This article was co-written by Kent Syler.

There’s a well-worn newsroom adage that says, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

These days the adage is closer to, “If a candidate for Congress lies about his education, business experience, his personal life and even the death of employees in a nightclub shooting, wait for The New York Times to check it out.”

The Times’ revelations that incoming Republican Congressman George Santos of Long Island fabricated much of his public persona on his path to election is an enormous embarrassment to Newsday, long the dominant local newsroom in the sprawling suburban expanse, and other regional news media that didn’t check on Santos’ claims before the election.

The one exception was the North Shore Leader, a hyperlocal weekly newspaper that in September doubted Santos’ claims about his net worth. The paper with conservative roots subsequently wrote that it had wanted to endorse a Republican but could not support Santos because “he’s most likely just a fabulist – a fake.”

These weren’t garden-variety claims from Santos. He claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and that he was a graduate of Baruch College, all of which he now acknowledges to be untrue. But there are also questions about how his net worth suddenly skyrocketed, his alleged role in leading a charity and his claim that four of his employees died in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. New questions about his past statements emerge almost daily.

Consider these points about how Santos got away with it

The fact that none of his lies emerged publicly before he was elected has some blaming the news media, and with some justification. But the press is too easy a target. It’s like blaming the police for crime.

Santos wasn’t elected on a foundation of lies because of a journalistic lapse; the fault lies with a political process that is long on cynicism and short on integrity.

There’s plenty of blame to go around:

Winning at all costs comes with a price

The North Shore Leader, the only news organization to call Santos out before his election, is taking a victory lap with a story headlined,  “The Leader Told You So.”

And so it did.

The Leader also showed us how to set aside political preferences for the good of the nation, an increasingly uncommon act in a country too often paralyzed by partisanship.

Winning at all costs is costing America dearly.

Ken Paulson and Kent Syler are professors at Middle Tennessee State University, where they respectively serve as Free Speech Center director and special projects coordinator for the Albert Gore Research Center.

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