From the Newsletter | New House Speaker, Same George Santos

By | Oct 29, 2023
From the Newsletter, Latest

On Monday I sent my colleague Jacob Forman a one-line email (“you are not alone, haha”) with a link to New York Times reporter Grace Ashford’s story: “George Santos Swore He’d Never Talk to Me. Then the Phone Rang.”

Ashford is the one who, with fellow reporter Michael Gold, broke the story last December of the newly elected Republican congressman’s fantastical fabulism. She’d been covering the New York representative ever since, but hadn’t spoken to him. And then, like Jacob, she got an unexpected call from Santos last month, in the course of which she was struck, as was Jacob, by his “positivity and charm.” The more they spoke, Ashford writes in her piece published on Sunday, the more she “came to know something else as well: the peculiar experience of being confided in and lied to at the same time.”

We at Moment decided to run Jacob’s similarly fascinating interview with Santos in full, with several caveats. (For one, regardless of what Santos told Jacob about forthcoming genealogy test results that will prove his claims of Jewish ancestry, that one’s been debunked.) It’s a companion piece of sorts to Jacob’s “Who’s Challenging George Santos?” about the six Jewish candidates (four Democrats, two Republicans) among dozens who are running to replace “Jew-ish George” in New York’s 3rd congressional district next year. Consisting primarily of Long Island’s North Shore and parts of Queens, New York’s 3rd is the third-most Jewish congressional district in the country, and these six are hoping a genuinely Jewish representative will unseat Santos.

Whether that happens in the 2024 national election or is prompted by a special election is still unknown. Santos is expected in court tomorrow on new federal charges (he faces a total of 23) that include conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft and credit card fraud. All of which increases the chance of him making a plea deal to reduce a possible sentence in exchange for stepping down.

None of this has motivated Santos to keep a low profile. One of the tidbits from Ashford’s recent article that got a lot of attention was a story Santos told her (which he prefaced by saying it was one “nobody talks about”) involving his five-year-old niece, who Santos said vanished from a playground in Queens and was later seen on a surveillance camera with two Chinese men. He told Ashford he suspected it was retaliation “for his vocal stance against the Chinese Communist Party.” Ashford investigated and found no evidence of the kidnapping. On October 13 Santos exited an office in the Longworth House Office Building holding a baby (when asked if it was his, he said, “Not yet”) and then unleashed a tirade on a pro-Palestinian protester in the hallway. And yesterday, he followed a tweet congratulating new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana with this: “I want Congress to move away from pettifoggery and toward getting real things done.”

The first thing the back-in-business chamber did get done was to pass a resolution, by a 412-10 vote, standing with Israel. Johnson is a staunch supporter of Israel and an evangelical Christian who, Haaretz reports, described a 2020 visit to the Temple Mount as “the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy.” It will be interesting to follow how younger evangelicals, whose support for Israel has waned somewhat in recent years, react to Johnson’s speakership.

As for Santos, Jewish Americans may feel there’s nothing he can say or do to regain their trust, but he’s right about one thing: This is no time for pettifoggery. In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks on Israelis and the ongoing war in Gaza, it is time to honor lives lost and prioritize the health, safety and security of the living. For more of Moment’s ongoing war coverage, be sure to bookmark our Israel-Hamas war content here.

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