Earlier this year, I attended and covered an intense panel discussion at Middlesex County College in Edison about antisemitism. The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) hosted the event. It featured a distinguished panel of New Jersey dignitaries, including Rabbi Esther Reed, interim director at Rutgers University Hillel, Carlos Medina, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, and Reginald Johnson, agent for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office-Bias Unit.
The discussion was serious, ardent, and squarely focused on the always ugly topics of bigotry, hatred, racism, and antisemitism, and included statistics about a dramatic increase in antisemitic attacks in New Jersey. Toward the end of the riveting and, at times, sobering 2-hour discussion, I raised my hand and asked, “Is George Santos really Jewish?” The entire auditorium erupted into uproarious laughter.
For anyone living under a rock for the past 7 or 8 months, George Santos is the disgraced Republican Long Island, New York Congressman who lied about almost everything concerning his life–including his ethnicity, education, family heritage, net worth, career, occupations, and sexuality. Santos is a gay Latino man and claims to be JEW-ISH. Is that the same as BAPT-ISH, ASIAN-ISH or BLACK-ISH? During a recent podcast, Santos compared himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks–claiming that she didn’t sit in the back and neither would he.
When I think about people of color, past and present, that have made pervasive and indisputable changes in American history, I think about people like Parks, John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Sonia Sotomayor. Including Santos among those luminaries is way out of place and an insult to those true civil rights icons. Santos was indicted in May on a litany of charges, including fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, making false statements, and ethics violations. He faces more than 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
Remember the adage, “A lie is a lie if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it.”