J. KARL MILLER: First deny, then apologize has become the norm for lying celebrities

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:34 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Many of us can remember when one's word was one's bond — that the truth trumps love, money and fame, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau.

The importance of truth is embedded in our culture as a nation — the myth of our first president's  "I cannot tell a lie, Pa. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree."  The fact that it did not happen did nothing to tarnish the lesson we all learned from that fabled quote — George Washington did not lie.

Those of us who remember our comic book and radio serial programs know that Superman, the man of steel, fought for "truth, justice and the American way."

Finally, this quote from our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln: "No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar," virtually guarantees that, regardless of how good the tale and how badly the supporters wish it true, truth will out.

However, in recent years, we have been inundated with celebrity lies — prevaricator politicians, reporters, athletes, high ranking military officers and even the clergy seem to multiply like the proverbial rabbits.  Moreover, the culprits tend to equivocate and palter shamelessly but, when the deceit is uncovered, gravitate to profuse apology to colleagues, family, supporters, fans, children — anyone their sleazy behavior may have hurt.

Following the apology angle and, dependent upon the scope of the falsehood, comes the counseling phase, dependent upon the scope of the falsehood. It goes without saying that any person of status must be suffering from a mysterious malady, brought about by stress, imbalanced hormones or whatever may seem believable.

The coup de maitre (masterstroke) of celebrity fibbing goes to President Clinton and his "inappropriate relationship" with the intern Monica Lewinsky. From the dramatic televised denial "I did not...." to the profuse and hand-wringing apologies, it was a classic "first deny and then apologize."

The irony of this apology and subsequent counseling was in the 1998 selection of the Rev. Jesse Jackson as the adviser. After pronouncing the president "contrite and embarrassed" and more than ready for a stable marriage, the counselor, Jackson, found himself in similar hot water the next year.

I use this example to illustrate the foibles of elected officials from both sides of the aisle, along with straying from the straight and narrow by "rock star" politicians, athletes, movie stars, et al. Along with former Democratic Sen. and vice presidential candidate John Edwards, there have been Sens. Vitter, R-La., and Ensign, R-Nev.,  with similar falls from grace.

The issue troubling me the most is the illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs by so many of our athletes and their assiduous protestations of innocence in the face of almost ironclad evidence to the contrary. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, all-time major league home run king Barry Bonds and National Football League running back Stanley Wilson are among the most infamous.

The most egregious current examples of trying to lie their way through misconduct are New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun. Rodriguez is the league's highest-paid player, and Braun was the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2011.

I won't go into detail as their offenses and actions are well-publicized and similar.  Rodriguez continued to use performance enhancing drugs while serving as a spokesman for the Taylor Hooton Foundation, an anti-steroid organization. Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during his MVP year but, through chicanery, made his denial stick.

Denying and apologizing for wrongdoing has become epidemic among the high-born and, let's face it, celebrities have no monopoly on lying. The most corrupt and disreputable facet is, by far, the subsequent apology and accompanying crocodile tears.

The only genuine sorrow experienced by these cheats is not that they let down their families, friends, colleagues, fans, supporters and perhaps their pets by their actions, but rather that they got caught.

It is indeed a sad state of affairs when one can compromise hisor her integrity, moral character and reputation by deciding that the only offense is getting caught.

Is it any wonder that today's role models are likely as not to have feet of clay?

J. Karl Miller is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.

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Ellis Smith August 28, 2013 | 8:26 a.m.

"The Devil made me do it." - Flip Wilson

Problem is that with our current thirst for "moral relative-ism" the Devil himself has become only a minor influence; he's practically been banished to the minor leagues.

[On another matter, "Blowing Up Barbie" is the third feature about the MS&T Explosives Camp I've seen appearing in a nationally-read publication. We like our female students (~25% of the student body*), but poor old Barbie takes one hell of a beating! You're never too old to learn. Enroll now in our MS degree program in Explosives Engineering, the only one in the United States. Eat your hearts out, Colorado School of Mines! Surely you know somebody you'd like to blow up. :)]

*-Normal, these days, for institutions, public and private, similar to ours.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 28, 2013 | 11:28 a.m.

Ellis sez, "Surely you know somebody you'd like to blow up."

I don't know if you are enrolled in a school, but I think you just got suspended......

Howz ya doin' since the Missourian closed down the "recent comments" section? I think it wuz messin' with their reader data.....


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 28, 2013 | 1:14 p.m.


I have in the past perhaps endlesly used a quote from the [in]famous* book "Animal Farm" (Orwell) to the effect that "All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others." In the present case a comentator can post his views - and that's just fine - but when they're seriously challenged the challengers have matters made the worse for them (and THEY are being charged a fee for the privilege of being able to make comments) while the original commentator has at times answered criticisms with some pretty "smarmy" comments of his own.

I only resided in Columbia for a mere 23 years, so I wouldn't attempt to understand how our so-called "flagship campus" and its media operate, but down in the Ozarks we'd say such nonsense TRULY SUCKS.

Yes, it's true, folks, "...some animals [really] are more equal than others."

*- To anyone even moderately Left of center politically, this little book is an anathema.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 28, 2013 | 1:33 p.m.


In the state where I was born and grew up there were and presumably still are many old sayings, some originally in English and others tranlated into English. One translates into English roughly as follows:

"Some people are very good at "dishing it out," and take great joy in doing so, but when it's their turn, they can't "take it."

Do we know any folks who might fit that saying? I could argue it might describe an entire political class.

[Fall semester has begun, so soon our regular (Mining Engineering) students will be busy "blowing up Barbie." That's become pretty much a year-around assignment these days. Who says engineering is no fun?]

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 28, 2013 | 6:16 p.m.

" soon our regular (Mining Engineering) students will be busy "blowing up Barbie."


(PS: I helped raise 3 daughters. I STILL have a large container of headless, naked Barbies (and not a few Kens) in the "toy" closet. I'd love to make a rather sizable donation to your school's efforts, but the damned dolls keep making an appearance when the granddaughters show up. I'm hamstrung and granddaughter-whipped. Somehow the dolls don't get removed from the tub area (why the tub area????), so I end up taking my bath with 30+ wet, naked, headless ladies looking on. It's all kinda spooky.......)

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks August 28, 2013 | 6:38 p.m.

I have been out of town for annual training for a while. What happen to the comment box on the right of the webpage? And why did they remove the comment amount at the bottom of the articles? Is the Missourian trying to get people to stop commenting and just read?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 28, 2013 | 10:28 p.m.

Corey: To my knowledge, the Missourian has never explained the reason.

The policy/format just changed one day.

But I don't think your explanation is far off the mark.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 28, 2013 | 10:46 p.m.


As Michael Williams notes, no explanation has been given, but the change was strangely coincident with an exchange of remarks involving a column by one of the newspaper's regular columnists and several of the rest of us.

Is somebody waiting for our apologies? Don't hold your breaths.

I am an engineer and do not pretend to understand the intracies of journalism. :)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 28, 2013 | 11:05 p.m.


I too have been granddaughter-whipped, but mine are grown up and have lost interest in Barbie and Ken. If I manage to live for a bit longer perhaps there will be great granddaughters.

Both granddaughters attended MS&T summer camps but neither were in the camp where Barbie gets "wasted." Neither chose to attend MS&T, but one will be a sophomore this fall at a technical institute in Chicago. The older one has already achieved a BA and intends to continue higher education.

(Report Comment)

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