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Is Santos a Synonym for Lying?
In the movie Catch Me If You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Frank Abagnale Jr., was a con man who made believe he was a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a prosecutor.
In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Matt Damon’s character pretends to be a Princeton graduate and is hired to go to Italy, where he playacts being a jazz musician while he dabbles in Impressionistic art and forgery.
In Inventing Anna, Anna Sorokin played Anna Delvey, a con artist who posed as a wealthy German heiress to scam wealthy, social-climbing New Yorkers.
And in 2022’s race for a New York congressional seat, Anthony Devolder played George Santos, who claimed to be many, many different things. None of them turned out to be true.
Regardless of which side of the political divide you’re planted on, there is no longer any question about freshman Congressperson Santos’ lies.
Santos did not attend the exclusive Horace Mann Prep school in the Bronx.
He did not graduate from Baruch College.
He did not climb the ladder of Wall Street success via Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
He is not “a proud American Jew,” as he wrote in a campaign document seeking support from pro-Israel groups. Instead, he considers himself “Jew-ish, the keyword here being ‘ish.’” That apparently means he’s not Jewish at all.
And so on and so on and so on.
You probably won’t be surprised to know that this isn’t the first time an American politician has lied about his past to get into office.
Douglas Stringfellow recounted his World War II service for which he had been awarded a Silver Star. He said he had joined the OSS (the precursor to the CIA). He claimed that while he was behind enemy lines on a secret mission, he captured physicist Otto Hahn, thus stopping the Germans from developing a nuclear bomb.
Stringfellow said he was captured by the Nazis and tortured in a concentration camp before escaping. He claimed to be the sole survivor of his OSS unit. Then, toward the war’s end, he stepped on a land mine, leaving him permanently disabled. And while he was recovering in a military hospital, he met his future wife, a USO performer.
Stringfellow was elected to Congress from Utah’s first district in 1952. According to Wikipedia, Stringfellow served one term and was running for reelection when his past was exposed as a fraud by his Democratic opponents. They revealed that Stringfellow was not actually a paraplegic. He had been wounded in a mine explosion during a routine mission in France, yes, but he could walk with a cane.
Furthermore, Stringfellow had not worked for the OSS. He had been a private in the Army Air Forces and never earned the Silver Star. Stringfellow also claimed that he had attended Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, but neither institution had any record of his attendance.
When his Democratic opponents exposed him, the LDS Church pressed Stringfellow to make a public confession. The House Republican leadership forced him to abandon his reelection bid and replaced him on the ballot with Utah State Agricultural College president Henry Dixon just sixteen days before the election. Dixon managed to hold onto the seat in an election in which the Democrats still took back control of the U.S. House.
Is Santos a Synonym for Lying?
How different from today, when despite Santos’ lies being revealed, virtually none of the political leaders in his party have uttered a peep about his deceptions. The most his party’s leader, Kevin McCarthy, will say is, “Santos has a lot going on. I think he has other things to focus on in his life other than running for reelection.” But nowhere was the suggestion that Santos should do the right thing and step down or that his party would force his resignation.
Of course, doing so would put the party’s razor-thin control of Congress in jeopardy. But is that worse than how their silence screams their tacit approval of his lies?
Back in 1954, Douglas Stringfellow was forced to own up to his fabrications even though the Republican party feared losing his seat. It turned out that they did keep that seat, while Stringfellow’s name has been lost to history.
This year, NY Democrat Rep. Ritchie Torres put forward the Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker Act, which would require candidates to disclose their background under oath so that they can be punished for lying.
In case you didn’t notice, the act’s title is an acronym that spells SANTOS. If this goes through, it will turn George Santos’ name into a synonym for deception and betrayal forever, just as history has done for Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold.
From a branding point of view, that seems to be a helluva a price for Santos – and his party – to be willing to pay.