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The Mast-Head: The Other Santos Mystery

Tue, 11/21/2023 - 18:20

Often the most interesting conversations happen when traveling. Last week, in St. Louis for a screening of a short film about the slavery project I have been involved with since 2017, the volunteer driving me from the airport first asked the usual questions then told me about herself. In her day job, Sarah did political research — generally searching public records for dirt on the opposition. Hearing that I was from Long Island, she wanted to know what I thought about George Santos.

The prevailing narrative on Representative Santos’s rise and imminent fall had bothered me from the start. How could the other side not have known that everything about him was shaded by lies, even his heavily Botoxed brow line? According to people who claimed to be close to the Democratic candidate who went up against Mr. Santos in 2022, his made-up résumé was known inside the campaign.

I told my new friend that I knew Robert Zimmerman, who ran against Mr. Santos, and that I did not buy the state Democrats’ claim that they had unsuccessfully shopped the story to The New York Times and Newsday before the election. It seemed to me that had Mr. Zimmerman been rebuffed by the big guns, he could have easily called me or, say, Joe Shaw, at The Press. Neither of us covers the portions of Long Island and Queens in Mr. Santos’s district, but, speaking for myself, I would have jumped on the story had we been tipped off and I think Joe would have, too. Among Mr. Santos’s many made-up facts, is that he owned a house on Dune Road.

As it was, only a single news outlet, The North Shore Leader, reported on Mr. Santos’s apparent fabrications. I did not get it other than to think that Mr. Zimmerman, in fact, did not really want to be in Congress.

Sarah was not surprised. “They knew,” she said confidently. As she explained, a lot of the time, the work she was commissioned to do was used by the campaigns. “Usually there is a deal. ‘You don’t use your information on me, and I won’t use yours.’ ”

New York played a big part in flipping the House to the Republicans, who hold a narrow eight-seat majority. Mr. Santos’s surprise win and the New York Democrats’ seeming complicity in it is a story yet to be told. If Sarah is right that the other side knew and did nothing, that is the far greater mystery.


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