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Politics

Accusations and the Truth: The Adventure of a Deputy Foreign Minister with Responsibility for Hellenes Abroad

January 21, 2020

The following commentary was published in the Sunday edition of Kathimerini:

I had been hesitant to accept the proposal of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to assume the post of Deputy Foreign Minister Responsible for Hellenes Abroad.

Eventually I decided to do it because I believed – and I still believe – that there is no time to lose to strengthen the relationship between the Motherland and Greeks abroad.

So I left my life in New York and returned to Greece after 50 years in the hope that from my new position I could serve both my homeland and the Diaspora.

And indeed in the five months that my tenure lasted, always in cooperation with the Prime Minister, I think we achieved a great deal. We succeeded in laying the foundations for a new ‘spring’ in their relationship.

Greek-Americans enthusiastically received the news of me being chosen for this post. And they supported me to an unbelievable degree when I resigned.

To cite just one example, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stated in a letter: “We express the official exhilaration and warm thanks of the [Patriarchal] Throne and my self for your zealous work to promote and support the sacred interests of the Church and the Nation during your tenure.”

However, at the beginning of last December, I was victimized, as is well known, by a coordinated attack that is unprecedented for its viciousness and duration, a campaign that aimed at nothing short of political and character assassination.

As a public person, I was aware that it was only a matter of time before the opposition and the media criticized me.

Not a problem. The role of the media is precisely that, to examine those in power.

After all, I did this for 40 years as the Editor-Publisher of the Ethnikos Kirix, the only daily Greek-language newspaper outside of Greece’s borders – which will shortly celebrate its 105th anniversary – and for 22 years in its English sister publication, The National Herald.

However, while I expected a critique of the mission I had undertaken and how I was performing, it was impossible for me to imagine what in fact happened: the lies, the mud, the unchecked reproduction of so-called ‘information,’ my condemnation by commentators – some of whom made up my first name, a classic case of journalistic arrogance and irresponsibility.

And I didn’t expect a former Prime Minister of Greece, no matter how negative my impression was of him, to attack me three times, relying on the ‘information’ dispensed by a man convicted of crimes by the U.S. justice system.

But most of all, I did not expect that commentators and cartoonists of Kathimerini, a newspaper that could constitute a school of journalism for the country, would participate in the campaign to smear my character and, by extension, to remove me from the government.

But let’s look at the horrible ‘crimes’ I was accused of:

The main accusation against me was that I lied about having an MBA from Columbia University in New York.

I hate lies with a passion. And of course, I didn’t lie in this case.

What did I say?

After the noise generated by the attacks, I issued a statement saying that for financial reasons I did not “obtain the relevant degree” and that “I am sorry if the wording I used caused any misunderstanding that I am the holder of that degree,” – meaning the holder of the physical paper, the diploma itself – not the fact that I indeed went to Columbia University Business School and completed the required courses necessary for an MBA.

That I earned my degree is fully confirmed by a December 2019 letter from Columbia University stating that “…the following student [Antonis Diamataris] fulfilled all the requirements for the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at Columbia University School of Business on January 26, 1977…”

So where is the lie?

Unfortunately, it took me many days to secure this letter from the University since it has been 43 (!) years since I finished my studies there and my records are on microfilm and somewhere in a warehouse in New Jersey.

I will ignore two of the other accusations as being unworthy of a response, but I will address the accusation that I was simultaneously CEO of U.S. companies and Deputy Foreign Minister in Greece.

Yes, I take responsibility for this. I was late to realize that what was routine in U.S. political life was against Greek law, so I did not manage to complete my resignation from these companies in time.

Mea culpa.

However, beyond my personal situation, I am concerned that the media – and some politicians – have learned nothing from the crisis Greece went through and do not perceive the visible dangers we face as a Nation.

It is, for example, beyond tragic that a former Prime Minister seized upon unexamined “information” from a convicted felon and used it as weapon to strike the Prime Minister, to take his revenge for my criticism, and to end my mission as Deputy Foreign Minister Responsible for Hellenes Abroad, fearing the repercussions from the positive effect on the New Democracy party from the results of my work.

Let me close with this: in our age, the media is in crisis because of revolutionary technological breakthroughs, but also because of the loss of credibility.

So how do we begin to restore their credibility – the irreplaceable element that above all else is the reason for their existence – when not a single media outlet issued a correction for the injustice they committed against me after the evidence I presented during my televised interview with SKAI on December 20 and the stories I ran in our publications?

*Antonis H. Diamataris served as Deputy Foreign Minister with Responsibility for Hellenes Abroad. For 40 years he was Editor-Publisher of Ethnikos Kirix/The National Herald.

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