Politicians Who Were Completely Caught Lying

If it seems like more politicians are being dragged for a pattern of deception lately, that's because they are. Election campaigns can become more brutal than an episode of "Game of Thrones." In political ads, candidates can accuse their opponents of anything they want – truth be damned – and it's all perfectly legal. "For politicians, lying is a religious observance akin to attending a church or a synagogue, except that they do it seven days a week," said Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in 2014, per The New Yorker.

The famous fibbers featured here didn't just mislead the public about another candidate's background. Some of these bold-faced lies had much more serious consequences. Frequently, the motive is to cover up a crime or an indiscretion. More than one was driven by greed. In some cases, these powerful politicians believed they were above the law. The common denominator here is that they all were caught.

From Bill Clinton's scandalous affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, to Anthony Weiner sexting a teenage girl, to the women who claim Herschel Walker coerced them to have abortions, this is the saga of some of the political world's biggest liars. In an interview with the New York Post, New York Congressman George Santos, the latest suspected serial prevaricator, insisted, "I am not a criminal." Yeah, that seems to be what they all say.

George Santos has a distant relationship with the truth

When George Santos was sworn in to Congress, he was already the target of three criminal investigations. The New York Republican first made headlines when an article in The New York Times revealed he lied about nearly everything on his resumé. He claimed to be a Baruch College graduate and a former "asset manager" who worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Speaking to the New York Post in 2022, he admitted, "I didn't graduate from any institution of higher learning."

As for those Wall Street jobs, he never worked for either firm. But Santos' shady side may have caught up with him. On his campaign website, Santos estimated his "family's firm," the Devolder Organization and its 13 real estate properties, to be worth $80 million. He subsequently came clean that he made all that up, too. The embattled Congressman was also accused of misrepresenting himself as Jewish to secure campaign funding from wealthy donors. "I'm not a fraud, I'm not a fake," he insisted in a 2022 interview on "Tucker News Tonight."

The U.S. Justice Department begs to differ. In May 2023, Santos was slapped with 13 federal charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, and lying to Congress about his personal finances (via BBC). The indictment alleges Santos received unemployment benefits while he was working, and used campaign finance funds to buy himself designer clothing. As ABC News reported, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said the indictment "seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations."

Herschel Walker is a 'pathological liar'

In 2022, Georgia Republican Herschel Walker lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat, but he won a reputation as a world-class liar. The former Georgia Bulldogs star didn't earn a degree from the University of Georgia, as he maintained, per the Atlanta Constitution-Journal. Walker isn't a former agent for the FBI, and he never worked in law enforcement. Both claims were debunked. During the campaign, it was Walker's personal life that took center stage, and it's nothing to applaud.

Two women came forward, claiming the pro-life advocate pressured them into having abortions, with the receipts to prove it. Speaking to Sean Hannity on Fox News (via The Daily Caller), Walker called the allegations a "flat-out lie." He added, "I can tell you right now, I never asked anyone to get an abortion. I never paid for an abortion." Even some of Walker's campaign advisers didn't believe anything he said, according to internal communications obtained by The Daily Beast. Several labeled the Heisman Trophy winner a "pathological liar."

"He's lied so much that we don't know what's true," one staffer said. When news broke that Walker had a "secret son" and two other kids he had kept under wraps, his son Christian went off in a series of tweets. "I don't care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability. But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you're some 'moral, Christian, upright man.' You've lived a life of DESTROYING other people's lives. How dare you."

Donald Trump still stands by his Big Lie

On November 15, 2020, Donald Trump started a culture war with a barrage of tweets that began with, "I WON THE ELECTION!" The former president went on a Twitter tirade, calling the results "fake," and the process "rigged." Then, he blasted the whole thing as the "most fraudulent Election in history." What has become known as the "Big Lie" set off turmoil across the country and fueled the fire for the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, per NPR.

"I've never been more scared about American democracy than I am right now, because of the metastasizing of the 'big lie,'" said election law expert Rick Hasen. "This is not the kind of thing I expected to ever worry about in the United States." There was another serial lie Trump told in the White House, per CNN. At a press briefing in 2020, the president downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic, saying "it's something we have tremendous control of."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, an adviser to the president, painted a very different picture of the situation after his boss walked out of the room. "The worst is yet ahead for us. It is how we respond to that challenge that is going to determine what the ultimate end point is going to be," Fauci said. According to a 2021 report published in The Lancet, via Newsweek, 40% of the deaths that occurred in the U.S. during the pandemic could have been avoided if Trump hadn't diminished the potential threat.

