The national embarrassment that is George Santos grows worse by the day. More and more of his lies keep pouring out, to the point where it’s difficult to keep track of them all. We could list them alphabetically just to organize them, but that would take up this entire column.
In any other walk of life, the man would be a laughingstock. Mr. Santos was a proponent of the Big Lie pushed by the former president, and it’s been reported that he attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally at the Ellipse south of the White House before the violent attack on the Capitol. He even boasted that he was financially helping some of those who were arrested.
But Mr. Santos isn’t in just any walk of life — he is the newly elected Republican congressman from the 3rd District in western Long Island. He was expected to be sworn in Jan. 3 after taking an oath to the Constitution. The swearing in of all members was delayed as Republicans failed to select a new Speaker of the House.
In the days after The New York Times exposed Mr. Santos’ Mt. Everest of lies — following very strong reporting by the gutsy North Shore Leader newspapers — few Republicans have spoken out against him.
One exception is Nick LaLota, the newly elected Republican congressman from the 1st District. He won the seat held by Lee Zeldin, who decided to run for governor.
Mr. Zeldin has apparently said nothing publicly critical about Mr. Santos, whose behavior should disqualify him from serving in Congress. Instead, Mr. LaLota was the first member of his party to speak out. He rightly deserves praise for this.
Last week, Mr. LaLota — braving the political ramifications his comments could have for him in the new House with its razor-thin GOP majority — called on the House Ethics Committee to fully investigate Mr. Santos. Mr. LaLota’s comments to the New York Post showed his own outrage at what he had read about Mr. Santos and he said, if warranted, a criminal investigation should be launched along with an ethics probe.
In fact, at least two criminal investigations into Mr. Santos are already underway, one by the U.S. Attorney’s office and the other by the Nassau County District Attorney. And Brazil has an open criminal case against him, according to reports.
Mr. Zeldin was an ardent supporter of the former president, no matter the accusations against him. By all appearances, party fealty was more important than principle. In all likelihood, this cost Mr. Zeldin the governorship of New York. Perhaps the key lesson with his loss is this: principle matters. Mr. Zeldin’s tenure as the 1st District congressman will end with Mr. LaLota’s swearing in.
In calling for a “full investigation” of Mr. Santos ahead of other incoming and incumbent members of the House, Mr. LaLota is showing he stands for something larger than party. This is a good start to his first week on the job.
We question the media’s role in the Santos debacle. All the lies he told — about colleges he never graduated from, jobs he never held, almost everything about his identity, the list goes on and on — were low-hanging fruit, there for the taking.
In a column for The New York Times, Thomas Suozzi — who held the seat Mr. Santos now fills — compared him to Bernie Madoff. He also wrote that “the press didn’t really grasp the level of his deceit.”
A gutsy community newspaper that stands for something, as the North Shore Leader does, is far better than a timid one that avoids calling out the con men, the frauds and the conspiracy nuts and steers away from all controversy. In a democracy, newspapers that don’t take a stand do not serve the public good. They must look into the people running for public office. They must get in the way.
Just this week, an editorial in the North Shore Leader called Mr. Santos a “fraud” and a “petty criminal from Rio de Janeiro.” The Leader served not only its community, but the entire country. Mr. LaLota did the same by speaking out.