When the George Santos scandal first broke in mid-December 2022, this writer assumed the reactions would illustrate a double-standard engaged in by those on both sides of the political and ideological spectrum.
Democrats and progressives, I knew, would be hammering the Republican congressman-elect from Long Island for re-inventing not just his academic and professional resume, but virtually his entire life story; after having ignored, for years and continuing to this day, very similar, and ongoing, academic, professional, and life story fabrications still being spun by Democratic President Joe Biden.
Republicans and conservatives, I felt just as certain, would, having constantly taken Biden to task for his habitual misrepresenting facts, try to downplay or ignore all of Santos’ lies.
Only that’s not what has happened.
Democrats, progressive activists, and mainstream media have indeed jumped all over Santos, in a way they never have over all the years of Biden’s deceptions, plagiarism, and highly questionable (to say the least) financial dealings.
They certainly have more than failed to do so over his "irresponsible" mishandling of classified documents; to use the term he applied to Donald Trump’s similar problem with classified materials.
But Republicans, conservative activists, and conservative media, who of course have never tired of denouncing Biden’s continued mendacity, have not given Santos a pass.
Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Nick LaLota, another newly elected Republican Congressman from Long Island, called for an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
Nassau’s Republican District Attorney, Anne Donnelly (my former colleague when I worked as spokesman for District Attorney Denis Dillon) has launched an investigation of Santos.
And last week, Nassau GOP county chairman Joe Cairo led a growing chorus of Republican party leaders and public officials in calling for the newly installed congressman to step down.
As for media, just contrast the approach of the two newspapers this writer reads daily.
The conservative New York Post has of course been pounding away at Joe Biden’s serial less-than-honest statements, summing it all up just before Christmas with a reader’s quiz on the president’s 20 most significant lies in just the last year.
But the Post has also been front-and-center in going after George Santos, with news articles, editorials, and op-ed pieces deploring his dishonesty and demanding answers.
Liberal Newsday has predictably been all over Santos as well — as they should be.
But one will search far and wide across Google or the paper’s own online archives without finding anything in Newsday regarding Joe Biden’s improbity that even remotely resembles their reaction to that of George Santos.
To be clear, this is not an appeal on my part for letting Santos slide.
George Santos should have declined to take his seat in the new Congress; and that having now been seated, he should resign.
If he wants to demonstrate the integrity he insists he has, he should acknowledge his lies, not try to minimize them as "embellishments" or "a mistake."
And he should show good faith to the voters of his district by declining the seat he won by willfully deceiving them.
I reject his cynical attempt to defend himself by pointing to the president’s comparable behavior in this regard.
While it's pleasing that Republicans and conservatives — except for Santos himself — have declined to engage in this kind of "what-aboutism," defending misbehavior by one of their own by pointing out that "the Democrats do it too," they are holding Santos to the same standards of truth and integrity they call for, but have not gotten, from Biden.
Democrats and progressives need to similarly decline to engage in the "so-whatism" which allows them to condemn George Santos while collectively shrugging that President Biden’s embellishments and fabrications are "just Joe being Joe."
Which, of course, is precisely the problem.
For three decades, Rick Hinshaw has given voice to faith values in the public square, as a columnist, then editor of The Long Island Catholic; communications director for the Catholic League and the New York State Catholic Conference; co-host of "The Catholic Forum," on cable. He is now editor of his own blog, "Reading the Signs." Visit Rick’s home page at rickhinshaw.com. Read Rick Hinshaw's Reports — More Here.
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