Whopper of the Week: Denise Rich

A lie is a thing of beauty. To be convincing, it must be bold; but, once exposed as a deliberate falsehood, it enters the realm of the sublime. Who can avert his eye from Bill Clinton wagging his index finger and saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” or John Ashcroft testifying to the Senate that “I have never used sexual orientation as a matter of qualification or disqualification in my offices”? These moments derive their power from our knowledge that the speaker is knowingly telling an untruth. When the lie is told with seeming conviction, the teller emerges as a Byronic hero, altering by sheer force of will the map of truth. When the lie is told in a shifty-eyed way, the teller is rendered compellingly human–tragically, perhaps fatally diminished. Either way, the result is art.

Art belongs in a museum, and Chatterbox has decided to create one. Henceforth, this column will post a “Whopper of the Week” every Friday. Readers are encouraged to submit nominations (to with the caveat that to be considered, an entry must be an unambiguous lie paired with an unambiguous refutation, and that both be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online so that readers can examine the source material for themselves. (Links to online video clips would be especially welcome.) Inadvertent lies–assertions based on ignorance, misunderstanding, or faulty memory–are not eligible. Neither are examples of misreporting in the press. (Press criticism has its place, but Chatterbox doesn’t want to turn this into a corrections column.) Neither are paraphrases; the lie must be verbatim. The political realm will be favored over all others because political lies tend to have greater relevance to the public interest. But the spirit of this feature will be bipartisan.

To emphasize this last point, Chatterbox, a known Democrat, kicks off “Whopper of the Week” with a Democrat’s lie: Clinton fund-raiser Denise Rich’s denial, through a spokesman, that she had anything to do with Bill Clinton’s last-minute pardon of her ex-husband, the fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich.

“Denise was totally taken by surprise.It’s not something she really wanted. It’s not something she would have used her clout for.”–Denise Rich’s publicist, Bobby Zarem, as reported in the Jan. 23 New York Daily News.“Exile for 17 years is enough. Marc has made the lives of countless others better.”–Dec. 6 letter from Denise Rich to Bill Clinton, as quoted in the Jan. 23 New York Times.