PSA: Don’t Give Money to George Santos
Unless you love parting with your money
After being expelled from the House of Representatives for, among other things, using donor cash to buy himself Botox, Hermés, and OnlyFans, George Santos has started a Cameo account where you, too, can pay $200 for the debatable pleasures of having Santos say some words into his phone camera. Despite $200 being a scootch steep, one of Santos’ first customers was Pennsylvania Senator Jon Fetterman, who had a Santos Cameo sent to Senator Bob Menendez, another “ethically-challenged” legislator who’s been accused of a different but also bananas set of compromising crimes. Fetterman has long sought Menendez’s resignation, and this stunt is one he’s pulled before when he sent a triumphant Snookie Cameo to snake oil salesman and failed gubernatorial candidate Mehmet Oz. What a fun political reality we live in!
I just can’t believe at the end of the cursed year 2023 that anyone is willingly and knowingly giving money to George Santos. I’m all for Fetterman’s campaign against Menendez, and I even enjoy how Fetterman puts his talents as a troll to good use, but there has to be a better way to clown on a corrupt politician than giving money to another corrupt politician. This trick worked so well on “Dr.” Oz because Snookie is famously from New Jersey, the same state that Oz calls home despite running for office in Pennsylvania. The tongue-in-cheek message worked because it highlighted how removed and uncaring Oz was about the people he wanted to represent. It also worked because Snookie was hilariously committed to the bit, and it was greatly entertaining oh, right: Snookie hasn’t been indicted for multiple felonies.
It’s difficult to feel like it’s a terrific burn on a corrupt politician when money was paid to another corrupt politician to do it. It’s an unnecessary compromise of an otherwise clear high ground to take, and it’s a strange way to utilize the news of the moment. It feels like Santos was chosen for this gag because he’s so recognizable as a ridiculous figure and because he’s a recent example of a corrupt politician losing their office, an outcome Fetterman rightly aims to achieve with Menendez. Cutting corruption out of our government, regardless of party, is immensely important, especially in what feels like high season for powerful figures being bought and paid for. The use of Santos also cashes in on his notoriety, potentially boosting Fetterman’s message to people who want to feast on stories about mess, a fine enough strategy for making yourself heard. The cost of this easy press, however, is to give $200 of campaign funds over to the most recognizable name in grift and corruption at this very moment.
There is no way that Fetterman’s mission to oust compromised legislators is worth compromising like this just to get some virality in this media cycle. It’s a very odd fit to pay a corrupt legislator to embarrass another corrupt legislator. This isn’t difficult calculus, and I’m well aware that critical thinking lies under a bridge somewhere shivering away its final moments, but how do you square giving money to a corrupt politician so you can realize your goal of taking down another corrupt politician? Was cashing in on Santos’ name recognition worth that? Was there no other way to get at Menendez?
How are we even in a place where it must be said, “Don’t give money to Goerge Santos”? It’s very likely he’s about to go to prison for a long time, and this desperate, sweaty Cameo tap-dance is an elaborate denial of reality. Santos wants to cement himself as a ridiculous chaos agent, more meme than man. He wants to supplant the reality (grift, theft, following lockstep with MAGA fascists) with a much more “I love mess” version of events in which he’s a funny, Road Runner-esque cartoon figure, what a stinker! And I get it! Santos is acting like a Bravo star and would definitely fit in on Real Housewives, but the reason we’re able to take the many monsters of Bravo lightly is the same reason we should take Santos more seriously: with few exceptions, Bravo monsters contain their monstrosity to Bravo, and none of them have become Congresspeople that used their power illegally and unethically.
Santos is an unserious and frivolous presence, yes, but he’s committed serious crimes. He wants attention for his antics, he wants his comments to go viral, and he wants as many people as possible to send ironic Cameos of him at $200 apiece. So why, taking all of this into account, would we give him what he wants? Why would we play into his games? Santos commits crime after crime, and then we reward him by giving him our money and making him into a fun meme? We don’t subtract from his power or somehow strike a blow against him by laughing at him. Laughter is the goal! He was never serious about his work, so taking him lightly doesn’t rob him of any power, it’s exactly what he wants. He’s a clown and instead of giving him our money out of some misplaced idea that it would embarrass him, we should realize that giving him anything more embarrasses us.
Santos wants to be remembered as a hilarious character in American politics, one so incorrigible he immediately sold Cameos when he was kicked out of Congress. Instead of giving him our money and immortalizing him as one of the greatest jokes, he shouldn’t be remembered at all, outside of being a flash in the pan so openly craven that even the Republicans voted him out.