Rep.-elect George Santos, R-N.Y., who flipped a hotly-contested congressional seat on the edge of New York City, responded to criticism of misleading or fabricated items on resume in a contentious interview on Fox News Tuesday, insisting he is not a “fraud” or a “fake.”
Santos has come under fire for claims he graduated from Manhattan’s Baruch College, his connection to Judaism and work in the financial sector. He defeated Robert Zimmerman, a longtime Democratic activist who has also appeared on Fox News in the past, as the two vied for outgoing Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi’s seat encompassing part of Nassau County and northeastern Queens.
On “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who was guest-hosting in Tucker Carlson, grilled Santos on the claims and whether the voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional district should be able to trust the person they elected.
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Gabbard asked Santos what the term “integrity” means to him in light of the revelations, to which the congressman-to-be replied it means to carry oneself “in an honorable way.” He repeated admitting to making a mistake.
“I think humans are flawed, and we all make mistakes, Tulsi,” he said. “I think we can all look at ourselves in the mirror and admit that once in our life we made a mistake. I’m having to admit this on national television for the whole country to see. And I have the courage to do so because I believe that in order to move past this and move forward and be an effective member of Congress, I have to face my mistakes, and I’m facing them.”
Santos said he nonetheless remains committed to the issues he campaigned on this year, saying he is “not a fraud” and worked “damn hard to get where I got my entire life.”
In response, Gabbard said integrity does mean carrying oneself with honor but also indicates commitment to the truth.
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“[I]f I were one of those in New York’s third district right now, now that the election is over and I’m finding out all of these lies that you’ve told… my question is, do you have no shame?” Gabbard asked.
“Do you have no shame in the people who you’re asking to trust you to go and be their voice for them, their families and their kids in Washington?”
Santos pushed back, saying President Biden himself has “been lying to the American people for 40 years” about several aspects of his own life, asking if the left feels the same shame Gabbard was asking about.
The president has long been criticized for embellishing or fabricating events, including appearing to plagiarize part of an address from former British Labour Leader Neil Kinnock and his oft-circulated tale of battling wits with Wilmington gang leader “Corn Pop” in the 1960s.
“Democrats resoundingly support [Biden] – do they have no shame?” Santos asked.
Gabbard, who recently left the Democratic Party, replied that the issue is not about them in this case, but instead in deference to New Yorkers who elected Santos.
When pressed on questions about his Judaisim claims, Santos said he was raised Catholic but “always identified as Jewish” citing ancestry to that effect. (Santos claimed in an earlier interview he was “Jew-ish.”)
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“I understand everybody wants to nitpick at me. I’m going to reassure this once and for all: I’m not a facade. I’m not a persona,” he said. “I have an extensive career that I worked really hard to achieve, and I’m going to deliver from my experience because I remain committed in delivering results for the American people.”
“I campaigned on inflation, I campaigned on crime. I campaigned on education. I campaigned on delivering results for the American people. That’s what the people of the 3rd congressional district heard me on and on as I campaigned. Now it’s going to be incumbent upon me to deliver on those results.”
Before closing the interview, Gabbard pressed Santos on claims he worked for Goldman Sachs and CitiGroup, which the guest host reported the companies have disputed.
Santos said the claim is “not false at all” but instead “debatable,” based on that the firm he served as vice president for – Link Bridge – did “extensive” business with the two financial giants.
The lawmaker-elect, however, sparked pushback from Gabbard when he remarked that a serious “discussion [about those claims is] going to go way above the American people’s head.”
“You just kind of highlighted, I think, my concern, the concern that people at home have. You’re saying that this discussion will go way above the heads of the American people, basically insulting their intelligence,” Gabbard replied.
Santos disagreed, saying he could easily explain the situation if given the time – later adding no one seems to “want to sit down and talk about it.”
“Everybody just wants to push me and call me a liar,” Santos said.
Gabbard said Santos owes his new constituents more time and explanation.