Why NOT Lie To Congress?

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


After yesterday’s day-long congressional hearing on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, the consensus on the matter here at our F Street headquarters boils down to two things: Roger Clemens was lying (duh), and devoting federal resources to baseball players is a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. What makes it particularly “f*ing stupid,” to quote my colleague Nick, is that nothing is likely to come of it. Sure, we got to learn some interesting things about Clemens’ ass and the complications of injecting yourself with foreign substances. But here’s the rub:

Clemens is not actually at risk of being prosecuted for using steroids, the issue at the heart of the entire brouhaha. After all, he’s apparently stopped using them. That would be like prosecuting, well, any of us for having smoked pot in high school. (In fact most prosecutions of ‘roid-using athletes have been for lying, not injecting.) But proving that Clemens committed perjury would basically require proving that he once used steroids, a pretty tall order despite the forces aligned against him. While trainer Brian McNamee, who claims to have shot up the famous Red Sox buns, has produced a pile of seven or eight-year-old needles and gauze allegedly soiled with Clemens’ bodily fluids and HGH, it’s a delightfully weird twist to the case but no smoking gun. The stuff is unlikely to ever see the inside of a courtroom because it’s so comprised by chain of custody issues.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Clemens took a gamble that there wasn’t much of a downside to lying to Congress. History would be on his side. Recall, for instance, the year 1994, when seven executives of the nations’ leading tobacco companies came before the very same House Oversight committee that grilled Clemens. Each one raised his hand, swore to tell the truth, and proceeded to state emphatically that he did not believe tobacco was addictive. Nothing happened to any of those guys. As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a single person convicted of lying to Congress since the Reagan administration, even though baseball players have provided rich targets. Back in 2005, during the last round of congressional hearings on steroids in baseball, home-run star Rafael Palmeiro vehemently denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs. A few months later, he tested positive for them. Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) declined to seek prosecution.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate