Amid arguments over electing a new Speaker of the House last week, cameras panned over to Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who sat, alone, as discussions unfolded. However, Santos was not truly by himself — he was accompanied by heaps of vile lies detailing his past experience, education, qualifications and religious affiliation, just to name the most abhorrent. This information was broken by an investigation from the New York Times and followed up by numerous news outlets calling for accountability toward Santos’ election.
Santos’ election should serve as both a warning and reminder to Americans. Politicians are warned to not allow outrageous and harmful lies to this extent to be acceptable in our political environment, with regards, in this case, to GOP leadership. Journalism’s role in breaking Santos’ story reminds us just how important seeking the truth is for the sanctity of our elections and political atmosphere. Santos must either resign or be removed by an internal House vote. Residual embarrassment should also spread to both the Democratic and Republican parties — journalists informed the public about Santos’ lies, not his own suspicious party nor his opposing party.
Currently, there has not been any sort of uproar from the Republican House leadership opposing Santos’ election nor his current seat — a stark contrast to how the public clearly feels about Santos’ election, as portrayed by major news sources. In fact, Santos has now been placed on two House committees. Without support from Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) and other House Republicans in a two-thirds vote, there is no mechanism aside from voluntary resignation that could remove Santos from office.
“The voters of his district have elected him,” said McCarthy on the topic of Santos’ seat in the House. “He is seated. He is part of the Republican conference.”
Due to the slight majority of Republicans in the House, McCarthy and the other House Republicans can’t risk losing Santos’ vote — not even for the sake of ethical and truthful elections. By not condemning Santos’ lies, House Republicans are blatantly trading ethics for one Republican vote; the Republican goal here is a majority number of votes, not any sort of justice for scammed voters. As GOP leadership overlooks Santos’ lies in favor of their own political gains, this should — and already has — exposed to Americans how little current House leadership cares about political accountability.
Though Speaker McCarthy and other House leadership have remained unopposed to Santos’ position, other New York House Republicans have vocalized the injustice of his election.
“When public servants deceive and mislead those they are tasked with serving, they are no longer fit to work for the people,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) tweeted.
Many of Santos’ fellow Republicans from New York have also shared statements objecting to Santos’ swearing-in and urging him to resign. These Republican politicians are alarmed that Santos would throw away that responsibility to his constituents by lying and cheating in his election. While it is admirable that these politicians are now speaking up about their disgust with Santos, it is important to also remember the vital role of the media and journalism in trying to keep lying politicians — as well as other prominent figures — accountable for their wrongdoings.
The only reason that Santos has even been called into the spotlight is due to the work of New York Times investigative reporters Grace Ashford and Michael Gold who brought up questions and inconsistencies surrounding Santos’ identity and qualifications. This report, followed by many others, outed Santos for lying about his college education, falsely identifying as Jewish, lying about his properties and investments and much more. Lying during campaigns is nothing new in politics, however, Santos’ case has gotten so much screen time due to his success. For example, as opposed to former President Donald Trump, voters were not aware of Santos’ extreme embellishments until after casting their ballots on Election Day. Having a known fraud sit among the country’s leaders while representing people he conned (with no real consequences yet from the House leadership) has rightfully shaken the U.S. to its core.
If Santos had not been exposed by those New York Times journalists, he may not have been found out as a liar, cheat and potential criminal. The Democratic Party, though now pursuing an ethics code breach in the House, were not able to expose Santos before Election Day. The Democrats’ inability to uncover the lies in Santos’ campaign reflects poorly on them as well — they should be concerned with their inadequate investigation on Santos’ background. Neither Santos’ fellow Republicans — some who claim to have had prior suspicions — nor the Brazilian government were able to discredit him before he was elected either. The Brazilian government is now reviewing criminal activity credited to Santos.
Despite the potential for criminal investigations against Santos, it is up in the air whether or not anything can be done to remove or charge him; House Republicans are reluctant to risk their majority, making removal unlikely. He’s a disgrace, sure, but that alone will unfortunately not keep him out of office. The purposeful ignorance of McCarthy and much of the GOP is disgusting. Voters need to see this situation as it is: the congressman that you elected lied. And now, other representatives are letting him get away with it.
It’s thanks to reporters and honest journalism that Santos is facing consequences for his actions. Even conservative-leaning networks such as Fox News have published articles and news segments reporting on Santos’ lies. Despite the political preferences Fox News journalists and editors may have, they did not hesitate to spread the truth about Santos — that much cannot be said about GOP leadership. When typically right-leaning networks like Fox News and the New York Post are standing side-by-side with left-leaning news sources such as the Washington Post, journalists are clearly putting in great amounts of work to keep Santos accountable to Americans.
Santos’ election is a wake-up call for our country. To politicians, lying is a quick way to disgrace your position and betray your constituents. In the future, representatives deserve to be actually condemned for their wrongdoings. To voters, utilize your resources — some liars in politics are more apparent than Santos. There was no way to know that Santos was lying before theNew York Times investigation. Americans must continue to invest their time and money into the field of journalism as a whole; the government is failing to keep themselves accountable, which showcases that reliable and well-funded news sources are integral to the sanctity of our democracy and society.
Finally, to George Santos, resign. Every inch of your qualifications and identity was a lie. Your constituents deserve the representative that you contrived — they do not deserve you and your despicable lies.
Santo’s campaign will likely not be the last Americans see of stunningly bold lies. With the 2024 presidential election rearing its head in the distance, it is crucial to listen for lies, deceit and injustice. Let’s ensure news media and journalists continue to have the tools and funding they need to break stories like Santos’. Ethical journalism prioritizes the truth and well-informed voters are responsible for listening, learning and using it.
Ellie Fivas (24Ox) is from Cleveland, Tennessee.
Ellie Fivas is from Cleveland, Tennessee, and is double-majoring in political science and English & Creative Writing. Outside of the Wheel, she serves on the Student Government Association, edits for the Oxford Phoenix literary magazine and writes for the Emory Political Review. In her free time, you can find her reading historical fiction, enjoying the outdoors or doing crossword puzzles.