Editorial: Booting George Santos doesn't fix the GOP's Donald Trump-size problem with the truth

The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Political News

It’s almost astonishing: Even with a slim Republican majority, the House of Representatives actually voted to expel New York GOP Congressman George Santos, after a searing Ethics Committee report last month laid out the damning case against him.

Santos allegedly stole money from donors for gambling junkets, high-end spa treatments and online porn subscriptions. Money laundering. Identity theft from family members. Wire fraud. Obstruction. His campaign treasurer pleaded guilty to charges related to Santos’ misdeeds. The whole sordid mess is almost too much to tally.

Yet, can we note that Donald J. Trump is still besting his Republican competitors in the polls for their party’s presidential nomination next year — and by a mile? Sure, Kansas’ Koch machine has thrown its support behind Nikki Haley, and Fox News keeps trying to prop up Ron DeSantis’ flailing campaign. (Even though Sean Hannity stacked the deck in DeSantis’ favor in Thursday night’s so-called “debate,” cucumber-cool California Gov. Gavin Newsom just made the angry Florida governor come off like a clenched fist in a blue suit.)

Because the problem is what Fox, Rush Limbaugh, Joe Rogan, Bill Maher and above all social media have done to our politics. We’re entering a third decade of the all-you-can-consume buffet of online information, and the pot-stirrers are all too happy that the average citizen doesn’t know what’s true or false anymore. The Soviet propagandists could scarcely have dreamed of a day when they could push Pravda’s lies to a global audience — and that a culture that believes you can never trust the mainstream media would thrive on both right and left.

Don’t believe us that delusion can be bipartisan? Go down the rabbit hole of pro-Hamas social media for a depressing lesson in how even educated civil libertarians can swallow lies.

We don’t deny that ratings play a part in what even some supposedly fair-minded media sources tell their audiences. Former CNN International chief Tony Maddox really did say Trump was “good for business.” And even while the network has largely been responsible about knocking down the showman’s endless stream of dishonesty, it still continues to give his lies a platform by airing them in the first place. This is what normalizing looks like. Because sure, lots of politicians lie. But no, most of them don’t come anywhere near Trump’s level.

Media repeated campaign lies about health care

The Star isn’t always perfect here, either. Our website at KansasCity.com recently ran a story from the wire services flatly repeating Trump’s claim that he was working on his plan for health care reform if he retakes the White House. We know now, and did then, that his 2016 promises to fix our broken health care system were fiction, and that all his administration did in that arena was to try (and fail) to dismantle the crucial, increasingly popular Affordable Care Act.


Way too many serious journalists still haven’t internalized the lesson scholars have long warned us about: Airing would-be autocrats’ lies, even to dispel them, is dangerous.

This is, unfortunately, what the vast conservative alternative news ecosystem has evolved into. The late Fox News Svengali Roger Ailes built the channel into a powerful Republican Party answer to both liberal and mainstream thought in the first 20 years of its existence. He capitalized on human beings’ innate desire to think we’re as smart as the experts, that we can “do our own research” and dig out the truth as well as any reporter or scientist. It’s built into the rugged individualist spirit that created the Declaration of Independence.

Problem is, that spirit also enables the greedy opportunists who don’t believe in government and institutions that have been cultivated over decades to keep society inside the guardrails. They know there’s big money to be made by defanging the regulators and the tax fraud investigators — and the fact that the anti-everything circus makes the libs so angry is the cherry on top.

Donald Trump’s feral genius is that he knows instinctively how to stoke the anger of the millions who don’t think those institutions serve them anymore. In less than eight years, he’s transformed the public face of his party from genteel patrician Mitt Romney and Clint Eastwood-esque John McCain into the jeering, ungovernable House now led by a speaker who was a primary architect of the Jan. 6, 2021, attempted government overthrow. Trump’s closest presidential challengers talk of “slitting throats” of federal employees and making widespread, indiscriminate purges in their ranks.

So, good luck, Republican leaders. We know many of you are still rooted in reality. You’ve gotten rid of your highest-profile embarrassment in Congress for now. But until you — and much more important, your deep-pocket donors — figure out a way to deal with the dishonest rot that’s propelling a 91-time-indicted former reality TV star to the top of your ticket again next year, you’ve got issues far more serious than George Santos.


©2023 The Kansas City Star. Visit at kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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