Whopper of the Week: Joseph Ell—No! Wait! Edmund Morris!

“Having been chastised by the eminent historian Joseph Ellis for fictionalizing the story of my life in Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, I suppose I should feel some satisfaction at the news that he has fictionalized his own. Actually, I feel no joy in Professor Ellis’s discomfiture. …”

–Edmund Morris, “Just Our Imaginations, Running Away,”   New York Times op-ed page, first paragraph.

“Professor Ellis’s fine work as a historian is not necessarily invalidated by his similar tendency to present himself as both a witness to, and a participant in, great events. But the odds are he will not be quite so ready in the future to protest literary innovations that try to come to terms with our perennial habit of mixing memory and desire.”


Edmund Morris, “Just Our Imaginations Running Away,” New York Times op-ed page, ninth paragraph.


Commentary: Those who would argue that there’s no special harm in the telling of a lie must contend with the fact that the misfortune visited on the liar can have the ripple effect of inspiring others to mouth transparently false pieties.

Got a whopper? Send it to To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.

Whopper Archive:

June 15, 2001: George W. Bush

June 8, 2001: Nepali Prince Regent (subsequently, King) Gyanendra

June 1, 2001: Mary McGrory

May 25, 2001: Ari Fleischer

May 18, 2001: York, Pa., Mayor Charles Robertson

May 11, 2001: Ted Olson

May 4, 2001: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley

April 27, 2001: Ben Affleck

April 20, 2001: South Carolina state legislator Chip Limehouse

April 13, 2001: Gray Davis

April 6, 2001: Sumner Redstone

March 30, 2001: Spencer Abraham

March 23, 2001: George W. Bush, Rep. Jennifer Dunn, and/or the Treasury Department

March 16, 2001: George W. Bush

March 9, 2001: Russ Freyman, spokesman, National Association of Manufacturers

March 2, 2001: Paul O’Neill

Feb. 23, 2001: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton

Feb. 16, 2001: Oscar spokesman John Pavlik

Feb. 9, 2001: Lynne Cheney

Feb. 2, 2001: Bobby Thomson

Jan. 26, 2001: Denise Rich