Rep.-elect George Santos, a gay New York Republican who sparked widespread condemnation after admitting that he had lied about large swaths of his professional and personal life on the campaign trail, arrived in Washington this week. While there’s no indication Santos has received a warm welcome, no one appears more riled about it than New York’s other gay congressman: Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres.
“The House Republican chaos has a silver lining,” Torres tweeted Wednesday, referring to Republicans’ difficulty in electing a House speaker. “George Santos has not been sworn in.”
The tweet was one of at least three dozen swipes Torres has taken against Santos since the lying allegations surfaced last month.
On Dec. 19, The New York Times published a bombshell investigation questioning whether Santos fabricated much of his biography, including his education, work history and financial dealings. The report, along with Santos’ eventual admission of “embellishing” his résumé, led to calls for his resignation from Democratic lawmakers and at least one Republican, with federal, state and local authorities announcing they were investigating or “looking into” the congressman-elect.
But amid the chorus of criticism, it appears that no one has condemned — or trolled — Santos over the political scandal more than Torres, the representative for New York’s 15th Congressional District.
“Elise Stefanik said that the House Republican Conference is the most diverse in history. Does Stefanik have George Santos in mind?” Torres tweeted Tuesday. “A gay Afro-Latino biracial Ukrainian Belgian Brazilian Jewish Republican Conference.” (Stefanik, a New York congresswoman, is the third-ranking Republican in the House.)
N.Y. Rep.-elect Santos to take office despite campaign controversyJan. 4, 202303:06
The tweet was a reference to several biographical claims Santos made on the campaign trail that have since been called into question, including that his grandparents were Ukrainian Jewish refugees who fled the Holocaust.
In another tweet last week, Torres posted a screenshot of an invitation Santos sent to supporters, inviting them to celebrate his swearing into Congress. The invitation date was wrongly marked for Jan. 3 of last year.
“Santos claims his swearing-in is on Jan 3, 2022,” Torres tweeted. “He can’t even get the facts right even when he isn’t lying.”
And on Tuesday, Torres tweeted a photo of Santos’ name placard outside his office, sarcastically writing: “I am writing to report an act of vandalism.”
Since taking office in 2021, Torres has frequently used social media to forcefully chastise those he opposes, including Republican leaders, the rapper Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and the billionaire Elon Musk. But it appears no one has struck his nerve more than his gay Republican counterpart.
In addition to making at least four appearances on news programs within the last week, Torres tweeted about the Santos controversy over three dozen times since The Times published its investigation less than three weeks ago.
"We live in a world where Twitter has become a platform on which elected officials express their opinion and in a sense where tweets are the new press release," Torres said Thursday. "And I have a vested interest in exposing the fraudulence of a charlatan like George Santos, who threatens to corrupt an institution of about which I care deeply and who should be accountable for defrauding the voters."
Torres added, "You can characterize it as trolling, but as a public official, I have every right to express an opinion on the fraudulence and the corruption risk of those serving in the United States Congress."
Representatives for Santos did not respond to a request for comment.
Both men are in their 30s and among the youngest members (or members-to-be) of Congress. Torres represents parts of the Bronx, and Santos parts of Queens. And they have each made LGBTQ political history: In November, Santos became the first LGBTQ nonincumbent Republican elected to Congress, and two years ago, Torres became the first gay Afro Latino person elected to Congress.
Torres was raised by a single mother in a small apartment in a public housing complex in the Bronx, which he previously said had mold, leaks, lead and inconsistent heat. As a young adult, he said, he dropped out of college due to depression, substance abuse and grief from the death of his close friend, before getting involved in local politics.
“No one has handed me anything on a silver platter,” he previously said. “I’ve had to fight for everything that I have in my life.”
Torres is now taking his fighting spirit directly to Santos, who he has accused of defrauding the voters he will soon represent.
“He has lied systematically about nearly every aspect of his life — his family heritage, his educational background, his employment history and his ties to historical events like the Holocaust or the Pulse nightclub massacre,” Torres told MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart last week. “We have to send the message that if you defraud the voters, you’re going to be held accountable, you’re going to be even prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to Santos’ campaign website — which has since been redacted — Santos graduated from Baruch College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance, but the Times and NBC New York confirmed with Baruch officials that they could not find records of his attendance. Santos also claimed to work for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, but representatives from the firms told The Times they had no record of his employment.
After tweeting out a statement from his attorney on Dec. 19, which accused the Times of “attempting to smear his good name” with “defamatory allegations,” Santos later admitted that he did not graduate from Baruch or actually work for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup.
Federal prosecutors in New York opened an investigation into Santos last month, two law enforcement sources confirmed last week. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney for Eastern New York previously declined to comment on the investigation, but the two sources confirmed that prosecutors are investigating Santos’ financial disclosures and whether donations he made to his campaign violated campaign finance laws.
The New York attorney general’s office also said that it is “looking into a number of issues“ surrounding Santos but did not confirm whether it had launched an official investigation. Simultaneously, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office has also confirmed that it has opened an investigation into Santos.
Torres himself has proposed ways of holding Santos and other lawmakers accountable.
Last week, he introduced the Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker Act, or the “SANTOS” Act, which would require candidates to disclose under oath their employment, educational and military histories.
Torres said Thursday that he is confident the legislation would get "overwhelming" support from House Democrats.
"What is the possible argument against requiring candidates to tell the truth to voters?"