Dear fellow journalists,
Surely you’ve heard about the controversy surrounding Congressman-elect George Santos, who tried to explain away his behavior as “having embellished my resume.” In fact, many of you have reported, and continue reporting, about it—but are buying his claims of hyperbole hook, line, and sinker. Do yourself, and the public, a favor. Understand the difference between lies and embellishments. As a fellow journalist, who like you earns a living by properly using words, I have a few examples to help you figure things out, using his self-described “embellished” accomplishments.
- Declaring that you graduated from a prestigious university and equally prestigious college when you never attended either school is a lie. Embellishment, meanwhile, is saying you were popular in school when you had a modest group of friends.
- Stating that you worked for two high-profile financial firms in New York when neither company has any record of your employment is a lie. Embellishment is saying you earned repeated praise as an employee when your boss occasionally grunted “nice job” in your direction.
- Saying you established an animal-rescue charity and therefore you’re the savior of thousands of dogs and cats when no IRS record of the non-profit exists is a lie. Admitting you just tried to find foster homes for some animals is further proof of a lie. Embellishment is saving a cat stuck in a tree and declaring you’re an animal rescuer.
- Telling people you’re Jewish when you’re really Catholic is a lie. Claiming you didn’t lie because you only referred to yourself as “Jew-ish” is, in actuality, also a lie. Embellishment is saying you regularly attend Mass when you duck out halfway through the homily.
- Stating that your mother’s parents escaped the Holocaust when they were born in Brazil and never set foot in Germany is a lie. Period.
- Speaking of your mother, to declare to your Twitter followers in 2021 that she died in the September 11 terror attacks and then five months later suddenly announce you’re mourning the fifth anniversary of her death is anything but embellishment. It’s disgusting. Appropriating a horrific event—one that, it should be noted, did kill family members and friends of your constituents—is disgusting.
Fabricating accomplishments to seem more impressive (Santos’ so-called explanation) isn’t embellishment.
Oh, and one last bit of advice if you, like Santos, ever get caught by fellow media in lies:
When your attack-dog lawyer calls the journalists who broke the news of your lies “enemies… who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations,” make sure your lawyer actually understands what “defamatory” means.