George Santos next to the state of New York and a line of migrants crossing in the background

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Instead of blaming the GOP’s failure to compromise on immigration for special election loss, right-wing pundits pine for George Santos

Conservatives slam Republican leadership for expelling the indicted fraudster, even though they helped kill a bipartisan immigration deal that may have affected the election

Conservative media figures are expressing regret for the expulsion of disgraced former Rep. George Santos (R-NY) following the Democratic victory in last night’s special election to fill his seat. Many of them are blaming Republican congressional leadership and GOP institutions for creating an opening for Democrats to retake a seat in the U.S. House by allowing Santos to be expelled, ignoring political reporting that immigration was a key issue in the race after right-wing media and former President Donald Trump helped the GOP sink a bipartisan immigration deal just a week prior to the election.

  • A Democrat won the special election for Santos’ House seat

    • Democrat Tom Suozzi won the New York special election to fill the seat left vacant after Santos was expelled from the House. From The Associated Press: “Suozzi defeated Republican Mazi Pilip to take the seat that was left vacant when George Santos, also a Republican, was expelled from Congress. The victory marks a return to Washington for Suozzi, who represented the district for three terms before giving it up to run, unsuccessfully, for governor.” [The Associated Press, 2/14/24]
    • Congress voted on December 1, 2023, to expel Santos — who faces multiple criminal charges — in a bipartisan 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 federal indictment and a Justice Department investigation into the allegations — which include misusing 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]
  • Immigration was a key issue in the special election, and right-wing media just pushed the GOP to sink a bipartisan immigration bill

    • The New York Times reported that Suozzi “went on the attack” when his opponent “condemned a bipartisan Senate deal that included stiff border security provisions that conservatives had demanded.” [The New York Times, 2/13/24]
    • Analyzing the special election’s aftermath, The Washington Post noted, “The GOP’s immigration focus didn’t work” — in part because Suozzi supported immigration reforms while his opponent “echoed GOP attacks” against “the bipartisan Senate deal that Republicans ultimately torpedoed last week.” [The Washington Post, 2/13/24]
    • The Hill: Suozzi’s opponent “centered much of her campaign messaging around immigration as the issue received widespread attention both nationwide and in the district.” The Hill reported that polling found the district’s voters “considered immigration more important than any other issue.” [The Hill, 2/14/24]
    • Conservative media pushed multiple myths about immigration and a bipartisan Senate bill to convince Republicans to kill it. After relentless opposition from conservative media, former President Donald Trump, and House Republicans, GOP senators on February 7 blocked a compromise bill that extracted major immigration policy concessions from Democrats in exchange for security aid for Ukraine and other U.S. allies. In the days and weeks leading up to the bill’s defeat, conservative media pushed multiple myths about the border deal to stir up enough opposition to block it — even though the bill itself was negotiated by conservative Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). [Media Matters, 2/12/24]
    • Conservative media attacked GOP supporters of the bipartisan bill. After the bill’s text was released, right-wing media suggested that supportive lawmakers were betraying their party and constituents. Weeks before the bill was finished, however, right-wing media were already threatening to oust Republicans who worked on the deal. [Media Matters, 2/7/24, 1/19/24]
  • Following the Democratic victory, conservatives criticized Republicans for allowing the expulsion of Santos

    • NewsBusters Executive Editor Tim Graham: “If I were a pol, I would have voted against dumping” Santos. Graham wrote “Santos didn't deserve the seat, but the majority is paper-thin” to justify keeping Santos in the House. [Twitter/X, 2/14/24]
    • National Review senior writer Dan McLaughlin: “I still think the House - both parties - will live to regret breaking longstanding norms to expel Santos.” McLaughlin also criticized the House GOP leadership’s “choice to put a reputation for ethical standards above the party's immediate self-interest.” [Twitter/X, 2/13/24]
    • Conservative talk radio host Bo Snerdley: “Congrats to the Republican Party Republicans threw out Santos and got a Democrat.” [Twitter/X, 2/13/24]
    • Conservative Substack author @amuse: “Unforced Error: The GOP should have allowed Santos to have his day in court before expelling him. We barely could push through an impeachment today - now that he’s been replaced by a Democrat we’d lose that vote tomorrow.” [Twitter/X, 2/13/24]
    • Right-wing online show host Benny Johnson: “The outcome of expelling George Santos: Democrats gain a seat. Republicans are useless and are addicted to losing.” [Twitter/X, 2/13/24]
    • Students for Trump founder Ryan Fournier: “They removed George Santos and a Democrat takes the seat. Pathetic.” Fournier added in a follow-up post, “GUT THE RNC.” [Twitter/X, 2/13/24, 2/13/24]
    • Daily Wire host Michael Knowles: “We kicked George Santos out of Congress for some reason and, you’re going to be shocked to hear it, a Democrat won his seat.” Knowles complained that “we kicked out a Republican congressman because he’s a weirdo” and, after going off on a racist tangent against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), said: “You’re going to give up potentially a razor-thin Republican majority — for what? To stand on the principles that no one applies?” [The Daily Wire, The Michael Knowles Show, 2/14/24]
    • Fox & Friends host Lawrence Jones: “The real problem, guys, is, why did they give up the seat to begin with?” Jones added: “I understand people have criticism, rightfully, of George Santos. But you should allow the voters to decide. Instead, the Democrats stay together again, and Republicans voted to get rid of one of their members. Great job, now you’ve lost the seat, and you can't get anything passed.” Jones’ co-hosts followed up by explaining that Santos was a fraud and the ethics report on him was damning. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/14/24]