Embattled Republican Representative George Santos arrives in the House almost daily to give short speeches — to celebrate women-owned small businesses, a private high school in his district or to raise concerns about various countries in crisis.
Other times, he can be seen moving through the halls of the US Capitol as lawmakers do, from one meeting to the next. He once handed out cookies to the news staff while they were pushing his desk.
Far from being berated by the widespread criticism, ridicule, and rejection Santos received after admitting to fabricating many aspects of his life story, the newly elected congressman happily continues with Congress. He rejects calls for his resignation as the narrative is rewritten in real time.
For Santos, this is an unusual bottom-up approach that would have been almost unimaginable for a generation earlier, but it signals the new norms needed amidst the worsening post-truth era in Congress.
“I was elected by the people to come here to represent them, and I do that every single day,” Santos told the Associated Press in a brief interview outside the House chamber.
“This is hard work. If I said it was easy, I’d be lying to you—and I don’t think that’s what we want, do I?”
Pressed by the idea of a post-truth era, Santos said, “I think the truth is still very important.”
Perhaps no elected official has arrived in Washington since Donald Trump launched his presidency with exaggerated claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, brazenly and defiantly seeking to convince the public of a different reality than what is before his eyes.
Santos came of age politically at a time when civic life was unimpeded by a right-wing member of the United States Congress who could persevere, as usual, even though he lied to voters about his resume, experience, and career. he ran. for an optional term.
While Santos faces a series of investigations — by the House Ethics Committee and New York district attorneys — as well as questions from past charges in Brazil, where he has lived for some time, he appears unfazed by the challenges.
Just days ago, Santos filed papers for re-election.
“It was as if a politician lied, got caught, was disgraced — or there was some kind of impeachment,” said Lee McIntyre, author of Post-Truth and researcher at Boston University.
He said: “What I see in the post-truth era is not just people lying or lying more, but lying for a political purpose. What is really scary is the impunity.”
At stake is not just “honesty,” as comedian Stephen Colbert called lies in public life, but broader questions about the expectation of truth from political leaders.
Santos admitted that he described himself as someone he wasn’t — not a college graduate, not a Wall Street mogul, not a Jewish family of Holocaust survivors, not the son who lost his mother in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. . .
More questions have poured in since then, including the origins of the $700,000 loan he made for his congressional campaign and his reported private wealth.
“I don’t think it’s about politics,” said fellow New York Republican Representative Anthony D’Esposito, a freshman who won election last fall on nearby Long Island. I think it is about the individual – and the state he is in is one of delusion. »
D’Esposito has introduced a pair of bills that would prevent elected officials from making money through mistakes, and he said he’s been working with others to make sure Santos isn’t “the face of our party. We’ve said it very clearly. It’s not our brand. He’s not a part.” from U.S. “.
And while Santos stepped back from commission duties amid the investigations, he resisted pressure from Republicans to resign and Democrats to remove him.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who won a slim Republican majority by a few seats, said voters elected Santos and that he “has the right to serve.” He said that if irregularities are discovered, Santos could be removed from office.
“He should have resigned a long time ago,” said Rep. Robert Garcia of California, the top-tier Democrat who espoused the decision to fire Santos.
“It’s not just Democrats and his fellow Republicans in New York saying that,” Garcia said in an interview. Nobody wants him in the capital.
But Santos gets bolder as his profile rises, even parodying “Saturday Night Live.” He’s introduced bills of his own to Congress — including one that would require a cognitive test for presidents — and he’s trying to move forward.
“I owned her, and she obviously took care of her,” he said, referring to the public apology he issued in December.
When President Joe Biden arrived to deliver his State of the Union address last month, Santos angered his colleagues by putting himself in the middle lane — the place where VIPs can see and be seen. He was rebuked by fellow Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who said it was inappropriate for Santos to “show off the president” and others.
Santos a rappelé: « Le sénateur Romney a fait écho à quelque chose que j’ai entendu toute ma vie, à droite, venant d’un groupe minoritaire, venant d’une family pauvre: allez dans l’arrière-salle et taisez- you all. Nobody cares to hear from you. “Well, I won’t.” »
Santos often turns the tables, engaging in what is familiar in modern politics—verbal somersaults to equate his actions with those of others, even when they are not entirely comparable positions.
“You know, have I ever lied? Think about it,” Santos said.
It is what McIntyre calls the classic “disinformation tactic” designed not to achieve clarity but to confuse and avoid accountability.
When asked if he would stay here, Santos replied: “I am here to do the job that I was elected to do for the next two years.”
But will he be a candidate for re-election? ” maybe. “