Incoming Republican Congressman George Santos of New York has been called out by former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for telling “blatant lies.”
Gabbard, who served in Congress as a Democrat from Hawaii before becoming an independent in October, conducted a heated interview with the embattled congressman while serving as the guest host of Fox News‘ Tucker Carlson Tonight on Tuesday.
Santos is facing calls to resign after admitting to multiple lies about his background and qualifications during a successful campaign for New York’s 3rd Congressional District. He attempted to explain away the fabrications as “a mistake” and insisted that he was “not a fraud” during the interview
“I think we can all look at ourselves in the mirror and admit that once in our life, we made a mistake,” Santos told Gabbard. “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.”
Gabbard seemed unimpressed by the answer and proceeded to point out that Santos had told several lies.
“The thing is, congressman-elect, integrity means … telling the truth, being a person of integrity,” she said. “All of these lies that you’ve told, not just one little lie, or one little embellishment—these are blatant lies. My question is, do you have no shame?”
“Tulsi, I could say the same thing about the Democrats and Joe Biden,” Santos replied. “Joe Biden has been lying to the American people for 40 years, he’s the president of the United States. Democrats resoundingly support him, do they have no shame?”
Gabbard interrupted and told Santos that “this is not about the Democratic Party.” She then asked whether he was Jewish. Despite claiming to be a “proud American Jew” during his campaign, Santos said that he is Catholic during a recent interview with the New York Post, while insisting that he had only claimed to be “Jew-ish.”
“I’ve always identified as Jewish,” Santos said on Tuesday. “I’ve always joked with friends and circles, even within the campaign I’d say guys, ‘I’m Jew-ish’ … Look, I understand everybody wants to nitpick at me.”
“I campaigned on delivering results for the American people,” he continued. “Now it’s going to be incumbent upon me to deliver … I look forward to serving my district.”
Gabbard then admonished Santos for “not taking this seriously,” pointing out that he had told multiple “outright” lies. Fabrications that he has admitted to include a false claim that he graduated from two colleges and worked for the financial firms Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
“These are blatant lies and it calls into question how your constituents and the American people can believe anything that you may say when you are standing on the floor of the House of Representatives,” said Gabbard. “That’s the real issue here.”
Santos went on to defend his “debatable” career in finance and lamented that “everybody just wants to push me and call me a liar.”
“We’ve given you a lot of time,” Gabbard said, ending the interview. “I think the time that is owed is to the people of New York’s 3rd. It’s hard to imagine how they could possibly trust your explanations when you’re not really even willing to admit the depth of your deception to them.”
Despite the deception, it may be impossible to stop Santos from joining Congress next week, barring his own resignation. House GOP leadership has given no indication that he could be ejected after taking his seat.
However, former U.S. attorney Barbara McQuade said during an MSNBC interview on Tuesday that lies by Santos could make him vulnerable to criminal wire fraud charges, since his campaign may have solicited donations based on false claims.
Newsweek has reached out to the Santos campaign, National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Conference for comment.