Between You and Me: The weekly paper, 1, The NY Times and...

Between You and Me: The weekly paper, 1, The NY Times and George Santos, 0

Congressman George Santos, Photo from Wikimedia Commons

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Then give three cheers, and one cheer more, For the hardy Captain of” … no not the Pinafore but publisher of the North Shore Leader. With an appreciative nod to Gilbert & Sullivan, that line well applies to Grant Lally, who warned us of George Santos and his preposterous resume that rivals any tall tale. But unlike HMS Pinafore of 19th century fame for innocent entertainment, Santos may be a peril for our nation.

According to the Leader, a weekly community newspaper, and also The New York Times, PBS News Hour and other first line news outlets, newly elected U.S. Congressman George Santos (NY-3) is a deeply concerning fake who has totally falsified his background, assets and contacts, and who is a wanted petty criminal in Brazil. According to that country’s prosecutors, he stole checkbooks from the elderly patients of his late mother, who was a home health care nurse, and forged checks to steal merchandise. And although he claimed to have graduated from prestigious schools, he is a high school dropout who earned a high school equivalency diploma. He portrayed himself as having worked for top line financial institutions. As to being Jewish with grandparents who escaped from the Holocaust, his mother was in fact devoutly Catholic and his grandparents were born in Brazil shortly after WWII began.

Most serious are his financial claims. He said he loaned $700,000 to his campaign from personal wealth that it turns out he doesn’t have. Lying on a resume is not a crime, but lying on federal financial disclosures is, with each violation bringing a possible five years in federal prison. So where, exactly, did that large money helping him get elected come from?

A recent report in The Daily Beast, according to the Leader, showed that Santos took $56,000 from a Russian money man, a cousin of a Vladimir Putin crony, who is under international sanctions. According to the Leader, “the fact that [Santos’s] two campaigns have received large sums of money from Russian oligarchs close to Putin is cause for real alarm in the U.S. intelligence community.” They are afraid of a potential espionage threat, that he might be a foreign agent. Jim Geraghty, writing in the National Review and quoted by the Leader, offered, “For all we know, some foreign power may have bought itself a congressman. This isn’t outlandish speculation.” 

At this point, you, the reader, are probably asking yourself how it could happen that Santos wasn’t discovered far sooner by both Republicans and Democrats. According to an extensive lead article in this past Sunday’s The New York Times, he was. Republicans at several levels knew about the problem but did nothing to unmask the candidate for various reasons: inattention, underappreciated risks, otherwise distracted by the issues rather than the biographies, the promise of another GOP vote in the House, and other speculations. And some Dems knew, too, but were distracted or underestimated the threat Santos’s campaign posed.

Rather than go deeper into this issue, I would like the thrust of this column to be a celebration of the prowess of what The NYT called, “a small weekly paper on Long Island.” Run by Grant Lally, a Republican lawyer and former House candidate, it did its job of functioning as a people’s watchdog, especially on affairs of government, and reporting courageously on its findings.

“The paper published a pair of articles casting doubt on Mr. Santos’s claims that he owned extravagant cars and homes, and labeling him a ‘fabulist—a fake’, though it did not have other specifics that would later come out about his falsified resume or his past,” wrote The NYT on Sunday. “None of the bigger outlets, including The Times, followed up with extensive stories examining his real address or his campaign’s questionable spending, focusing their coverage instead on Mr. Santos’s extreme policy views and the historic nature of a race between two openly gay candidates,” The NYT continued.

Never underestimate a weekly hometown newspaper. Indeed, four cheers.

{Santos represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes the Towns of Oyster Bay and North Hempstead and a small portion of northeast Queens.}