Boris Johnson has a long history of fudging the truth

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned from his post in 2022, following a series of scandals, lies, and cover-ups from his three years in office, per the Associated Press. The straw that broke the camel's back involved his promotion of Chris Pincher, a member of Parliament who was accused by another MP of groping him. Johnson knew about the allegations in 2019, but claimed he didn't "recall," being told, per The Independent.

"People have known that Boris Johnson lies for 30 years," said Rory Stewart, a former member of Parliament on Good Morning Britain. "He's probably the best liar we've ever had as a prime minister." Johnson, a former journalist, admitted his mistakes "are too numerous to list in full." He was axed from his job at The Times for fabricating a quote and attributing it to his godfather, noted historian Sir Colin Lucas. The notorious womanizer denied he had a four-year affair with society writer Petronella Wyatt, dismissing the rumor as an "inverted pyramid of piffle," per The Sun.

Tory leader Michael Howard stripped Johnson of his vice-chair title, citing the Conservative MP's "personal morality." In what became known as "Partygate," Johnson's most flagrant offense, the prime minister was accused of lying to Parliament about attending a series of "bring your own booze parties" during COVID lockdown, per Reuters. "I thought that I was attending a work event," he said in his defense, asserting he didn't think he was doing anything "against the rules."

Andrew Cuomo hid the truth about COVID-19 deaths

During COVID lockdown, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's national TV briefings were a calm in the storm for many Americans, per The Daily Mail. In 2020, the son of the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo and brother of former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo received the International Emmy Founders Award for "his masterful use of TV to inform and calm people around the world." The former prosecutor signed a $5 million deal to pen a memoir based on his experiences, entitled, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic."

According to Fox News, the governor issued an executive order requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients. That marked the beginning of his epic fall from grace. In a 2021 conference call, Cuomo's aide Melissa DeRosa admitted the administration underreported nursing home deaths by about 50%, per the New York Post. What made the bombshell revelation even worse was Cuomo's cringeworthy reaction to the report. "Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died," he said at a press conference.

That wasn't the only scandal Cuomo faced. The single and ready to mingle governor known as the "Cuomosexual" had plenty of female admirers. Speaking to his brother on CNN's Cuomo Prime Time, he said, " I'm a cool dude in a loose mood .... Just go with the flow, baby." Apparently, the politician went too far. After 11 women accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, he stepped down in 2021 during his third term in office.

Anthony Weiner denied he sexted an underaged girl

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has one big problem – he's a sex addict. His deceit to cover that up turned a lot of people's lives upside down, per The New York Times. In May, 2011, Weiner told CNN suggestive photos of a man's bulging crotch posted on his Twitter account were "a prank. I was hacked." He came clean a month later, admitting the pics were his. Within days, Weiner resigned from Congress, so "that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused," he said at a news conference. His wife was former Hillary Clinton aide, Huma Abedin.

In 2016, Weiner began sexting a 15-year-old girl. After the texts were reported, federal prosecutors confiscated his laptop, which prompted F.B.I. Director James Comey to open up an investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. That may have cost Clinton the election, per Five Thirty Eight. In 2017, Weiner was sentenced to 21 months behind bars for transferring obscene material to a minor, per The New York Times.

As for his job prospects these days, Weiner told The New York Times in 2021. "It's very narrow — the places that I can work without having The New York Post just make everyone's life miserable." He attends 12-step meetings for sex addiction, and served as CEO of IceStone, a company that makes countertops from recycled glass, per The New Yorker. In a 2021 interview with The Guardian, Abedin said, "He ripped my heart out and stomped on it over and over again."

Kwame Kilpatrick lied and cheated the city of Detroit

Residents of Detroit had high hopes for Kwame Kilpatrick, who at 31 was the city's youngest mayor when he won the election in 2001, per Click on Detroit. The man who became known as the "hip-hop mayor" will go down in history as the mastermind behind one of the most egregious cases of local grift. "The amount of crime, it was astonishing and it had a huge impact on this city," prosecutor Mark Chutkow told The New York Times.

In 2008, Kilpatrick resigned after being convicted of lying under oath about his involvement in a civil lawsuit, and he was ordered to pay the city $1 million. Two years later, the former Florida A&M football player was incarcerated again, after a judge ruled he falsified his ability to make restitution payments – claiming he only had $6 a month in disposable income, per BET, "You have not been credible in this courtroom and, again, you have not been honest," said Judge David Groner.

