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Opinion: The talented Mr. Santos

January 5, 2023 Albany Times-Union Editorial Board via Associated Press
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A congressman-elect fabricated whole chunks of his family, academic and professional biography. What’s to be done?

It’s been a banner holiday season in New York for real-life stories about people leading fake lives. First there was the revelation that a real-estate appraiser who had lived for almost a full decade in the Catskills as Richard King was actually Robert Hoagland, a husband and father of three who had vanished from his home in Connecticut in 2013. His story only came to light after his death this month.

It’s unlikely we will ever know for sure what drove him to abandon his family and deceive a new set of friends and co-workers. But one thing in his favor: He was never arrogant enough to use his new life as a perch from which to run for Congress.

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We wish we could say the same about Long Island Republican George Santos, who, as revealed in dogged (if somewhat tardy) reporting by The New York Times and others, allegedly (and in some cases admittedly) lied about — this will be a long sentence — his family’s Jewish heritage including his grandparents’ survival during the Holocaust (ancestry data reveals that both sets were born in South America, and were Catholic); his academic career at Baruch College (the CUNY school says no one by that name graduated in 2010, as Mr. Santos claimed); his leadership of a charity called Friends of Pets United (federal and state records indicate it doesn’t exist); and his employment at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs (neither firm had a record of him working there). There are additional questions about his actual sources of income, and whether his financial disclosure filings contain misstatements or elisions.

On Monday, Mr. Santos went to hand-picked conservative outlets and admitted to numerous lies, which he attempted to shrug off as garden-variety resume-embellishing. Because of his chosen venues for this messaging, plenty of questions went unasked and unanswered.

This mess would be downright funny — “The Talented Mr. Ripley” played as farce — if the voters of Long Island’s North Shore were not now faced with the prospect of being represented by someone who has misrepresented himself to an extreme degree. There’s plenty of blame to go around for everyone who failed to check out the young candidate’s biography: regional journalists, opposing campaigns, and the party that backed his run and exulted over flipping a Democratic House seat.

We are not babes in the woods, and are all too familiar with politicians who fold, spindle and even mutilate the truth in pursuit of power. But Mr. Santos’ carnival of fictions requires Congress to demand answers; its leaders should refuse to seat the gentleman from the Third District on any committees until they get them. Unfortunately, that job will fall to the likes of Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Elise Stefanik of Schuylerville, who are already struggling to manage a narrow, wildly fractious GOP majority. One imagines they’ll be willing to deal with Mr. Santos as long as he pledges loyalty to his bosses and does what he’s told.

Congress has always had its rascals and fools, but it used to have slightly higher standards. We will not miss meals waiting for their return.

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