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Congressman-elect George Santos admits lying about education, work experience, but vows to be sworn in

George Santos apologizes for lying about his past
George Santos apologizes for lying about his past 02:29

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- The calls are intensifying for Congressman-elect George Santos to step down after he admitted to lying on his résumé.

The Long Island Republican turned the blue district red.

And in the face of questions about campaign fraud and deception, on Tuesday afternoon his campaign told CBS2 he still has every intention of being sworn in next week.

READ MORECongressman-elect George Santos admits to lying about his education and work experience

Santos said he's sorry he "embellished" his résumé, but he believes he still deserves to serve the voters of Long Island and northeast Queens who elected him.

Last week, the New York Times reported that the 34-year-old Republican falsely claimed he graduated from Baruch College, that he is the descendant of a Holocaust survivor, and that had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

"If I was trying to defraud the people like everyone is saying, I could have listed bigger names," Santos said.

In a Fox News interview Tuesday night, he said he is "not a fraud" and "not fake."

"I made a mistake, and I think humans are flawed and we all make mistakes," he said. "In order to move past this and move forward and be an effective member of Congress, I have to face my mistakes."

But when the interviewer, former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, asked Santos if he had no shame, he quickly tried to deflect.

"I can say the same thing about the Democrats and the party. Look at Joe Biden. Joe Biden's been lying to the American people," he said.

Watch Tim McNicholas' report

Congressman-elect George Santos says he's "not a fraud" 02:33

Democrats on Long Island -- and beyond -- are calling for Santos to step down.

"There is a very real possibility that George Santos committed financial crimes. In 2020, he reported an income of $55,000, yet two years later he's wealthy enough to contribute $700,000 to his campaign?" Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan said.

READ MORECalls rise for federal investigation into Congressman-elect George Santos' alleged fraudulent behavior

"George Santos is a pathological liar who defrauded the voters of New York state. He should be held accountable," Rep. Ritchie Torres said. "I have trouble believing he legitimately lent his campaign 94% of his salary. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and there needs to be an investigation."

Santos still has not addressed how exactly his wealth has skyrocketed in the past several years by "consulting," but did say it allowed him to give a large amount of money to his congressional campaign.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, a rep for Santos said, in part, "As a millennial, George did what he had to in order to evade smear campaigns put forth by elitist organizations like the New York Times. Santos is wholeheartedly ready to claim the decisive victory he earned in Congress and be the voice of New York's 3rd District."

READ MORECalls grow for Congressman-elect George Santos to resign after allegedly lying about his background

Joseph Cairo Jr., the chair of the Nassau County Republican Committee, expressed disappointment, including the Holocaust claim, but is standing with Santos, saying, in part, "I expected more than just a blanket apology. Residents want him to deliver tax relief and pass laws that will make our neighborhoods and nation safer. What's more, George Santos will have to continually prove that he has learned his lesson."

Long Islanders that spoke to CBS2 disagree.

"I think people like him are a detriment to our society," said Tom Zamroz of Levittown.

"Resign. You're not qualified do not take the seat," said Lisa Marolachakis-Kines of Glen Cove.

"It's ridiculous he can get away with that. There's no consequences for your actions anymore," added Jordan Sepulveda of Bethpage.

Exclusive Video: George Santos Tells-All [Political Personalities with Skye] by City & State on YouTube

CBS2 reached out to Republican leadership in the House, but did not immediately hear back.

So what disciplinary action could Santos face by the House or law enforcement, and what does one of Long Island's most powerful Republicans, former Rep. Peter King, have to say?

When asked if Santos should resign, King said by phone, "No, he was elected and, again, it's a bad precedent to set to resign. Then you'd have every election to be re-examined 'Was this accurate? Was that inaccurate?'"

"Now, obviously, he went beyond almost anything anyone has done before, but it's not a crime. You should be sworn in, but after that there should be an immediate investigation," King added.

Bipartisan Facts First is calling on Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to not allow Congressman Santos to vote in the speaker's race or hold committee seats until the Ethics Committee investigates his background.

McCarthy has not responded to CBS2's requests for comment.

"One of the few reasons why Kevin McCarthy and the Washington Republicans would not want to take what would be some pretty bold action and not letting Santos be seated is because they have such a narrow majority. At the same time, they are going to be going after a lot of Democrats and it could be they would see Santos as someone to throw under the proverbial bus, so they could seem less partisan," said Lawrence Levy, the executive dean of Hofstra University's National Center for Urban Studies.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has said she's looking into the situation, but political experts say it's a gray area.

"There are very few rules about what candidates can and can't say during the course of an election," said Michael Thorning of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The Republican Jewish Coalition said, "We are very disappointed in Congressman-elect Santos. He deceived us and misrepresented his heritage in public comments and to us, personally, he previously claimed to be Jewish. He has begun his tenure in Congress on a very wrong note. He will not be welcome at any future RJC event."

On Fox News, Santos tried to defend what he said.

"My heritage is Jewish, I've always identified as Jewish. I was raised a practicing Catholic. I think I've gone through this," he said.

Another news outlet, the Jewish American news site "The Forward," questioned Santos' claim his grandparent survived the Holocaust. It said records appear to show his grandparents were born in Brazil.

As for the claim that he worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, Santos tried to explain that, too, claiming he worked indirectly with the firms while employed by another company.

"We can debate my résumé and how I worked with firms such Goldman and Citigroup all night long," he said.

"Is it debatable or is it just false?" Gabbard asked.

"No, it's not false at all. It's debatable," Santos said.

According to the New York Times, however, his website didn't say he worked indirectly with Citigroup; it falsely said he was an "associate asset manager" in their real estate division.

CBS2's Tim McNicholas reached out to Santos to request an interview, and he directed us to his public relations team. We have not heard back.

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