Rep. George Santos of New York and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah had a tense exchange moments before the State of the Union address in which Romney told Santos that he didn’t belong in the Capitol.
Romney walked into the House chamber Tuesday night with other senators to take his seat ahead of the speech as Santos stood alongside the aisle near his own seat.
“I didn’t expect him to be standing there trying to shake hands with every senator and the president of the United States,” Romney told reporters after the speech. “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 the people coming into the room.”
“He shouldn’t be in Congress,” Romney added. “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.”
Romney said he confronted Santos because “he was standing right there on the aisle shaking hands with everybody.”
Romney said he did not hear what Santos said back to him.
A source familiar with the exchange told CBS News that Romney told Santos, “You ought to be embarrassed.” Santos called Romney an “a**hole” in return, the source said.
“He says … he embellished his record,” Romney said. “Look embellishing is saying you got an A when you got an A minus. Lying is saying you graduated from college you didn’t even attend.”
After the speech, Santos tweeted to Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, “just a reminder that you will NEVER be PRESIDENT!”
On Wednesday, Santos made a dig at Romney’s faith, telling reporters that the senator’s behavior “wasn’t very Mormon of him,” alleging that he was told to “shut up and go to the back of the room.”
“And I’m never going to shut up and go to the back of the room. I think it’s reprehensible that the senator would say such a thing to me in a demeaning way,” Santos said.
Santos is facing a list of controversies fueled by revelations that he fabricated parts of his life.
New York State and federal prosecutors have announced investigations related to him, and he is the target of complaints to the Federal Election Commission over campaign spending and the House Ethics Committee. The FBI is looking into his alleged role in raising funds for a veteran’s dying dog, according to a representative for the veteran, while Santos denies the allegations. He’s also been accused of sexual harassment by someone who briefly worked for him. Santos denies those allegations as well.
Alan He, Jacqueline Kalil and Ed O’Keefe contributed reporting.