(L-R) George Santos, Rashida Tlaib, Alejandro Mayorkas and, Jamaal Bowman

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Right-wing media push to weaponize expulsion against Democrats after Congress expels Rep. George Santos

Right-wing media demand retribution after “spineless Republicans” vote to oust Santos

After Congress voted to expel Rep. George Santos (R-NY) over a litany of ethics violations, right-wing media have begun campaigning against Democratic figures they want expelled or impeached next. In order to justify calling for the expulsion of Democrats, right-wing media figures revived smear campaigns against various Democratic representatives and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

  • Following House ethics report, Santos became the sixth member of Congress to be expelled from the chamber in history

    • Congress voted on December 1 to expel Santos in a 311-114 vote over campaign finance violations, fraudulent schemes, and blatant lies outlined in a House Ethics Committee report. The first-term GOP representative, who announced he would not seek reelection following the report, is also facing a 23-count indictment from the Eastern District of New York and a Justice Department investigation into the allegations – which include using campaign funds to pay for Botox and OnlyFans, “a subscription-based website where people sell adult content." [The Associated Press, 12/1/23; CBS, 11/16/23; CNN, 11/16/23]
  • In the aftermath of Santos’ expulsion, right-wing media revived racist attacks on Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to call for their expulsion

    • Right-wing media have a history of Islamophobic attacks on Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Their recent smear campaign against the two most high-profile Muslim representatives in Congress centers on the representatives’ statements of support for Palestinian civilians, many of whom have been killed in the 2023 Israel-Hamas conflict, which right-wing media have conflated with support for Hamas. Pundits have called Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, a “terrorist sympathizer” and highlighted the House censuring her pro-Palestinian comments, and called Omar an “active threat to the U.S.” [Media Matters, 10/13/23, 2/4/21, 7/10/19; The Associated Press, 11/8/23]
    • Fox News host Mark Levin called on Congress to oust Tlaib, calling her a “threat to liberty, to humanity.” Levin reacted to the news of Santos’ expulsion on his radio show: “Tell me, which is a greater threat to the American people, which is a greater threat to liberty, to humanity – this guy Santos, who sounds like and looks like a schmuck, or Rashida Tlaib, the special player for Middle East terrorists?” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 12/1/23]
    • The Federalist co-founder Sean Davis said “Ilhan Omar should be deported, Rashida Tlaib should be in Gitmo” while attacking the “utterly useless Republican party” for ousting Santos. Davis also said “Eric Swalwell should be in Leavenworth,” a military prison, and called House Republicans “a bunch of worthless clowns.” [Twitter/X, 12/1/23]
    • Fox News host and former Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany suggested Congress should have expelled Tlaib for her comments supporting Palestinians. McEnany said, “Is it worse to be a liar or someone who sympathizes and perpetuates terrorist talking points, which is what Rashida Tlaib does? You’re going to do this to a liar, George Santos, why not Rashida Tlaib, who tweets out 'from the river to the sea,' and I would argue advocates for genocide.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 12/1/23
    • Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity complained that Santos was expelled while Tlaib was only censured for her pro-Palestine comments. “I don't even know what to say about this issue involving George Santos. He hasn't been convicted," Hannity said on his radio show. “What I don’t understand about Republicans is if Congresswoman Tlaib called, you know, 'from the river to the sea,' the absolute wiping out of Israel, and only gets a censure, how is it a guy that’s not been convicted of anything. … The Republicans have to race out there and say nope, we’re going to kick him out when they only have a four seat majority?” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 12/1/23]
    • Newsmax host Chris Plante called Tlaib and Omar “genocidal antisemites” and called for their expulsion from Congress, along with numerous other Democrats. Plante complained, “This is the problem with Republicans. I guess they're not in lockstep on anything. How about Adam Schiff, expel him maybe? For his pathological lying. Eric Swalwell, where to begin? Fang Fang maybe? Jamaal Bowman, you know, pulling the fire alarm to interrupt the vote? Rashida Talib, Ilhan Omar, genocidal antisemites.” [Newsmax, The Right Squad, 12/1/23]
  • Right-wing pundits targeted Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Eric Swalwell, and Adam Schiff for expulsion as well

