and that he should “be sitting in the back row and staying quiet, instead of parading in front of the president.”
“It wasn’t very Mormon of him,” Santos said in a snide reply.
Santos later added that Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a friend of Romney’s, came up to him after his exchange with the Utah senator and told him to “hang in there.” But, according to Sinema’s people, she wasn’t even aware that Romney and Santos had spoken until Romney told her about it after the fact.
Some of the earliest GOP calls for Santos’s resignation came from his fellow New York representatives, including Anthony D’Esposito, who represents the district adjacent to Santos’s on Long Island. After D’Esposito wrote in March that “frauds shouldn’t be able to profit from their deceptions at the public’s expense,” Santos went on the site then known as Twitter to rip into D’Esposito, claiming that the former police officer “lost his NYPD issued GUN while he was DJing at a party” and that he once assaulted a 72-year-old woman. “You sir are the example of a bad cop who give cops a bad name. Spare me,” Santos wrote.
Santos got some mileage out of Mitt Romney’s comment about how he should “be sitting in the back row” and remaining quiet rather than attracting attention to himself. As if Romney was talking about his identity — not his alleged practices like ripping off a disabled veteran dog owner — Santos responded on a podcast months later. “Mitt Romney goes to the State of the Union of the United States wearing a Ukraine lapel pin, tells me, a Latino gay man, that I shouldn’t sit in the front, that I should be in the back,” he said in July. “Well, guess what, Rosa Parks didn’t sit in the back, and neither am I going to sit in the back.”
The crown jewel of Santos moments came in October, when he was confronted in the hallway of the Longworth House Office Building by pro-Palestinian protestors. Santos escalated the encounter by screaming at the demonstrators — while holding a baby. When a reporter asked if the baby was his, he added to the confusion of the moment with a mysterious reply: “Not yet.”
In September, Santos spoke with New York Times reporter Grace Ashford roughly half a dozen times after she spent months trying to get in contact with him. He chatted about his pet and baby shower gift ideas and his haters. Oh, and the time that his niece was kidnapped in Queens by the Chinese Communist Party. When Ashford reached out to police officials, they had no record of such an event. “We found nothing at all to suggest it’s true,” the official told her. “I’d lean into, ‘he made it up.’”
Even after Santos was indicted on 23 counts including aggravated identity theft and wire fraud, he survived multiple efforts to be removed from Congress. But the fatal blow to his political career came in November, when the House Ethics Committee released an extensive report detailing Santos’s many alleged campaign finance violations in vivid detail — like how he spent donor dollars on Botox, Hermès, and OnlyFans. When his own staffers told him during the campaign with a document showing that he was almost definitely going to get audited, he told them that was “not worrisome.”
Santos went out of Congress the way he came in — in a sweater, surrounded by reporters.
He also went out with a few memorable quotes on his last day at work. He told one reporter: “Why would I want to stay here? To hell with this place.” To another, he proffered this gem: “The future is endless. You can do whatever you want next, and I’m just going to do whatever I want.”
Whatever he wants might be a bit ambitious, considering that he is facing 23 criminal charges. And as Republican Max Miller told fellow representatives in an email on Friday, many Americans are not going to forget what Santos did to get infamous in the first place. Miller alleged that his colleague’s campaign charged him and his mother for several thousand dollars in contributions. Neither were aware of the charges and they have spent “thousands of dollars” in legal fees.