GREAT NECK, N.Y. — Just prior to Christmas, then-incoming-Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., pledged to voters in his district that he would soon explain himself as revelations he embellished or outright invented portions of his biography had come to light.
“To the people of #NY03 I have my story to tell and it will be told next week,” Santos tweeted on Dec. 22. “I want to assure everyone that I will address your questions and that I remain committed to deliver the results I campaigned on; Public safety, Inflation, Education & more.”
It’s been more than a month since that post and Santos, though he has given a handful of interviews to local and conservative outlets, including The New York Post, has scratched only the surface of the allegations he faces — which have grown considerably since his late December tweet.
Santos himself seemingly acknowledged he has more to say, telling NBC News on Jan. 9: “I’ll be addressing the media soon. On my time, OK?”
In New York’s 3rd Congressional District, voters who spoke with NBC News said they not only believe that their congressman has more explaining to do, they don’t think his comments so far have sufficiently explained the issues at hand.
Roberta Stern, a moderate Republican from Great Neck who said she voted for Democrat Robert Zimmerman, Santos’ opponent last fall, said “it’s clear” Santos “has not been saying enough.”
“I think being quiet for so long has really worked against him,” she said. “Now he’s in denial mode and seems to be doing his business and not really caring.”
At this point, Stern said it’s “probably too little too late” for Santos to answer the litany of questions about his background, but added that “it can’t hurt.”
“I don’t see what he could say that’s going to make a difference,” she said. “But not saying anything, to me, is the worst response.”
Anthony, a Republican from the district who voted for Santos and asked for his full name to be withheld, told NBC News he too didn’t think Santos had explained himself enough.
“He’s just avoiding it,” he said. “He’s putting up a wall. … He’s like a compulsive liar. I feel bad for the guy.”
The Santos revelations began in earnest on Dec. 19, when The New York Times published its bombshell investigation about the lies contained in Santos’ résumé. That same day, representatives for Baruch College and New York University told NBC New York they had no record of Santos going to school there, despite his claims otherwise. Citigroup and Goldman Sachs also said they could find no record of his employment. Days later, the Forward reported that Santos’ grandparents did not flee the Holocaust as he had claimed.
Those reports preceded his slate of interviews. Santos told City and State New York that he embellished his résumé and defended himself on WABC radio by claiming he never committed crimes at home or abroad. In a Dec. 26 New York Post interview, Santos said he did not graduate college and that his claim to have worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs amounted to a “poor choice of words.” In the same interview, he said he never claimed to be Jewish but was “Jew-ish.”
This was merely the beginning for Santos’ infamous start in Congress, as he has become the subject of federal, state, local and international investigations while Nassau County GOP leaders and more than a half-dozen House GOP lawmakers, mostly from his home state, have called on him to resign.
In recent days, a Navy veteran accused Santos of lifting $3,000 from a GoFundMe campaign to help his dying service dog — Santos seemed to deny this in a tweet — and new immigration documents obtained by NBC News and other outlets showed that his mother was not in New York on 9/11 after he claimed she was in one of the twin towers that day. (He has not addressed this claim.)
After images surfaced showing Santos dressed in drag, Santos insisted it was “categorically false” that he had ever performed as a drag queen. Confronted on Saturday by reporters as he walked through LaGuardia Airport in New York City, Santos addressed the reports by saying: “I was young and I had fun at a festival — sue me for having a life.”
One person who was close to Santos’ campaign operation said they understood the initial New York Post interview to be Santos’ effort to explain himself to voters in his district.
“Obviously, there’s been an avalanche since then of stuff that’s come out,” this person added, noting that Santos has taken to more recently addressing some new claims on Twitter.
This person said much of the response is being “dictated” by Santos’ attorneys, who “are calling all the shots on this.” The seat itself, this person said, is Santos’ best leverage moving forward — particularly with the slim majority House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., enjoys, and Santos’ critical vote in securing McCarthy the speakership.
“You can kind of see where this is headed,” this person said. “It’s the second full week of Congress and there’s a long runway in front of him. And voters have real short memories.”
Representatives for Santos did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Late Sunday, Santos tweeted he has “a surprise for the ‘journalists’ assigned to stake out side of my office…can’t wait to see you guys!”
As Stern contemplated the Santos ordeal, she told NBC News the whole situation has become “an embarrassment” for the district.
A Siena College survey released Monday showed many New York voters seem to agree with Stern’s assessment. Just 16% of New York voters said they viewed Santos favorably — including a mere 15% of Republicans. Additionally, 59% of New York voters said Santos should resign while just 17% said he should not. Limited to just Republicans, a significant plurality favored Santos’ resignation.
The scandal, Stern said, is “sort of an indication of what’s wrong in this country and what you can get away with if you have a little bit of power.”