Press Talk: What’s up with all the lying?

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman ..."

Hey, I’ve got something to add to death and taxes.


That’s right, it’s inevitable. No avoiding it. No getting around it. We all do it.

Mom, true confession: Remember when I was driving with some buddies to check out a college and came back with that, ah, damaged driver’s side on our ’64 Buick LeSabre? Well, that really didn’t happen in a parking lot.

We were horsing around (kids, don’t do this!) on the interstate, and I passed up our exit. Or so I thought. I pulled a hard right at full speed and almost — almost — made the exit. That dang sign got in the way.

I thought about this lying stuff when Lance Armstrong finally decided to come clean about his drug use. He’s a full-blown liar. No question.

Then it was Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s turn. He revealed that the love of his life — his sweet, sweet girlfriend — who died of leukemia — whose last words on this Earth were, “I love you” to him — well, she didn’t exist. None of it did.

He says he was duped, of course. Obviously, somebody, somewhere along the line is lying big time in this soap opera.

Then there was President Clinton. My favorite!

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman,”
Clinton told the American people in 1998 as he wagged his finger at all of us. “These allegations are false!” he boomed.

Whoops. One minor problem. They were true.

Lies, mind you, come in all shapes and sizes. Some are whoppers. Others are chump change. But they’re all deceptions.

So, why exactly do we lie?

I found an article by Dr. Gail Saltz that addresses this.

Lying, it turns out, begins at around 4 or 5 years old. Kids begin testing those around them to see what they can get away with, how they can manipulate their environment. They pretty quickly figure out that lying can get them out of trouble or get them something they want.

Yes, those things called “white lies” are pretty harmless. You know, “Honey, you really look thin in that dress” or “Darling, that suit makes you look so handsome.”

Unfortunately, many lies go beyond the small stuff.

Those come from a group of people whom Saltz says have antisocial personality disorder or are sociopaths.

“When you get away with a lie, it often impels you to continue your deceptions. Liars often find themselves perpetrating more untruths to cover themselves.”

One of my favorite passages in the article has to do with politicians. Here’s what Saltz says:

“We expect, for example, less honesty from politicians than from scientists. We have a vision of purity about those who are doing research, while we imagine that politicians will at least shade the truth about themselves in order to get elected.”

I’m not sure this gets our political friends off the hook. And that’s because, as Saltz states:

“When a person lies, they have broken a bond. Coming clean about the lie as soon as possible is the best way to mend fences.”

Truth is, I can’t envision a world void of lies. Not gonna happen. So — I suspect — our goal should be to manage the lies we’re all going to tell and to limit the amount of lying we do.

Hey, after that little auto accident incident, I have never lied again.

Honest! (OK, I’m lying.)

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, or Twitter:

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