‘the Queen of New York:’ DC Young Republicans Host George Santos

  • George Santos, facing down several investigations, has been abandoned by the rest of the GOP.
  • But on Wednesday, Santos received a warm reception at a DC happy hour for young conservatives.
  • “I’m not going anywhere,” the scandal-plagued congressman told the group to raucous applause.

On Wednesday evening, in the back room of a bar just south of Dupont Circle, Rep. George Santos was encouraging a flock of young conservatives to run for office.

“Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not your turn to go to Congress,” said the scandal-plagued New York Republican during what he claimed to be his first speaking engagement in the nation’s capital. “I didn’t wait my goddamn turn. I never served in a single local elected position.”

Unmentioned, at least at that moment, was the long list of lies that Santos told to win voters’ trust — or the fact that he and his campaign remain the subject of investigations by the House Ethics Committee, the Department of Justice, the New York State Attorney General, and the Nassau County District Attorney.

Fresh off of announcing a re-election bid in New York’s Third Congressional District, Santos also did not mention to attendees that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who almost always supports his members’ re-election campaigns, laughed when asked if he would do the same for Santos.

But he was still a star for the Washington, DC Young Republicans, a group that was taken over just a month ago by a cadre of self-described “ultra MAGA” young conservatives who emphatically align themselves with former President Donald Trump. 

Isaac Smith, the group’s events chair, introduced the congressman as the “Queen of New York.”

“Keep fighting for what you think is best, and for what you believe in,” said Santos after speaking for less than 10 minutes. “With that, all I’ll say is: I’m not going anywhere.”

“You’re gonna have to drag my dead, cold body out of this institution,” he added, nearly drowned out by raucous applause before immediately leaving the venue.

‘The best record in the whole New York delegation’

Rejected by his fellow New York Republicans in Congress, shunned by local GOP party officials, and registering at just 7% approval in his own district, young, highly-online conservatives like the ones gathered on Wednesday night may be the only thing resembling a constituency that Santos has left.

Asked why they’re holding an event with him, members of the club’s leadership pointed to the way he votes, one of the few things he’s able to do as an isolated legislator. Perhaps owing to his precarious political standing, Santos has yet to break from party leadership on any major votes, contrasting with other New York Republicans who won Democratic-leaning districts last year.

“George has the best record — at least from our standpoint, as America First patriots — in the whole New York delegation,” said Kingsley Cortes, the group’s national committeewoman who works as a digital staffer at the Center for Renewing America, a right-wing think tank. “We’ve never cared what Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, all those DC swamp-lifers think.”

“We are open to having any and all Republicans join our event who are willing to come speak with us — if they are not a RINO,” said Joel Valdez, the group’s press secretary. “Santos has had, among the New York delegation, a consistently conservative voting record, and we’re pretty pleased and surprised by that.”

“There’s a lot of liars and losers in this town,” Valdez, who’s also the communications director for Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, added. “We kind of appreciate that he was able to come clean.”

Ask attendees about Santos’ unprecedented fabrications about himself, and you’re likely to hear the familiar whataboutisms that abounded on cable news when the New York congressman was first discovered to be a serial fabulist in December. Democrats, as attendees put it, lie all the time. 

What about Sen. Richard Blumenthal claiming to have served in Vietnam? What about Sen. Elizabeth Warren claiming Native American heritage? Is “Corn Pop” even a real person? At least George Santos is honest, they say, about the fact that he lied.

“At least the alleged lies that he’s told seem a lot more bombastic,” said one attendee who insisted on anonymity. “If you’re gonna lie, lie all the way.”

“If he’s able to do the job, then I believe that he has a future,” said Smith, the group’s events chair. “If he doesn’t, well, I’m sure he will make a wonderful radio personality in New York City.”

Attendees mill around before Rep. Santos' arrival.

Attendees mill around before Rep. Santos’ arrival.

Courtesy/Washington, DC Young Republicans

On a deeper level, inviting Santos was a provocative gesture, one that would draw interest from a crowd of people who have fully embraced the circus-like nature of Trump-era politics, and whose main litmus test when evaluating candidates is whether or not they’re a RINO — a “Republican in Name Only.”

“I probably wouldn’t vote for him, personally,” said Kamal, an attendee who declined to provide his last name who works in sales. “But it’s still interesting to show up to an event, and talk to him, and see what the deal is, you know what I mean?”

“We just want to have a lot of fun,” said Cortes, speaking about the club as a whole. “It’s very important in DC. We all have jobs that are stressful, and we want to just, you know, blow off some steam.”

‘All of you have made mistakes’

In his address brief address to attendees, Santos struck a largely defiant tone.

He thanked his staff, which remains unusually small in number for a typical member of Congress, for being “unwavering” in standing by him despite the revelations. And he pointed out that he won his Long Island district by a significant margin in November. 

“So yeah, Biden +10 seat. I don’t care,” he said. “It’s a George Santos +8.5 seat.”

Then he addressed his particularly impressive history of lying.

“I’ve made mistakes. All of you have made mistakes. If you guys look inside of each other — of yourselves — and think, I mean, I don’t think there’s a single person here that’s perfect,” he said. “Maybe Ginger Gaetz, if she’s here. Is she here tonight?”

Ginger Gaetz, the wife of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, was not in attendance.

“What we need to do is be ready to hold yourself accountable for your mistakes, and you need to recognize your mistakes, and you need to accept your mistakes, and own up to them, and, and — admit them, right?” he continued. “The truth will set you free. True statement. Very good feeling, especially when it’s Tulsi Gabbard on the receiving end.”

(The former Democratic congresswoman and substitute Fox News host happened to be the first person to give Santos a tough interview after he began to cop to his lies in December).

Santos had arrived at the event about an hour after voting for the GOP’s debt ceiling bill — despite making some noise this week about maybe not being willing to support it. He had even proposed an amendment to the bill that would toughen work requirements for social safety net programs, despite his own spotty employment history.

“It’s not theatrics,” he insisted to the crowd, indicating his vote had been won by “minor adjustments” made by House leadership. “It’s just a tough vote to take.”

Despite the triumphant attitude on display on Wednesday, Santos’ political career is likely doomed.

In the last three months, he raised a net-negative amount of money. None of the 11 bills that he’s introduced so far have garnered any co-sponsors — a basic element of pushing forward any piece of legislation. He does not sit on any House committees, further preventing him from representing his district’s interests in the legislative process. He’s sure to face a well-funded primary challenger backed by the local party — and an even better-funded general election opponent if manages to win the primary.

But in the insular world of right-wing media and social circles, the scandal-plagued congressman may have earned himself a spot, for now.

“I’m hoping, for the sake of the country, that other congressmen will be able to work with him,” said Valdez. “If he’s effective, that’s great for the country.”

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