George Santos Gets Into Fight With Mitt Romney at State of the Union Debut

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(Bloomberg) -- Embattled GOP Representative George Santos showed up early to claim a coveted aisle seat that was well-placed for a chance to shake President Joe Biden’s hand at the State of the Union address, but instead he ended up sparring with Republican Senator Mitt Romney.

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Lawmakers typically jostle to shake the president’s hand as he enters and leaves down the center aisle of the chamber. Santos’s perch could have allowed the New York Republican who has become infamous for fabricating his resume, to come face-to-face with Biden. The glad-handing president ultimately bypassed him.

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But moments before the speech, Santos got into it with Romney, the GOP standard-bearer in the 2012 election. The Utah Republican confirmed to reporters that he told Santos he didn’t belong there. He took issue with Santos’s prime spot, saying he should have sat in the back of the room and stayed quiet because of the controversies swirling around him.

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

Santos shot back at Romney on Twitter, saying he’d never be president.

Santos persisted in stoking the rancor on Wednesday, telling reporters at the Capitol according to an ABC video of the encounter that it was “reprehensible” for Romney to speak in such a demeaning way to him, adding that, “It wasn’t very Mormon of him.”

Romney is a member of the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was among the chief Republican critics of Trump.

For Biden’s speech, Santos, dressed in a suit and orange tie, sat near conservative Republicans, including Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida and Thomas Massie of Kentucky on the GOP side of the chamber. Earlier in the day, dozens of protesters who said they were from his district, came to the Capitol to demand that Santos resign.

According to a recent poll, a commanding majority of voters in his district covering parts of Long Island and the New York City borough of Queens think he should step down. He’s being investigated by US and Brazilian authorities, and complaints have been filed to the Federal Election Commission and House Ethics Committee.

--With assistance from Zach C. Cohen.

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