During the first ten days of December, part of the Athenian press, in collusion with former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, launched waves of slanderous attacks against me, demanding my head on a platter and my removal as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs with Responsibility for Hellenes Abroad.
The “crimes” that my opponents claim I committed are the following:
- I lied on my resume.
- I changed information on my CV while it was posted on the Government's official website.
- I hired "as a consultant" someone who had allegedly cheated the Greek state.
- While I was Deputy Minister I was also CEO of The National Herald and Diamataris Properties LLC.
Accusation 1: The first and biggest of my alleged "crimes" was that according to Giorgos Likomitros’s tabloid blog kalami.us, I "presented myself" on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as "a graduate" of Columbia University in New York with a "Master's in Business Administration (MBA).”
This so-called "information" did not come from, as kalami.us falsely and proudly writes, "Columbia University itself" but instead the information was extracted from a third-party site called National Student Clearinghouse-DegreeVerify. It is with this third-party source that the particularly unusual term "enrollment only" was found.
That phrase is where Mr. Tsipras and the various yellow journalists thought they had me hook, line and sinker - it is what they ultimately used to slander me.
Unfortunately, they weren’t the only ones. Even ‘Kathimerini’ fell for it, even though they knew better.
Mr. Tsipras, with no fact-checking, seized the supposed condemnations of Mr. Giorgos Likomitros, a noted sycophant, with a substantial police record, who attacks anything and anyone for his own benefit.
I would at this point like to extend my thanks and gratitude to Mr. Tsipras for elevating me to such a lofty level as a political opponent of a former Prime Minister and, of course, for considering my tenure at the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an existential threat to the status quo.
In his speech in Alexandroupolis last week Mr. Tsipras said:
"Mr. Diamataris, publisher of The National Herald, a newspaper in the Diaspora, who for 4.5 years did nothing but discredit, insult … the then-government of SYRIZA, had stated in his biography that he holds a Master's Degree from Columbia University – something that is denied by this university… I expect him to at least be expelled from the government for this great fraud."
It is surreal to not only be attacked by a man, whose diploma was acquired by actual questionable means - as we all know - not to mention his former right-hand man Nikos Pappas and his former Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias - but also to be accused by a politician who is not on good terms with the truth overall, as anyone who followed his career knows.
As for the criticism of him and his government, it turns out that in hindsight it was much too soft...
So 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 caused any misunderstanding that I am a holder of that degree," meaning, the physical paper, the diploma.
So what is the truth regarding this accusation?
The truth that I seek to impress upon all readers of this text is confirmed by a letter from Columbia University. It took a few days to get a response to my request since, not only have almost 43 years passed since I attended my final courses there, but those records are on microfilm and the university finds itself during a very busy end-of-the-year period:
“December 11, 2019
To whom it may concern:
This letter certifies that the following student has completed all the requirements for the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business on January 26, 1977…
Name: Antonis H. Diamataris…”
In a second letter sent by Columbia Business School on December 16, 2019, the school stated that “the information in [their] possession indicates that [I] satisfied the requirements for the receipt of the MBA from Columbia’s University’s Graduate School of Business in 1977…”
The letter also stated that “more than 40 years have passed since [my] completion of the degree requirements” and thus it will take some time to “solidify” why the actual paper - the diploma - was not previously conferred.
(Indeed, even my transcript - which also confirms the completion of the 20 required courses for an MBA - was found on microfilm!) But time is of the essence - so while Columbia searches its archive, I will reiterate what I said in my public statement: to my knowledge it was as a result of financial difficulties - unpaid debts that I owed the school - money that I just did not have at the time. My focus during those last few years of the 1970’s was the survival of the newspaper. For better or worse, I did not need a piece of paper nor was it going to prove something to anyone, especially back then.
The bottom line: all of the Columbia MBA requirements were met in 1977.
So what do my cruel slanderers have to say now? What does Mr. Tsipras have to say? I wonder: will he find the courage to apologize publicly?
Accusation 2: On Wednesday, December 4, they accused me of deliberately altering basic information on my biography posted on the Government's official website.
Here is SYRIZA’s statement:
"The staff handling the official website of the Government… has deleted [Mr. Diamataris’] postgraduate degree, but it has also removed the degree in Economics from Queens College, New York, again raising questions. The surprises, however, do not stop there. This specific biography, which, we repeat, is located on the Government's official website, states that the Deputy Foreign Minister was born in 1959."
The truth is far more simple and boring than what would appear to be the case.
It was not part of my job to have access to the Hellenic Government's official website and furthermore neither did any of my coworkers. Not to mention that it would not make any sense for me to make those or any other changes.
Again, it begs the question, will anyone find the courage to apologize publicly?
Accusation 3: As I embarked on my long-planned trip to visit the Diaspora communities in Australia, I was accused of hiring, as an advisor, someone who defrauded the Greek state.
The truth: Once again, the critics missed their mark. I hired Mr. Tassos Filippakos as my associate, to prepare economic analyses that I planned to be presented to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. Mr. Filippakos was well-qualified for this task as he had previous years-long work experience at Moody's and later went on to serve as president of the state-owned Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB).
For example, I hired him to study whether it was in Greece's national interest to incentivize expatriates to renovate their homes in the cities and villages of Greece.
I think it's a good idea. However, I had to support this opinion with an economic analysis in order to present it to the Prime Minister.
