TERRE HAUTE —
The truth of the matter is, lying has consequences.
Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times columnist James B. Stewart offered an honest look at the trend of dishonesty inside Tilson Auditorium Thursday. His new book, “Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff” was featured as part of Indiana State University’s speaker series.
Prior to the speech, Stewart explained that his latest book, which chronicles the epidemic of perjury in American society, has its roots in the financial scandals of the late 1990s. From MCI WorldCom to Enron, those years found Stewart writing about one corporate calamity after another. But regardless the industry sector, each seemed to have one thing in common — dishonesty.
“When we drill down to the root of these scandals, it’s all about lying,” the veteran journalist and lawyer said.
Stewart won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for his work at The Wall Street Journal covering the stock market crash and insider training. A graduate of DePauw University and Harvard Law School, he belongs to the New York bar and holds the Bloomberg chair at the Columbia University School of Journalism, where he serves as a professor while writing a column for the New York Times.
Ultimately, the responsibility to uphold honesty as a virtue lies with the individual, he said. Americans must hold liars, and those that enable them, accountable.
“We can’t police every statement in America. We can’t police every statement made under oath,” he said. The public must embrace its “shared commitment to truth,” which is the bedrock of civilized society, he said.
During his speech, Stewart acknowledged the problem of perjury is nothing new for human beings. From the Ten Commandments to Roman civil law, English common law to the modern U.S. legal system, the importance of honesty has been recognized throughout history, he said.
A native of Quincy, Ill., Stewart remarked on his own upbringing which emphasized “Midwestern values,” explaining the importance of truth was drummed into his head at an early age.
But somewhere along the line, the public seems to have excused dishonesty by the wealthy and powerful, he said. Worse yet, they seem to expect it.
Recounting how former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards coerced a staff member into falsely swearing he’d fathered his own baby with a consultant, Stewart noted that Edwards’ wife was dying of cancer at the time.
“I can’t imagine perjury getting any lower than that,” he said, adding federal law enforcement officials have told him they go into work expecting people to lie nowadays.
And these aren’t “little lies,” he said, explaining the dire consequences they can have for innocent people.
In his book, Stewart examines the cases of four perjury cases, those of Stewart, former White House official Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds, and Madoff. The lies of these people wound up destroying the jobs of their employees and costing investors billions of dollars, he said.
“These lies cannot happen in a vacuum,” he added, explaining that each of the individuals involved relied upon a number of “enablers” who went along, perjured themselves, and supported them in their efforts to lie under oath.
Chuckling as he spoke, Stewart observed that one need only look at photographs of Bonds while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates juxtaposed with those of his days with the San Francisco Giants, to know he’d used some kind of performance enhancing drugs. But for nine years, Bonds and his “enablers” hosted the “World Series of lying” about steroids, costing taxpayers valuable court time and further eroding the public’s confidence in athletes, he said.
In the case of Madoff, accused of running a Ponzi scheme for nearly 20 years, fraudulent behavior ended up costing his investors some $45 billion, he said. Those investors included retired firefighters, school teachers and police officers, he added.
After her conviction, the share value of Stewart’s company fell from the $50 range to single digits. Employees lost jobs and shareholders lost their investment, he said.
Individuals with money and power often feel they’re special, he said. Surrounded by people who support their every word, they feel entitled to do as they please. And given the money they’re paying attorneys and other workers, a team of loyal followers help keep up the mirage, he said. But inevitably the loyalty only runs one way, and individuals from Bonds to Stewart leave their entourage in the lurch.
“So the simple answer to why they lie is because they thought they could get away with it,” he said. Despite the unbelievable alibis and egregious fabrications, all four individuals featured in his book really thought they’d beat the system right up until the judge’s gavel sounded, he said.
The “ominous trend” involved needs stopped immediately, he said. Instead of “rule by law,” the country runs the danger of a “prison yard code” where the powerful coerce others to do their will. Preventing this begins with individuals refusing to go along with the lies told by others, and choosing to refrain from lying themselves, he said.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DePauw grad’s new book focuses on damage of lies
TERRE HAUTE —
The truth of the matter is, lying has consequences.
- Local & Bistate
Vigo County Jail Log: May 21, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Monday and Tuesday, based on jail records.
NWS: Weak tornado struck west of Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS — The National Weather Service confirms a weak tornado struck west of Indianapolis and caused minor damage.
Storm causes scattered Indiana power outages
INDIANAPOLIS — A line of thunderstorms that moved across Indiana caused scattered building damage and power outages for several thousand homes and businesses.
Kindergartner diagnosed with MD treated to a day with the fire department
“He’ll just never forget this day,” Stacey Manley said, a little bit tearfully, as she watched her smiling 6-year-old son Carter sitting happily in the captain’s seat of Fire Engine 2.
