Santos refuses to stop, brazenly saying ‘the truth still counts’

Beleaguered Republican Rep. George Santos arrives on the House floor most days to deliver short speeches — celebrating small, woman-owned businesses, a special high school in his district, or voicing concerns about various countries in crisis.

Other times he can be seen scurrying through the halls of the US Capitol like legislators, from one session to the next. He once handed out donuts to the press corps that staked out his office.

Far from being chastised by the widespread criticism, ridicule and rejection Santos has received after admitting to fabricating many aspects of his life story, the newly elected congressman is blithely carrying on in Congress. He rejects calls for his resignation as he rewrites the narrative in real time.

For Santos, it’s an unusual up-is-down approach that would have been almost unthinkable in a previous generation, but one that signals the new norms are taking hold amid the deepening of a post-truth era in Congress.

“I was chosen by the people to come here to represent them and I do that every day,” Santos told The Associated Press in a brief interview outside the home.

“It’s a tough job. If I said it was easy, I’d be lying to you – and I don’t think we want that, do we?”

PHOTOS: Santos refuses to stop, brazenly says ‘the truth still counts’

Beset by the idea of ​​a post-truth era, Santos said, “I think truth is still very important.”

Perhaps not since Donald Trump opened his presidency with exaggerated claims about the crowd at his inauguration that no elected official has arrived in Washington and tried so brazenly and defiantly to convince the public of any reality other than the one before their eyes.

Santos is reaching political age at a time when civil life is unraveling, when a duly sworn member of the US Congress can carry on as usual, although he admittedly lied to voters about his resume, experience and personal life when he ran for elected office.

While Santos faces a multitude of investigations — from the House Ethics Committee and a district attorney in New York — as well as questions from previous defendants in Brazil, where he lived for a time, he seems unfazed by the challenges.

Just a few days ago, Santos submitted documents to potentially seek re-election.

“It used to be that if a politician lied and got caught, there was shame — or there was some kind of accountability,” said Lee McIntyre, author of Post-Truth and a research fellow at Boston University.

“What I see in the post-truth era is not just that people are lying or lying more, but that they are lying for political reasons,” he said. “The really scary part is getting away with it.”

At stake is not just “truth,” as comedian Stephen Colbert once called the untruths of public life, but broader questions about the expectation of telling the truth from political leaders.

Santos has admitted he presented himself as someone he was not – not a college graduate, not a Wall Street genius, not from a Jewish family of Holocaust survivors, not the son who killed his mother in the attack the World Trade Center lost on September 11th.

More questions have since surfaced, including over the origin of a $700,000 loan he made for his campaign for Congress and his own reported fortune.

Republican Rep. Anthony D’Esposito of New York, a freshman who won the election from the neighboring Long Island district last fall, said: “I don’t think that’s the state of politics. I think it’s the state of an individual – and the state he’s in is a state of delusion.”

D’Esposito has introduced two bills that would prevent elected officials from benefiting from wrongdoing and said he is working with others to ensure Santos is not “the face of our party”. We’ve made it very clear. It’s not our brand. He is not part of us.”

While Santos has resigned from his committee duties amid the ongoing investigation, he has withstood pressure from Republicans to resign and Democrats to be ousted from office.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who won a narrow Republican majority with just a few seats remaining, said voters chose Santos and “he has a right to serve.” If any wrongdoing is found, Santos could be impeached, he said.

“He should have resigned a long time ago,” said Rep. Robert Garcia of California, the Democratic freshman class president who supported the resolution to expel Santos.

“It’s not just Democrats and his Republican counterparts in New York who say that,” Garcia said in an interview. “Nobody Wants Him in DC”

But Santos seems emboldened as his profile has risen and is even being parodied on Saturday Night Live. He’s introduced his own bills to Congress — including one mandating cognitive testing for presidents — and is trying to move on.

“I admitted it, and I cleaned it up,” he said, referring to the public apology he made in December.

When President Joe Biden arrived to deliver the State of the Union address last month, Santos infuriated colleagues by standing on the center aisle — the place to see and be seen — to greet the high-profile guests . He was snubbed by fellow Republican Mitt Romney, who said it was inappropriate for Santos to “parade in front of the President” and others.

“Senator Romney just repeated something I’ve heard my whole life, right, coming from a minority group, coming from a poor family: Go in the back room and shut up. No one cares to hear about you,” Santos recalled. “Well, I won’t do that.”

Santos often turns the tables and engages in the whataboutism that has become commonplace in modern politics – the verbal somersault of equating one’s actions with those of others, even when the situations aren’t quite comparable.

“You know,” said Santos, “have you ever not lied? Think hard.”

McIntyre calls this a classic “disinformation tactic” designed to create confusion and avoid accountability rather than clarity.

When asked if he wanted to stay here, Santos said, “I’m here to do the job I’ve been elected to do for the next two years.”

But will he stand for re-election? “Perhaps.”

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