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Suffolk Closeup: The shameful saga of Santos

There have been many excellent representatives in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which for many years included Suffolk County, taking in Huntington Town and a chunk of Smithtown.

But just months before last year’s election, in May, as a result of a court-ordered redistricting of the 3rd C.D., Suffolk was removed and the district’s segments in Nassau and Queens expanded.

Fine representatives through the years included, on the Republican side, Peter King, a former straight-shooting Nassau County comptroller, and on the Democratic side, Robert Mrazek, a former Suffolk legislator; Jerome Ambro, who’d been supervisor of Huntington Town; Steve Israel, a former deputy to the Suffolk County executive; and until the start of this year, Tom Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive.

And now has come … George Santos.

Integrity is something we look for in government leaders, especially when it comes to the high positions as members of the U.S. Congress. These are tremendously important posts with the power to take our money through taxes and our lives — by declaring war.

Santos fabricated a thoroughly phony history of himself in running in the 3rd C.D and has continued to lie through last week. As a column in The Washington Post began: “Even by the lower standards for truth-telling in politics, the scope of the falsehoods from the newly elected House Republican has been breathtaking.”

Newsday in an editorial, two weeks ago got it right. “Disgraced Santos should step aside,” was its title. “The blathering and evasive non-explanations now uttered by George Devolder-Santos for his invented back story convince us more than ever that he’s uniquely unfit to serve in Congress … Santos has been caught lying to a bizarre degree — about success in finance, about having degrees from college and grad school, about owning real estate. He’s even gratuitously dissembled for years about such personal matters as his religion and his domestic involvement. Now Santos admits to some astonishing fakery but is still defensively dodging.”

“Anyone who lies so blithely about who he is or what he does cannot be trusted with public power,” declared Newsday, noting that he is a “serial fabulist.”

Last week, as the House of Representatives wrestled for days about who would be its new speaker, and thus was unable to do any other work, including having new members sworn in, Santos issued public statements saying he had been sworn in and also that he voted as a House member on five bills as early as December 22, before he was to take a seat.

Reporting on this, the news site Alternet pointed to how Santos “has a long list of lies attached to his name, and that list continues to grow by the day.”

As the person he is supposed to replace in the House, Tom Suozzi, in a piece last week in The New York Times, wrote: “I’m being succeeded by a con man.”

Just out in The Atlantic magazine is a piece by Steve Israel titled: “How a Perfectly Normal New York Suburb Elected a Con Man.”

As another former 3rd C.D. representative, Peter King, said last week in Newsday, security issues are involved. “No one will be able to trust him or believe him. It would be risky to share any information with him,” said King, particularly about “national security or homeland security.”

“Do you have no shame?” asked Tulsi Gabbard, a former House member from Hawaii, in a TV interview with Santos last month.

But Santos has no shame. His brazenness is matched only by his complete lack of sensitivity to his situation. A story in Newsday on his first days as an “outcast” at the Capitol said when Santos balloted a vote for speaker, there was a cry from a member: “Mentiroso!” (Liar in both Portugese and Spanish.)

Credit for first exposing Santos is a small Nassau County community newspaper, the North Shore Leader. “The Leader Told You So,” is the headline of an article by Niall Fitzgerald now on its website. It begins: “In a story first broken by the North Shore Leader over four months ago, the national media has suddenly discovered that U.S. Congressman-elect George Santos … is a deepfake liar.”

The journalism of the North Shore Leader demonstrates the importance of investigative reporting on the local level. It was only after the election that The New York Times ran a front-page expose on Santos, which has set off enormous media attention. Santos is being investigated by the Nassau and Queens district attorneys and faces state and federal inquiries.

As Linda Lacewell, a former federal prosecutor, wrote in the New York Daily News last week: “Santos may face a dilemma if federal investigators ultimately ask to interview him. Will he take the Fifth Amendment? If not, is he capable of telling the truth? If he lies over the course of a federal investigation about a material matter and it’s deliberate, that could be a separate federal offense …”