I can’t stop thinking about lying and why people lie, recalling my first lie as a 4-year-old. It’s seems so small, but it isn’t really. All these years later that pre-school falsehood still bothers me because I abhor lying. Even so, I know over the years I have lied by omission, by pretending to not be home when I am or by telling my husband, “I’m fine,” when I’m not.
As a young girl, I lived in a brown boxy rancher on a newly developed treeless street in Niagara Falls. My Dad hung a swing from the basement rafters by two hooks and each time the swing glided back and forth it squeaked. One cold winter morning, my Mom had a visitor and when I wandered upstairs for a sweater after a long and squeaky swing, the visitor asked me, “Were you swinging?” And I said, “No.”
“No?” Why would I say that? Even that young, I sat there embarrassed, refusing to admit the lie, baffled by my resistance and my response. Why did I lie? Why did it matter? Why wouldn't I fix it?
Maybe that’s why I embarked on an early quest to seek and tell the truth. My daughters know that the punishment for lying far exceeds the deed they are trying to cover up or keep from me. So they generally tell me the truth.
While a journalism graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C, professors chanted a truth and integrity mantra that made the lies of journalists like Janet Cooke (Washington Post), Stephen Glass (The New Republic) and Jason Blair (The New York Times) seem treasonous to the profession.
So when I read this morning that Washington Post’s Factchecker found that our nation’s president has made over 832 false or misleading claims since taking the oath of the Office of the President in January (that’s an average of four a day), I was troubled. How can that be good for our country, I wondered. How can that be?
Last August, Politico tracked then candidate Donald Trump’s “untruths.”
In six speeches, one town hall, seven TV interviews, 37 tweets, totaling four hours and 43 minutes, the raw number of misstatements, exaggerations or falsehoods were 87 or one untruth every 3.25 minutes. (from Politico)
Recently, as if saying, 'for the president it’s OK,' White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that any parent would have “weighed in” to protect their child in reference to Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. “There’s no inaccuracy in the statement. The president weighed in as any father would, based on the limited information that he had,” she said.
And yesterday Sanders told a questioning White House Press Corps that it was a bit harsh to call two recent false statements by the president lies.
I started wondering, does everyone lie?
Do people regularly tell lies to intentionally mislead others?
According to researchers from Michigan State University in East Lansing, 60 percent of subjects studied report telling no lies at all in a 24-hour period and almost half of all lies are told by only five percent of subjects. These Department of Communication scientists asked 1,000 U.S. adults to report the number of lies they told in a 24-hour period. The lies were broken down into lies to family, friends, business contacts, acquaintances and strangers.
Countering earlier research that said Americans tell on average, one to two lies a day, University of Michigan researchers said that data was skewed because that number was just an average of the number of people surveyed divided by the number of lies told.
“The important findings are that many people do not lie on a given day, the majority of lies are told by a few prolific liars, and because the distribution is highly skewed, the mean number of lies per day is misleading,” University of Michigan researchers wrote in their conclusion. “On any given day, the majority of lies are told by a small portion of the population, and nearly 6 out of 10 Americans claim to have told no lies at all.”
So now I am thinking that there must be others, maybe even six out of 10, who are asking if it is OK for a world leader to persistently, lie.
I am reminded that Congress would not accept the lies of President Richard Nixon during Watergate and President Bill Clinton was impeached because he lied.
What does this say about a nation that accepts regular lying as the norm?