Months before the New York Times published a December article suggesting Rep.-elect George Santos (R-N.Y.) had fabricated much of his résumé and biography, a tiny publication on Long Island was ringing alarm bells about its local candidate.
The North Shore Leader wrote in September, when few others were covering Santos, about his “inexplicable rise” in reported net worth, from essentially nothing in 2020 to as much as $11 million two years later.
The story noted other oddities about the self-described gay Trump supporter with Jewish heritage, who would go on to flip New York’s 3rd Congressional District from blue to red, and is now under investigation by authorities for misrepresenting his background to voters.
“Interestingly, Santos shows no U.S. real property in his financial disclosure, although he has repeatedly claimed to own ‘a mansion in Oyster Bay Cove’ on Tiffany Road and ‘a mansion in the Hamptons’ on Dune Road,” managing editor Maureen Daly wrote in the Leader.
The Leader reluctantly endorsed Santos’s Democratic opponent the next month. “This newspaper would like to endorse a Republican,” it wrote, but Santos “is so bizarre, unprincipled and sketchy that we cannot.”
It was the stuff national headlines are supposed to be built on: A hyperlocal outlet like the Leader does the legwork, regional papers verify and amplify the story, and before long an emerging political scandal is being broadcast coast to coast.
But that system, which has atrophied for decades amid the destruction of news economies, appears to have failed completely this time.