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New York Rep.-elect George Santos faces bipartisan criticism, investigations

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Terry Sheridan
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WSHU
A rally outside a courthouse in Mineola, New York, calls for Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) to resign after he admitted to lying about his academic, employment and financial history to get elected.

Nearly 100 voters from embattled Rep.-elect George Santos’ (R-NY) district rallied outside of Nassau County courthouses in Mineola, New York, to call for his resignation. Santos is set to take office next week after admitting to lying about his resume to run for office.

Santos has called what he did “resume embellishment,” saying he went to schools that he never attended, or worked at firms that have no record of him. But to those at the rally it was his claim that he was Jewish and his grandparents were Holocaust survivors that was the most egregious.

“We should never need to lie about who we are, and to lie about being descendants of Holocaust survivors for the purpose of political gain is beyond unacceptable,” said Rabbi Deborah Bravo, who leads the Makom New York community.

The protestors want investigations by local, state and federal prosecutors to continue, and they want the House Ethics Committee to get involved.

On Long Island, Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly has opened an investigation into whether Santos defrauded Long Island voters. Separately, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn is focused on his financial dealings in connection to his campaign.

Donnelly, a Republican, said she will investigate to see what crimes were committed after Santos, a Brazilian immigrant who won in New York’s third congressional district, admitted to lying about his education, work experience and real estate holdings.

“No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it,” she said in a statement. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James' office said it was also reviewing the matter.

In a bruising interview on Fox, Santos said he made a mistake.

“In order to move past this and move forward and be an effective member of Congress, the reality is I remain committed to doing everything that I set forward in my campaign,” he said.

Still, Long Island Republican leaders, including Rep.-elect Nick LaLota (R-NY) and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, called for the House Ethics Committee to investigate Santos.

“New Yorkers deserve the truth, and House Republicans deserve an opportunity to govern without this distraction,” said LaLota, who is part of the freshman class to be seated when the new Congress takes office on Jan. 3.

Santos said he admits that parts of his resume were made up, but says he will take office next week. Santos said he is a citizen, and that while he was once married to a woman, he is “very much gay.”

“There's an outstanding warrant for arrest for George Santos in Brazil. This is a member of the United States Congress who has an open arrest warrant from another country. It's absolutely outrageous,” said Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan, D-Woodbury. “If the facts are corroborated that George Santos did violate many of these federal laws and commit crimes that he's indicted on, our sincere hope is that our law enforcement officials do what they can to uncover the truth.”

Several of the allegations against Santos include: not working at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, nor attending Baruch College or New York University. His grandparents were not Holocaust victims, and there is no evidence of him being Jewish.

“I never claimed to be Jewish,” Santos told The Post. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”

Linda Beigel Schulman joined the rally Thursday to condemn Santos for lying about being descended from Holocaust survivors, like her. She also blasted him for falsely claiming some of his employees were killed at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. Her son, Scott Beigel, a geography teacher and cross country coach, was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida.

“How dare you, George Santos?,” Beigel Schulman said. “How dare he try to score political points or gain sympathy by lying.”

“I know all too well and all too deep the sense of loss and grief about someone you love who was killed by gun violence. Unfortunately, being lied to by our political leaders has become commonplace and, even worse, accepted,” she continued.

Donnelly, the Nassau County district attorney, said in a statement that Santos’s fabrications “are nothing short of stunning.”

However, it will be largely up to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is poised to be voted House speaker, to decide whether to investigate the ethics of a GOP freshman. McCarthy has yet to comment.

“We need answers from George Santos. He appears to be a complete and utter fraud. His whole life story was made up,” incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said last week at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Santos is part of the narrow majority of Republicans that will flip control of the House next year. In November, Santos beat Democrat Robert Zimmerman by 20,000 votes in a 54-to-45 margin.

Joseph Cairo, the longtime county Republican Party chairman, said in a statement that while Santos “has broken the public trust by making serious misstatements regarding his background,” he should still serve his term in Congress.

“George Santos, if his real name, does not belong in Congress, because this moment is not about Democratic Republican politics,” Zimmerman told the rally. “This moment is about protecting our democracy, standing up for justice, standing together in unity.”

Zimmerman and others blamed the media for being too busy following outgoing Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin’s campaign for governor to pay attention to Santos.

His falsehoods only came to light last week after a report in the New York Times. The DCCC published a research document in July — typically used to help smear their GOP opponent — with similar red flags.

Steve Israel, a congressman who served in Santos’ district from 2001 to 2017 and former chairman of the DCCC , acknowledged in The Atlantic that his successor Tom Suozzi “hadn’t bothered to do much” opposition research in 2020 because Santos was a complete unknown.

“Mr. Santos, his campaign wasn't just dishonest. It was just a barrage of deceit on the most fundamental questions. As to his fitness for office. I felt that I just had to speak out. I just couldn't be silent in the face of that,” Israel later told WSHU.

Israel said it is almost inevitable that Santos will take office Tuesday. While Santos maintains he has broken no laws — just dishonest about his academic, employment and financial history — Democrats are calling on the Federal Election Commission to also investigate the source of a $700,000 loan that he gave his own campaign.

“What an irony that his first official act will be taking an oath,” Israel said. “Having achieved his election by violating the fundamental oath that an elected official should have with constituents and lying throughout this process. At that point, Mr. Santos will confront some very serious legal and ethics problems in the House.”

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Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.
Terry Sheridan is an award-winning audio journalist. As part of his duties as Senior Director of News and Education, he developed a unique and award-winning internship program with the Stony Brook University School of Communications and Journalism, where he is also a lecturer and adjunct professor. He also mentors graduate fellows from the Sacred Heart University Graduate School of Communication, Media, and the Arts.
A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.