Whopper of the Week: Sumner Redstone

“Sometime after the Supreme Court decision I found myself inLas Vegasrepresenting a group that was building the Dunes Hotel and met a man who was working at the Flamingo. This was in the mid-1950s [italics Chatterbox’s], when theLas VegasStrip was controlled by characters who didn’t often show up in corporate boardrooms. ‘What do you do for a living?’ the man asked me. I said I was a tax lawyer.

“‘You know,’ he told me, ‘something extraordinary happened. My brother was inAlcatrazand he just got out because of some case in the Supreme Court.’


“‘What’s your brother’s name?’ I asked. He was one of the three prisoners who had been released because of the ruling in my case. I told the man the story. And the next day I was sitting in the Flamingo Hotel at a meeting presided over by one Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel. … They wanted me to represent them. … They offered me anything. Everything. All kinds of money–over the table, under the table, any way I wanted it.


“I wasn’t tempted. Money wasn’t my vice and I saw my life in a very different way. … About a year later Bugsy Siegel was found in his girlfriend’s house inBeverly Hillswith five bullets in his head. …”

–Viacam chairman Sumner Redstone (with Peter Knobler), A Passion To Win, pp. 65-66.


“Siegel was murdered onJune 19, 1947 [italics Chatterbox’s]   in Los Angeles,California, at themansionofVirginia Hill, his mistress.”

–Federal Bureau of Investigation Web page linking to various Siegel-related documents, including an FBI memo dated July 23, 1947, that refers  to “BENJAMIN “BUGSY” SIEGEL, deceased.”

“In 1947 [italics Chatterbox’s], Mr. Redstone received his L.L.B. from theHarvardUniversitySchoolof Law.”

Redstone’s official biography on Viacom’s corporate Web site.

“‘Don’t call me a mogul,’ says Sumner Redstone, ’47 [italics Chatterbox’s]. …”

–Redstone profile in Harvard Law Bulletin, Spring 1998.

“In 1950 [italics Chatterbox’s], Deputy United States Attorney General Payton Ford, the head of the Department of Justice antitrust division, Herbert Bergson, and his assistant, Herbert Borkland, left to form a law firm. They invited a general practitioner named Bert Adams to join them. … I was an ambitious young lawyer at Justice in whom they had taken an interest, and they invited me to join Ford, Bergson, Adams & Borkland as an associate. … My most important case came through a Midwestern congressman. He was representing two innkeepers, a husband and wife, friends of his who had been indicted and convicted of tax evasion. … Lo and behold, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. … We won. … All of a sudden I was a famous tax attorney.”


–Redstone’s A Passion To Win, pp. 62-65.

(Thanks to Mark Feeney of the Boston Globe, who discovered the discrepancy; Steve Bailey of the Globe, who wrote about it on June 29; and Slate’s Margo Howard, who alerted Chatterbox.)

[Update, July 19: A reader has helped Chatterbox identify the Supreme Court case in question. It was Holland et ux. v. United States,  argued on October 20 and 21, 1954–seven years after Bugsy Siegel was murdered. Incidentally, Redstone’s book also states falsely that John Marshall Harlan was one of the justices Redstone argued before. Not possible. Harlan wasn’t sworn in  until March 1955.]

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 29, 2001: David Brock

June 22, 2001: Edmund Morris

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