    • Right-wing media reignited their previous calls to investigate and expel Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Adam Schiff (D-CA) over heavily dramatized scandals. Conservative media demanded Bowman’s resignation after he pulled a fire alarm in the House office building, which he said was a mistake, and they demanded that Swalwell resign after an Axios report revealed he was targeted by a Chinese intelligence operation. Right-wing media also called to remove Schiff for criticizing and investigating former President Donald Trump. Finally, conservative pundits promoted the fact that both Bowman and Schiff were censured by the Republican-led House. [Media Matters, 10/26/23, 10/1/23, 12/11/20, 1/24/20, 1/27/20; Axios 12/8/20; The New York Times, 6/21/23, 12/7/23]
    • Following an interview with Santos, Newsmax host Greg Kelly argued for the expulsion of Bowman for pulling a fire alarm and called him a “terrorist sympathizer.” He claimed Bowman “doesn’t know how to be a congressman, he just knows how to yell and scream and, yeah, pull the smoke alarm.” Kelly then criticized Bowman for criticizing Israel, stating, “He’s a terrorist sympathizer as well.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 12/1/23]
    • Libs of TikTok owner Chaya Raichik complained, “They won’t expel Swalwell, Schiff, Omar, Tlaib, Bowman for actual treason but they’ll expel Santos. This is why we lose. I’m so sick of cowardly and spineless Republicans!!!!” Raichik tweeted another attack from Libs of TikTok’s account, which listed out specific allegations against Swalwell, Schiff, and Bowman. [Twitter/X, 12/1/23, 12/1/23]
    • Fox contributor and former GOP House member Jason Chaffetz asked if an ethics report “is the standard” for expelling a member of Congress, questioning, “How come they’re not having this vote on Adam Schiff or Eric Swalwell?” Chaffetz claimed Schiff and Swalwell misrepresented classified information while serving on the House Intelligence Committee yet “nothing happened to them” and called on Congress to “have a same standard.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 12/1/23]
    • Hannity questioned why Congress expelled Santos “but Congresswoman Tlaib stays or Bowman, who pulled the fire alarm, stays, or any of these other people stay?” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/29/23]
    • Right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool also called for Bowman’s expulsion. Pool tweeted, “Wow crazy. Is Jamaal Bowman getting expelled next for those crimes he committed?” [Twitter/X, 12/1/23]
    • Newsmax host Eric Bolling bemoaned that despite “sleeping with a Chinese spy,” Swalwell “is still in his seat.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance, 12/1/23]
  • Right-wing media renewed calls to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the Biden administration’s border policies

    • Conservative media personalities renewed calls to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of immigration at the southern border. The right-wing campaign to impeach the Homeland Security head centers around accusations that Mayorkas hasn’t been tough enough on immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border. Conservative media have expressed anger that the vote to impeach Mayorkas was paused prior to the expulsion of Santos. [Reuters, 11/14/23; Media Matters, 11/4/22, 9/27/23]
    • Fox host Rachel Campos-Duffy complained that Santos was expelled before Mayorkas was impeached. In an interview with Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Campos-Duffy stated, “It just seems like the lies from Mayorkas are hurting the country a lot more than the lies from George Santos,” after Gimenez assured her Congress “will bring findings of impeachment, articles of impeachment against Secretary Mayorkas.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 12/3/23]
    • Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk attacked House Republicans for expelling Santos “because of Only Fans and Botox” instead of impeaching Mayorkas. After listing other targets he believed Republicans should have gone after, including Ilhan Omar, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Bob Menendez, and Adam Schiff, Kirk concluded, “Everyone of these cowards who voted to expel Santos should get an immediate audit from the Ethics Committee into their personal lives. All voters want is a GOP that fights as hard as everyday citizens do.” [Twitter/X, 12/1/23
    • Newsmax host Sharla McBride also griped that Republicans had expelled Santos before impeaching Mayorkas. McBride reacted to the vote, saying, “Some are noting they haven't tackled weaponization, impeached Mayorkas, but here we go, expelling Santos.” [Newsmax, Newsline, 12/1/23]