Casey, Illinois aims for another world record
The town of Casey, Ill., may soon weave its way into the record books as the small town with the most world records. After setting records for the world’s largest wind chimes and the world’s largest golf tee, Casey is now looking to become home to the world’s largest knitting needles and crochet hook.
Rose-Hulman projects will promote growth, learning for people with physical challenges
Life changed dramatically for college engineering student Drew Christy on Feb. 22, 2008 when he was involved in an auto accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
‘500’ gas stations being sold to Speedway LLC
After several decades in business, the area’s familiar “500” gasoline stations and convenience stores will soon be missing from the roadsides of Vigo and Sullivan counties.
Terre Haute woman faces 14 charges
A Terre Haute woman faces 14 criminal counts after her arrest Friday on drug-related charges.
Two adults injured in ATV accident
Two adults were injured Sunday evening while riding an all-terrain vehicle near Lexington Farms Subdivision off Moyer Drive in southern Vigo County.
Vigo schools’ medical claims down 4 percent
The Vigo County School Corp.’s medical claims were about $13 million over the last 12 months, down 4 percent from the prior year, said Diane Titchenell, an Anthem account manager that works with the school district.
2013 Government Directory now available
The 2013 Government Directory is now available.
UPDATE: 5 killed, 6 injured in I-70 van crash in Illinois
ST. LOUIS — A van carrying church members returning from a California gathering careened off of a southern Illinois freeway and overturned several times today, killing five people and sending six others to hospitals, authorities said.
2 children reported dead from Indianapolis fire
INDIANAPOLIS — Authorities say some autistic children lived in the Indianapolis condominium unit where a fire has killed two children.
Tighter Indiana drunken driving law seems unlikely
INDIANAPOLIS — Some key Indiana legislators say it’s unlikely that the state will any time soon go along with a federal safety board’s recommendation that the threshold for drunken driving be cut nearly in half.
Vigo County Jail Log: May 20, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, based on jail records.
Life-Size Ping Pong: Valley pickleball tourney draws large crowd to Brittlebank Park
It’s been described as “ping pong on steroids.”
Some people call it “life-size ping pong where you stand on the table.”
Boat trip aims to raise awareness about Lewy Body Dementia
In 2013, the Year of the River, it makes sense to link a grand adventure on the Wabash River with a good cause.
Legislature had little taste for alcohol bills
When it comes to alcohol, the 2013 legislative session may be marked more by what it didn’t do to boost booze sales than what it did.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Is it regulation that doesn’t make sense or evening the playing field?
I’m not much of a drinker, so I haven’t spent much time thinking about how Indiana’s alcohol laws personally impact me, but that changed last fall when my daughter got married.
RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS: April 29-May 3
The Vigo County Health Department inspected the following food establishments April 29-May 3:
For Piper: Annual ‘Rush the Punter’ event dedicated to Dixie Bee student who died Wednesday after a short illness
Steve Weatherford’s “Rush the Punter” fundraiser at Fairbanks Park on Saturday was dedicated to a little girl who lost her life unexpectedly to pneumonia.
Vigo schools prepare to tighten belts
State funding for the Vigo County School Corp. will remain “pretty flat” for the next two years, said Donna Wilson, chief financial officer.
Veterans take to the trees
Cristal Bednar took photos of her husband, Justin, as he laboriously climbed his way up a “Dangle-Duo” to get to a zipline at Indiana State University’s Sycamore Outdoor Center.
Property owner seeks halt to Hulman Lake dam project
A Terre Haute property owner is seeking an injunction that would at least temporarily halt the city’s work on the Hulman Lake dam project.
Tornado veterans balance preparedness, practicality
Few things in nature are less predictable than a tornado. They can form quickly. They strike weirdly, leveling one building while leaving its neighbor untouched. They can fling a car a half-mile and turn a piece of lumber into a wall-piercing missile.
ISU unveils interactive Bayh Family Legacy Wall at school
A who’s who of Indiana Democrats paid tribute to Evan Bayh and several generations of the Bayh family Friday during a dedication of a new interactive display at Indiana State University.
Can you smell me now?
A contraband cell phone has been discovered by the Vigo County Jail’s youngest and most unique officer.
GIVING BACK: Steve Weatherford buys shoes for kids day before charity run
Terre Haute’s Steve Weatherford, punter for the 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giants, showed once again his generosity Friday by donating new athletic shoes to more than two dozen Vigo County kids.
N.Y. Giants honor Weatherford as ‘Man of the Year’
Dan Tanoos, superintendent of Vigo County schools, remembers the first time he saw Steve Weatherford as a freshman at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.
Sunday recital at The Woods
A recital featuring songs from well-known composers is at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Vigo County Jail Log: May 21, 2013