Embattled Republican congressman George Santos faced criticism after he appeared to flash a white supremacist symbol while casting his vote on the House floor.
The newly sworn-in New York lawmaker made the gesture as he stood to cast his vote for representative Kevin McCarthy on Thursday (5 January) during the 10th round of votes for the speaker of the House.
While casting his right hand to vote for McCarthy, Santos made a sideways ‘OK’ hand gesture with his left hand.
Santos then spun around before walking towards the back of the chamber.
The ‘OK’ hand gesture was co-opted by white supremacists because of its resemblance to the letters ‘WP’, for “white power”, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The Anti-Defamation League reported the gesture was first adopted by right-wing trolls as a hate symbol in 2017, and white supremacists began using it in 2019.
The gesture gained further notoriety as a hate symbol after white supremacist Brenton Tarrant flashed the symbol during a 2019 courtroom appearance after his arrest in a shooting spree at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that left 51 people dead.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) also categorised the gesture as a symbol adopted by hateful groups. The SPLC noted it has been “particularly prominent among far-right street protesters such as the Proud Boys and the Northwest-based Patriot Prayer”.
New York senator Anna M Kaplan called for Santos to resign “immediately” and said it was “truly sick” to see Santos use the hateful gesture while casting his vote.
“This is truly sick – the fraud about to become our Congressman made a “white power” hand gesture today in Congress as he cast his vote for speaker of the House,” Kaplan wrote.
“Hate is a sickness that I refuse to let infect our community. George Santos needs to resign immediately!”
Several people on social media recognised the symbol and denounced George Santos.
Santos, who previously admitted to lying about his education and work history, has been keeping a low profile during his time in Washington DC and has not publicly commented on the feature.
Santos was sworn into the House early Saturday (7 Saturday) despite calls for him to resign. During the numerous speaker votes, Santos was seen sitting by himself and was, on at least one occasion, seen buddying up to anti-LGBTQ+ representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Santos was elected in November to represent a New York district covering part of Queens and Long Island. He is the first openly LGBTQ+ Republican to be elected to congress.
George Santos faced intense scrutiny after The New York Times published a damning investigation in December, indicating much of his resume appeared to be false.
This included claims he was previously employed by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, had degrees from higher educational institutions and that he owned numerous properties. It also raised questions about how he funded his electoral campaign.
There have been repeated calls for Republican representative George Santos to resign. (Getty)
In numerous media appearances since, Santos acknowledged but downplayed his lies. He told the New York Post that his “sins” are “embellishing [his] resume”.
Santos admitted he didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning or work directly for either Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. He also said he “never claimed to be Jewish” but instead said he was “Jew-ish”.
Santos faced a new wave of allegations about more alleged lies about his family background.
A New York Times report, published on 1 January, detailed how Santos claimed his mother was the “first female executive at a major financial institution”. However, friends told the Times she was a cook.
He claimed that “9/11 claimed my mother’s life”, but according to researchers, she actually died in 2016 due to complications unrelated to the 2011 terrorist attacks.
George Santos is currently being investigated by federal and state officials for misleading his constituents. Authorities vowed to look into his finances and inconsistencies to see if they could be clarified as criminal.
Santos is also the subject of a reopened criminal fraud case in Brazil.