In 2010, Kilpatrick, along with former mayor Bobby W. Ferguson and others, were indicted in a massive corruption scheme that prosecutors say netted them nearly $10 million, while the Motor City was in dire financial straits. In 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 counts of extortion, racketeering, and fraud. He was sentenced to 28 years behind bars, per CBS News. "He's become the poster child of what went wrong with the city and why it went bankrupt," political consultant Adolph Mongo told The New York Times.

Rod Blagojevich tried to sell political favors

In 2008, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested, after an F.B.I. investigation revealed he tried to sell Barack Obama's vacant seat in the Senate, per The New York Times. According to bugs inside Blagojevich's home and office, speaking about Obama's seat, he said, "I've got this thing and it's f—ing golden and I'm not just going to give it up for f—ing nothing," per the Wall Street Journal. Following the arrest, "Blago," as he's known to many Illinoisans, told reporters at a news conference, "I have done nothing wrong."

Two years later, the Northwestern grad was convicted of 17 counts of bribery and attempted extortion, and sentenced to 14 years behind bars, per NBC News, making him the 4th governor of Illinois who has been locked up, per ABC 7. In 2020, former President Trump, who knew Blagojevich from his stint on "Celebrity Apprentice," commuted the former U.S. Congressman's sentence, making him a free man, per NBC News.

"He served eight years in jail, a long time," Trump told reporters. When Blagojevich came home to his wife Patti and their bungalow on Chicago's North Side, the disgraced former governor opened up to reporters. "It's been a long, long journey. I'm bruised, I'm battered and I'm bloody," he told The New York Times, noting he had nicked himself with a regular razor – which aren't allowed in prison. Blagojevich added that he sees himself as a "freed political prisoner" who hopes "to turn an injustice into a justice."

John Edwards covered up more than his affair

John Edwards, the handsome, charismatic senator from North Carolina, seemed like the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, until he landed in the middle of a sex scandal that derailed his career, per Bustle. Leading up to the election, Edwards began an affair with Rielle Hunter, a videographer he hired to produce a film about his campaign. In 2007, the National Enquirer broke the news that Hunter was pregnant with the then-senator's "love child."

"Media love a good, old-fashioned fall from grace, especially when it's a rich, handsome, liberal lawyer," blogger James Protzman explained to the Sydney Morning Herald. In 2012, Edwards faced six charges of corruption, based on federal prosecutors' claims that he took $1 million in campaign contributions to hide his affair from the public and his wife Elizabeth, per the New York Times. He was found not guilty of the campaign fund violation, but the jury was deadlocked on the other five counts. Edwards' reputation was shattered nonetheless.

Elizabeth Edwards, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, died before her husband stood trial, per The New York Times. In 2019, John Edwards joined his daughter Cate, also an attorney, and his former business partner David Kirby, to establish their own personal injury law firm in North Carolina. "Sometimes we can't make everything exactly right, but we can usually help people," he told WRAL. "It feels like you're actually able to do something with your life that means something."  

Eliot Spitzer got caught up in a prostitution bust

Like a lot of powerful men, Eliot Spitzer couldn't keep it in his pants. Some say the former New York governor's downfall reeks of hypocrisy, per the New York Post. The self-proclaimed "Sheriff of Wall Street" ran on a platform to crack down on white-collar crime and clean up the city. As the state's attorney general, he helped to bust two prostitution rings. In 2008, his career imploded when he got caught up in another one.

Spitzer wasn't arrested, but federal investigators say the Harvard Law alum used a friend's identity to hire high-end escorts, and he paid the agency $80,000 over two years. The governor promptly resigned from office, and apologized to his wife Silda, who stood by him when he made the announcement, per the New York Times, "I apologize to the public to whom I promised better," he added. Spitzer was replaced by Lieutenant Governor David Paterson.

"He always acted so squeaky clean and would get really upset if you said anything even slightly off-color," said Paterson. "When people act like that you know there's something wrong. But no one, no one expected this," he added. Ironically, Paterson wasn't so innocent either. During his first news conference, he came clean about several extramarital affairs including one with an employee. "I didn't want to be blackmailed," he told the Daily News. In 2014, Silda Spitzer divorced the "Luv Gov," following his affair with political strategist Lis Smith.

Ray Nagin took advantage of Hurricane Katrina survivors

Ray Nagin is another politician who promised to crack down on corruption. In 2005, New Orleans was reeling from Hurricane Katrina, the most expensive natural disaster in American history. Prosecutors say Mayor Nagin made an awful situation even worse, lining his own pockets in the process, per The Times-Picayune. In 2014, The Big Easy native was convicted of 20 counts of bribery, fraud and money laundering. "In this case, under these circumstances, after Katrina, it was reprehensible what Nagin did," said assistant inspector Howard Schwartz.

