The election of admitted resume fabricator U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-Queens/Nassau) has not only raised questions about how political leaders and the media missed red flags, but also how he evaded scrutiny of entities that endorsed his candidacy.
Besides a political party’s internal vetting process, rivals’ opposition research and local press scrutiny, another chance for questionable candidates to be flagged comes when politicians are interviewed by groups and individuals that endorse their campaign for elected office, although that vetting process is not expected to be as stringent as the political parties’ reviews. The largest number of endorsements that Santos received in his 2022 campaign came from unions that represent police officers, detectives and law enforcement agency supervisors, all of whom are trained to spot suspicious behavior. But the only person who endorsed Santos and has since publicly denounced him is freshman North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, a registered Democrat who became the first Republican nominee to win the seat in three decades in 2021.
“I am confident that George will deliver solutions in Washington D.C.,” DeSena said in her Oct. 18 endorsement. “George is a friend and a true leader with a passion for the people. He’s about fixing government and getting things done, and that’s the type of representation we need.”
Upon learning of Santos’ many lies, she issued a statement distancing herself from the congressman, saying he betrayed her and voters.
“His answers to news inquiries have been flippant, insincere, and misleading, as he continues to lie in his public responses,” she said on Jan. 3. “Mr. Santos is not trustworthy, and I am personally offended and disgusted by his actions, which included deceiving me personally when he sought my endorsement. He does not have my support, and I will never consider him my congressman.”
Police unions that endorsed Santos include the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the Suffolk County PBA as well as six New York City police unions and the PBAs representing 11 village police departments, plus their counterparts in the City of Glen Cove. Of the PBAs that could be reached for comment, none responded to requests for comment on whether they stand by their endorsement of Santos.
Santos wasn’t only endorsed by members of law enforcement that missed his red flags. Also endorsing the crooked congressman were former Republican Gov. George Pataki, New York City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) and ex-U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who made a failed bid to unseat Gov. Kathy Hochul instead of seeking re-election. None of them responded to requests for comment.
Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf believes the Santos fiasco will lead more organizations and individuals to perform more background vetting before endorsing a candidate.
“The smart thing is for the local partisan organizations to require that people provide information about themselves that’s verifiable,” Sheinkopf told amNewYork Metro. “The electorate is probably going to want to know more about candidates and is probably going to ask more questions. Candidates with flaws are going to be less likely to appear before the electorate.”
Santos has continued to refuse repeated calls to resign amid multiple investigations into his finances.