Santos, Campfield and lying in politics: How low will they go?

Betty BeanKnox Scene

Last week during one of the 15 roll calls it took congressional Republicans to elect Kevin McCarthy Speaker of the House, there was a long pause when the reading clerk called the name George Santos, the newly elected Long Island representative who was busily scrolling on his cell phone when his name was called.

“Santos,” she said.

Santos didn’t look up from his phone.

“Santos,” she said again.

The pudgy, bespectacled George Anthony Devolder Santos kept on scrolling, and didn’t respond.

Finally, the guy next to him nudged him to attention, and Santos finally cast the vote for that was obviously his reason for being there, despite the growing chorus of voices calling for him to be removed from the body even before he could be officially seated.


But it didn’t take long for trouble to catch up with him. He’d told too many lies. Lies about his background and his work history and his residence. Even Republicans were uncomfortable with that. And given his non-response to the roll call, lots of them were beginning to wonder if George Santos was even his real name, since allegations were coming forward that he was actually a boy from Brazil, not Nassau County. On Wednesday, Republicans in his district called for him to resign or be expelled.

But McCarthy, who had wrestled with almost enough opposition to deny him the votes he needed to become Speaker, is probably still not about to kick an ally to the curb, even if he’s the shadiest guy in the House. So, for now, Santos (or whatever) is sitting pretty, smiling vaguely at reporters as he ducks into members-only elevators. Speaker owes him. And owns him.

Which brings up the question, how much lying is acceptable in politics? How low will the bar go?

Stacey Campfield (file photo)

Which takes me back to the days when Stacey Campfield, then a member of the Tennessee state House, got sued for defamation by a Campbell County Democrat who’d run for a House seat in 2008, two years before the Republicans were able to take over the Tennessee General Assembly. Led by the notorious Glen Casada (who later got in really big trouble during his short-lived tenure as Speaker of the House), Republicans put on a big push to increase their numbers, and Campfield got into the action by accusing Democratic House candidate Roger Byrge of having a history of drug arrests. Turns out that Campfield had bad information and smeared the wrong guy.

Byrge took him to court and appeared to have an air-tight case. Campfield had flatly and falsely accused Byrge of committing a felony, which is libel per se. The judge wasn’t having it, however, and dismissed the case on the basis that, “Politics are politics, and it’s a big boy and big girl’s game. That’s just the way it is.” He was overturned on appeal, but ultimately the case came to naught, and Campfield got a promotion to the state Senate and went his merry way until Richard Briggs primaried him in 2014 and removed him from office.

Getting back to the Republican from Nassau County, the cornucopia of lies that got him to Washington has left a lot of folks wondering about his real name and just how low the GOP is willing to go.

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for

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