Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) grabbed an aisle seat for Tuesday's...

Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) grabbed an aisle seat for Tuesday's State of the Union address. Credit: The Washington Post / Jonathan Newton

WASHINGTON — With a bright orange tie and a prominent perch in the House chamber, Rep. George Santos sought the spotlight at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, but Republican elder statesman Sen. Mitt Romney told him he didn't belong there.

Santos (R-Nassau/Queens), who has admitted fabricating his education and work history and faces multiple investigations, arrived early to take a prominent seat on the aisle for the entrance of President Joe Biden into the chamber.

That seat put him in position to shake Biden's hand when the president walked into the chamber to deliver his speech.

Santos joked with hard-line conservative GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Tim Burchett of Tennessee and Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa as they waited for senators, Cabinet members and the president to come down the aisle.

Critics of Santos from both parties complained about his location in tweets and texts.

“George Santos is embarrassingly standing on the aisle during the State of the Union, waiting to shake President Biden’s hand. Santos has no shame,” tweeted Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), who has filed a complaint against Santos with the House Ethics Committee.

Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) texted Newsday: “George Santos is embarrassingly standing on the aisle during the State of the Union, waiting to shake President Biden’s hand.”

As the first senators began filing into the chamber, some of them shook Santos’ hand.

Then Romney walked in.

The former governor of Massachusetts, 2012 Republican presidential candidate and now second-term senator from Utah had stern words for Santos.

“You don’t belong here,” Romney told Santos, according to a House member who witnessed the tense exchange, CNN reported.

Santos and Romney exchanged words. After Romney moved on, Santos backed away from the aisle. He later moved back to his chair, but did not try to shake hands with anyone else, including the president.

Santos took a shot at Romney in a tweet that he has since taken down: “Hey @MittRomney just a reminder that you will NEVER be PRESIDENT!”

When Biden entered the chamber, he shook hands with Burchett, Gaetz and Miller-Meeks, but after a quick glance at Santos, he walked ahead.

Afterward, Romney told reporters outside the House chamber he didn’t recall exactly the exchange he had with Santos.

“I didn't expect that he'd be standing there trying to shake hands with every senator and the president of the United States,” Romney said.

“Given the fact that he's under ethics investigation, he should be sitting in the back row and staying quiet instead of parading in front of the president and people coming into the room,” he added.

Romney said he was disappointed that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has not called on Santos to resign, and is instead waiting for the House Ethics Committee to investigate and take action.

“He says he, you know, that he embellished his record. Look, embellishing is saying you got an A when you got an A-minus,” Romney said of McCarthy. “Lying is saying you graduated from a college that you didn’t even attend and he shouldn’t be in Congress.”

Romney continued: “And they’re going to go through the process and hopefully get him out. … But he shouldn’t be there and if he had any shame at all, he wouldn’t be there.”

Santos complained to reporters Wednesday about Romney’s scolding.

"It's not the first time in history that I've been told to shut up and go to the back of the room, especially by people who come from a privileged background,” Santos said.

“It's not going to be the last and I'm never going to shut up and stay in the back of the room and I think it's reprehensible that the senator would say such a thing to me,” Santos said.

“It wasn’t very Mormon-like," he said, referring to Romney's faith.



 


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