I also believe that the certifying/decertifying of automobile license plates given to those of us living abroad is a third world practice that needs to stop. But, again, I needed an economic analysis of the impact this would have on state finances.
These analyses, and many more like them, could have been done in a competent way by Mr. Filippakos.
This commonsense approach of policy dictated by in-depth analysis would have been undertaken by the Deputy Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Greeks Abroad - incredibly, for the very first time.
Concerning the charges against Mr. Filippakos pertaining to his tenure as president of EAB, the truth of the matter is that he was acquitted in six separate trials with one currently pending in Greece's Supreme Court on a motion to dismiss by the public prosecutor.
Still I wonder, will anyone find the courage to apologize to both Mr. Filippakos and me?
Accusation 4: Finally, on Friday, December 6 (Australian time), upon arriving in Sydney, I was informed that there was news that I continued to hold CEO positions – at The National Herald and Diamataris Properties, LLC.
The truth: This accusation is true and I take responsibility.
After I was sworn in as Deputy Minister, I immediately removed my name from the newspapers’ mastheads and web sites, replacing it with the names of my children – of whom I am very proud because they are doing a great job. However, I delayed in starting the process of removing my name from the companies and when I did, thanks to those delays in addition to bureaucratic ones, the process was not completed in time. Now they have been.
As I recently realized, in Greece, a businessman cannot become a politician!
Meanwhile, on the same day, SYRIZA issued the following statement:
"On what basis does Mr. Mitsotakis 'keep' Mr. Diamataris and does not expel him? Mr. Diamataris, contrary to what he has stated: Has no Master's degree, no undergraduate diploma – and it remains unknown if he even has a high school diploma... It was Mr. Mitsotakis' right to plunge into the unprecedented fiasco of the supposed “government of excellence” he has created with his relative – the Deputy Foreign Minister…”
His “relative – the Deputy Foreign Minister”? It is news to me that I am related to Mr. Mitsotakis and I wish to thank SYRIZA for providing me with an updated, amended version of my family tree. It boggles the mind that SYRIZA can unrepentantly say so many consecutive falsehoods - they can't even get one true thing squared away in their official statements.
It was after this issue came to light - the conflict of being a Deputy Minister and a CEO - that it became clear to me that this situation was going to be blown completely out of proportion.
I was thus concerned that if I continued to serve in the government, I would hurt Kyriakos Mitsotakis politically. Consequently, I decided to submit my resignation with "pain in my soul," as I also characterized it in my official resignation announcement.
The pain in my soul was not for me, but for the work that we did for the Greek diaspora and service to mother Greece that was abruptly cut off. I was pained for all the things we dreamed of, the things that we had planned and for the things that we could've done but weren't afforded the chance to.
Kyriakos accepted my decision - he had to.
My fellow Hellenes, those ten days were not pleasant for me.
I knew from my long journey in the public eye, that my decision to leave behind my family, my home and my job to come to Athens to offer whatever I could for the Hellenes Abroad and the mother country would bother some people.
But I must concede that not even in my wildest dreams did I expect such filth and slander. Even from various U.S. based “journalist colleagues.” (More about them later.)
I thank my family for demonstrating, once again, how lucky I am. I would go through this same ordeal all over again to feel the boundless love, the total support, the lack of any doubt whatsoever, the sweet warmth that I felt deep inside my soul from them.
I thank all of my coworkers who stood by me as a unit against the slanderers.
Thank you to all of you, my brothers and sisters, the members of the diaspora, for your truly touching, over-the-top support. I will never forget the enthusiasm with which you received the news of my appointment, as well as your support during these difficult times.
I also thank hundreds of my fellow Greeks in Greece for their heartfelt moral support. I will never forget them either.
I wish to also thank Kyriakos Mitsotakis for affording me the honor to serve when he appointed me Deputy Foreign Minister with Responsibility for Hellenes Abroad.
It was a unique experience, honor, and responsibility.
In those five months we achieved a lot. And we laid the foundations for much more.
Specifically, to mention just a few: our contribution to the cause of the voting rights of the Diaspora (even though it is far from perfect), the start of the process of upgrading the services offered by consular authorities; the transfer to Athens of the former Patriarch of Jerusalem Eirinaios, which put an end to a long-lasting and damaging church dispute; the event which honored Mr. Athanasios Paleologos, a Greek-American from Los Angeles who donated $600,000 to the University of the North Aegean; my visit to retired Senator Paul Sarbanes, when I expressed our community’s and Greece’s gratitude for his work and presented him with letters of thanks from the President and Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic; the settlement of retirement issues for expatriates stemming from month-overdue pensions.
As to the question that some of my friends ask me, whether I believe that I would have been the subject of such cruel and slanderous accusations if I were not an ‘omogenis,’ my answer is as follows:
“Unfortunately, I think not. I wouldn't have been.”
Some do not want us. They are afraid of us.
Some consider us to be second-class Greeks, which was on full display during the process leading up to the law on voting from abroad and the changes demanded by SYRIZA and KKE.
But we will not do them the favor of just walking away. Greece belongs to us too. It is not the property of a small group of unrepenting slanderers who do everything they can to keep the country trapped in the past.
Greece, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, can and will thrive.
The future is in our hands.
Let us remember the words of the great poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936):
“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too…
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools...
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…”
I am closing with these words:
If we are determined to uncover those who wish to hold Greece hostage and those who wish to bully us Greeks abroad, then yes, Greece will move forward.
Greece deserves to move forward; just give her the chance.