Columnist George Bernard commentates on the saga of George Santos.
BY GEORGE BERNARD ’23
Every now and then, I come across a story that is so absurd that it makes me double-check that I’m not reading The Onion. Usually the headline begins with “Florida man,” but over the past few weeks the story of George Santos has gone from an absurd story to laugh at to pitiful and deplorable.
The saga started when the New York Times reported on Dec. 19 that much of his résumé may be fabricated. They reported that “officials at Baruch College, which Mr. Santos has said he graduated from in 2010, could find no record of anyone matching his name and date of birth graduating that year” and furthermore stated “Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, the marquee Wall Street firms on Mr. Santos’s campaign biography, told The Times they had no record of his ever working there”. N.Y.U. also said they have no record of Santos, who claimed to receive a MBA in International Business in 2013.
They further revealed Brazilian court records that indicate that Santos admitted to and was charged for stealing a checkbook and making fraudulent purchases. He was not tried or convicted, although prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro have stated their intent to revive the case.
Then the bombshell dropped. Vice reported on Jan. 19 that Santos had repeatedly performed in drag in his early 20s. Then it was revealed that Santos lied that his mother was on ground zero during 9/11, when in fact, she lived in Brazil at the time. Next, it came out that his grandparents were not Holocaust refugees as he claimed, they were Catholics who lived in Brazil. He lied about being Jewish, and also claimed to be openly gay for over a decade, when in fact, he was married to a woman until 2019.
The emperor has no clothes. The facade came crashing down spectacularly.
All of this occurred while a similarly scandalous story was developing on the other side of the aisle. With the familiar drip, drip, drip of increasingly damning pieces of information of the Santos story, the compounding story of classified documents being discovered at President Biden’s personal residence in Delaware and his former office in D.C. has caused serious reputational harm to the President. I think there are two significant pieces of information in the story so far. One, that the first documents were discovered six days before the midterm elections but the public was not informed until January, and two, that at least one document was from when Biden was a senator, meaning that he had it at a minimum of 13 years.
I agree with many commentators that Biden and his legal team have acted responsibly, something that cannot be said of former President Trump, and that Biden is nowhere close to being a serial liar like Santos, however, looking at the timeline of events, the whole thing reeks of dishonesty until the press started covering it.
This leads me to the important part of this piece, the normalization of dishonesty and outright lying in politics is possibly our largest domestic threat. For two centuries, our government relied on the premise that public officials were honest in their positions. That is no longer true. Mitch McConnell and many other republicans seem to have no issue with their complete hypocrisy over Supreme Court nominations in an election year. Democrats have turned a blind eye to insider trading in early 2020 by Dianne Feinstein and others that allowed them to make millions using information not available to the public.
The partisanship that has entrenched itself in Washington has caused much of this. As a result of the slim margins of elections, both parties have resorted to bashing the other while ignoring their own flaws. It appears that party leadership views owning up to their problems as a sign of weakness that will lose them votes.
They are dead wrong.
The American people crave someone who truly represents them. They are fed up with career politicians who are perceived as out of touch with most people, and they disdain the obvious corruption in Washington. The anti-establishment voting bloc is much bigger than people think. This is why anti-establishment figures like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have enjoyed such surprising amounts of popularity.
This brings me back to George Santos and Joe Biden, as I think that the two stories encapsulate much of what is wrong with our politics: obvious lying and deceitfulness being shielded by fear of giving the other party any sense of righteousness.