"The city needed someone to be a true leader — and he let everybody down," Schwartz added. In 2016, Nagin was profiled on CNBC's "American Greed," which explores how the accountant became one of the nation's "most crooked politicians." He used his power to manipulate millions of dollars in city contracts, took illegal kickbacks, and diverted business to his own granite company. Nagin, who was sentenced to ten years in federal prison, was released in 2020, per WWL-TV.

Naturally, some local residents weren't thrilled about Nagin's early release. "I think he probably received more consideration from the Federal Bureau of Prisons than he gave to the people of the city of New Orleans when he committed the corrupt acts that sent him to the penitentiary," said one man. In 2022, Nagin was back in court, claiming he was living "paycheck to paycheck" and insisting he can't afford his court-mandated restitution payments. According to financial records, he brings in over $150,000 a year, per WDSU.

Bill Clinton's infamous affair

Bill Clinton will go down in history as "one of the most successful" presidents of the 20th century, according to PBS. Yet, despite all the former Arkansas governor's accomplishments, most Americans associate him with the mother of all sex scandals, his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, per Time. The story first came to light in 1998 when the Drudge Report reported Lewinski allegedly kept "a garment with Clinton's dried semen," per CNN. The president emphatically denied the allegations in a news conference.

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," he said, per ABC News. After Clinton admitted lying about the affair, he faced a lengthy impeachment trial that played out on TV for weeks. In 1999, the Yale Law School alum was acquitted of perjury and obstruction of justice, per Time. As for Lewinsky, she is an outspoken advocate for the #MeToo movement. In a 2021 interview with CNN, she revealed, "My narrative was stolen and then I lost it by trying to recede, trying to run away from everything that had happened for many years."

The writer shared that she had "suicidal ideations" following the media frenzy surrounding the scandal. In "Hillary," a 2020 documentary series about Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton says he feels "terrible about the fact that Monica Lewinsky's life was defined by it, unfairly I think," per CNN. Addressing what a "devastated" Hillary was going through at the time, he admits, "It was awful what I did."

George W. Bush didn't tell the truth about WMDs in Iraq

On March 19, 2003, former President George W. Bush announced he was sending American troops to Iraq "to defend the world from grave danger," specifically referring to Saddam Hussein. Speaking from the Oval Office in a nationally-televised address, he explained, "The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder." As it turns out, that wasn't an accurate assessment.

In a 2006 news conference, the president admitted he didn't tell the American people the whole story. "The main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction," the former governor of Texas said. "It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction." As of the latest report from the U.S. Department of Defense, nearly 4,500 American service members died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which officially ended in 2011.

According to Brookings Intelligence Project Director Bruce Reidel, Bush wanted Americans to believe Saddam Hussein was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, which he wasn't, per Lawfare. It's probably no surprise that the son of George H.W. Bush pops up on several "worst president" lists. Looking back at the U.S.-led invasion that dragged on for eight years, Bush told The Guardian in 2010, "There are things we got wrong in Iraq, but the cause is eternally right.

Richard Nixon claimed he wasn't a crook

Richard Nixon, the United States' 37th head of state, holds the dubious distinction of being the only American president to resign from office. In 1974, the California Republican stepped down in the wake of mounting pressure from his constituents and GOP leaders, per The Washington Post. Nine months earlier, Nixon was on the hot seat, facing tough questions during a nationally televised Q&A with news editors across the country. The former U.S. Senator denied any involvement with the scandal and cover-up surrounding the break-in at the Watergate complex.

"I'm not a crook. I earned everything I've got," he said, per the New York Daily News. In response to allegations that he bartered political favors for campaign contributions from large corporations, he said, "In all my life in public office, I have never profited. I have never obstructed justice." Speaking to ABC News, David Fulsom, author of "Nixon's Darkest Secrets," called the former president "the most corrupt president we've ever had. Nixon's scandals went beyond Watergate," he said.

The former Congressman, who was facing three articles of impeachment when he resigned, was granted a "full, free and absolute" presidential pardon by Gerald Ford. The pardon let him off the hook for any crime he may have committed during his presidency. In CNN's 2020 series, "Race for the White House," Ford's son Steven explained his father "felt that America needed recovery, not revenge. The idea was to get Nixon out of the way, heal the nation and go forward."