In a new book, James B. Stewart, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, contends that telling the truth while under oath is on the decline. Title of his work is Tangled Webs, with the subtitle: How False Statements Are Undermining America—From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff.
The author writes, “Mounting evidence suggests that the broad public commitment to telling the truth under oath has been breaking down, eroding over recent decades, a trend that has been accelerating in recent years.” He goes on to say, “Perjury has infected nearly every aspect of society. There is too much lying in America.”
Mr. Stewart admits his thesis is difficult to prove. However, in support of it he points to the high profile cases in which defendants were prosecuted, not merely for lying under oath but lying to investigators and federal officials while not under oath. His evidence includes case studies of Martha Stewart, Lewis Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernard Mad off.
Whether Mr. Stewart makes a persuasive case is for his readers to decide. In the post-Enron era, however, many Americans believe that lying is one of many breaches growing ever more common. If it is not vanishing, Integrity is being tested as never before—in all spheres of American life.
Lying is not part of Integrity. The first tenet of this timely and timeless virtue is adherence to the truth. The first question of Rotary International’s esteemed Four-Way Test reads “Is it the Truth?”
Harry Beckwith, considered one of the nation’s top authorities on marketing services, author of the acclaimed book, “Selling the Invisible,” tells his readers and clients “Tell the truth. Always tell the truth. For even when it hurts, it will help.” And I add, irrespective of whether one is under oath.
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