McCarthy will let embattled congressman on committees despite calls to resign

Newly sworn-in Rep. George Santos told ABC News he doesn't plan to step down.

January 11, 2023, 6:20 PM

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.

"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.

The New York State Republican Party on Wednesday subsequently joined the Nassau County GOP in calling for Santos to resign. State Chairman Nick Langworthy said it was clear that Santos "cannot be an effective representative and it would be in the best interest of the taxpayers to have new leadership." The Suffolk County GOP, which neighbors Santos' district, on Wednesday also called for Santos' resignation.

On Capitol Hill, Santos said he had no plans to leave office, telling ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott 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 statements from New York Republicans marked a sharp escalation of local criticism of Santos. Cairo, the Nassau County GOP chair, had said last month that he was "deeply disappointed" by Santos and that Santos "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.

Top Republicans in Washington declined to comment on the controversy before the new Congress began last week and Santos could cast his vote for speaker. 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.

McCarthy later said that Santos would serve on some other committees and declined to join the calls for Santos' resignation.

"The voters made the decision, and he has a right to serve here," McCarthy told Rachel Scott. "If there is something that rises to the occasion that he did something wrong, then we'll deal with that at that time."

McCarthy said he was leaving it up to voters to make a judgment of Santos in the next midterm election.

"Is there a charge against him? You know, in America today, you're innocent until proven guilty," McCarthy said when asked if he would take any action against Santos.

PHOTO: Rep. George Santos talks with reporters after attending a House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 10, 2023.
Rep. George Santos talks with reporters after attending a House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 10, 2023.
Patrick Semansky/AP

The speaker downplayed the criticism of Santos, even though he's admitted to fabricating parts of his resume.

"Yeah, and so [have] -- a lot of people here, in the Senate and others," McCarthy said. "But the one thing I think, it's the voters who made that decision. He has to answer to the voters."

"If he has challenges, he's gonna have to go before the Ethics [Committee] and answer those," McCarthy said of Santos.

"He's gonna have to build the trust here," McCarthy said. "And he's gonna have the opportunity to try to do that."

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.