The Much-Maligned George Santos
New York César Chelala
If anything shows the unconscionable attacks of the American media on decent politicians it is what is happening now to Congressman George Santos. A man of notorious bad memory, he made some statements that have made him the object of ridicule. A careful analysis of this phenomenon, however, should help establish the accuracy of the comments on his personal integrity and on the veracity of his assertions. A man who has devoted his life to serving his country deserves no less.
Let’s start. He claimed that he earned a degree from Baruch College and that he held a master of business administration from New York University. Both institutions, however, have no records of his enrollment or employment. Santos later said that he had embellished his resumé and told The New York Post, “I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my résumé…we do stupid things in life.” Agree.
Calling himself a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” Santos claimed that he had worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Neither company has records of him. He was a regional director of Harbor City Capital, a Florida firm that was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of running a $17 million Ponzi scheme, according to The New York Times. Although he was an executive of the firm, he denied any knowledge of the fraud.
He stated that he had founded Friends of Pets United (wonderful name, we must admit) an animal rescue organization that was a tax-exempt charity that saved thousands of cats and dogs. No records were found of it as a tax-exempt organization. In 2017, Friends of Pets United held a fundraiser event for an animal rescue shelter. The organizer of the event declared that Santos never gave him any of the funds that were collected. Mr. Santos later backed away from the claim that he had founded the group.
He said that he owned 13 rental properties that were managed by his family. However, such properties were not listed on his campaign disclosure forms nor in public records. Also, three times in the mid-2010s he was evicted from rented properties in Queens (in Jackson Heights, Whitestone, and Sunnyside) due to his failure to pay rent. On his second eviction, a Queens court entered a civil judgement for $12,208 against him.
A man of notorious bad memory, he declared that he had forgotten he owed this money. Nobody should be blamed for memory shortcomings, as older people like I can testify. Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, always a good sport, defended Santos’s actions. Although acknowledging that Santos had lied, she likened it to similar behavior by Democrats holding office.
In 2008, Santos spent some time in Brazil, where his mother was working as a nurse. A man of notorious good taste, he faced charges in that country for stealing a checkbook belonging to one of his mother’s patients, from where he spent $700 at a clothing store. Both Santos and his mother confessed to the crime, but they returned to the U.S. before a Brazilian judge summoned him.
Nobody should be blamed for wanting to dress like a gentleman. This is something that Brazilian authorities do not understand, since they are still determined to press charges against him for his unpaid debt. On January 2, 2023, The New York Times stated that state prosecutors from Rio de Janeiro would now revive the fraud accusations against him, now that Santos’s whereabouts are known.
All these facts point to the fact that Santos is a man of unusual imagination and daring, necessary traits for somebody who wants to make his mark as an outstanding legislator. Undaunted by the accusations against him, Santos declared to The New York Post that the controversy about his actions “will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good…I intend to deliver on the promises I made during the campaign.” What is still puzzling, however, is why a man who has had such a deceitful past has not been rebuked by the Republican leaders in Congress. The answer to this question is simple. He is just one of them.
César Chelala is a New York writer.