Famous People Who Lied On The News

According to a 2017 Knight-Gallup survey, only 33% of Americans have positive feelings about the press, and given the way certain high profile figures have played it fast and loose with the facts during media appearances, you can hardly blame them.  

With the world watching, you'd think stars would be especially careful about what they say. After all, when a famous person lies on the news, it becomes the news. For example, remember when disgraced NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams lied on the air, then became the breaking story? Or how about when Terrence Howard lied about his higher learning, then learned a thing or two about public shaming? It's a dangerous game, but it gets played all the time. 

Here are some famous people who lied on the news

Bill Clinton vs. the blue dress

In 1998, U.S. President Bill Clinton was being peppered by questions regarding a then-alleged sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The story first broke in mid-January and began making serious waves for Clinton at every turn. After 10 days of questions regarding the matter, while delivering an announcement from the White House, which was covered by the major news outlets, Clinton uttered the famous statement, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

Though we may not have known it then, this was a lie, one that Clinton would come to admit to on national television 8 months later. The admission came after an extensive investigation and a blood test proved that Clinton's DNA was present on a blue dress owned and worn by Lewinsky.

For Clinton, the scandal loomed over every action he took as president. Even as he ordered retaliatory air strikes in Afghanistan, news outlets like The Washington Post questioned if he was merely trying to distract the pubic away from the Lewinsky discussion. All these years later, when thinking about Clinton's presidency, it's Lewinsky and the blue dress that first springs to the mind of many people.

Sniffing out Pete Rose's lies

In 1989, legendary baseball star Pete Rose was accused of betting on baseball while both a player and a manager. The allegations led to an in-depth investigation by special counsel Jim Dowd. During the investigation, every time he was asked about his alleged illegal gambling, as either a player or a manager in the MLB, Rose denied it.

Dowd then produced a 225-page investigative report which he gave to then-baseball commissioner, Bart Giamatti. In 1989, Sports Illustrated passed along the findings of the report, which indicated that Rose did, in fact, bet on baseball, among other sports. That same year, Rose was banned from baseball for life. While Rose accepted the punishment, and shifted his previous denials to a more unclear statement, which read, in part, that he "neither denies nor admits that he bet on any major league baseball game," but "acknowledges that the commissioner has a factual basis to impose the penalty provided."

It wasn't until 2004 that he finally came clean, at least, to betting on games when he was a manager. He still denied that ever bet on baseball as a player, despite evidence suggesting that may be a lie as well.

Terrence Howard gets a degree

Terrence Howard knows a thing or two about lies. He is, after all, the guy who told Rolling Stone Magazine that he believes "one times one doesn't equal one, but two." But that can be explained away by a misunderstanding of how basic mathematics work. A greater challenge, however, is explaining why Howard said he earned a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering.

It started in 2013, when Howard began repeating the claim that he earned a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering after "Iron Man fired [him]." He first announced this achievement on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and then again on Sway in the Morning.

According to Howard, he was awarded this doctoral degree by South Carolina State University. This was a lie. We know this for several reasons. For one, SC State University, reportedly, doesn't even offer a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering. There's also the fact that Antia Dawkins, a public relations specialist for SC State, stated with authority, "[Howard] didn't graduate from SC State University. He just received an honorary degree."

It turns out, Howard never did complete the degree he spoke about. He simply spoke at the school's commencement ceremony in 2012 and was awarded with an honorary degree for doctor of humane letters for his contribution.

Lyin' Brian Williams

There was a time when Brian Williams was considered one of the "most trustworthy" people in the country. That all changed after it was revealed that Williams had been telling a tall tale about his time in Iraq during the Iraq War.

During an NBC Nightly News segment in 2015 (via Vanity Fair), Williams recalled a story that he had previously told on the air and even wrote about. "The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an R.P.G.," he said. "Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry."

While the harrowing story certainly sounds believable, it's not true. Well, not completely. Afterward, Williams' account was called into question by some of the people who actually lived through it. Despite Williams insisting that he had "no desire to fictionalize" the event, he did so anyway. Now, he eventually owned up to the truth and apologized for his mistruths, but Williams wasn't quick to peg the story as an outright lie. While on Today (via The Washington Post), Williams said that it was more of an exaggeration, a story that was "clearly ego driven, a desire to better my role in a story that I was already in."

James Frey tells a million little lies

James Frey wasn't the first author to publish lies under the guise of a memoir, and he won't be the last. He is, however, one of the most famous to do so. Much of Frey's fame came from Oprah Winfrey. The talk show host promoted the book, A Million Little Pieces, added it to her book club, and told her audience that the book was "like nothing you've ever read before."

Even after The Smoking Gun revealed the truth that Frey "wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw," Oprah supported it. Frey then took to Larry King Live to defend his book, stating that the memoir was "a truthful retelling of the story" (via CNN), and Oprah called in and stood by the author.

But Frey wouldn't stay in Oprah's good graces long. When she learned the truth, Oprah kicked Frey out of the book club and outed him as a fraud on her show. Frey, cornered in the hot seat, admitted to taking liberties with the truth. "In order to get through the experience of the addiction, I thought of myself as being tougher than I was and badder than I was, and it helped me cope," the author said on Oprah (via Today). "And when I was writing the book, instead of being as introspective as I should have been, I clung to that image."

Brandy Norwood is sitting on top of a lie

Singer Brandy Norwood made a big announcement in 2002: she was pregnant and newly married. "At the time I got married, it was just between my husband and I," she said, not long afterward. "Nobody was really interested in Brandy, because I was just recording my album, I wasn't doing the show [Moesha]. There was really no media interest. So I took advantage of my time and my normal private life."

While the news surprised fans, few people likely doubted its veracity. After all, why would she lie? But there was a method to the madness. After Brandy and her so-called husband, producer Robert Smith, had their baby, they split up. Then the truth was revealed. Smith, on a press-run of sorts, told whoever would listen that he and Brandy never officially tied the knot, leaving Brandy holding the bag full of lies. 

In speaking with TrueExclusives more than 16 years later, Brandy, full of perspective, explained why she lied. "I fibbed about being married because I wanted to have my baby," she said. "I thought if I didn't say I was married ... I didn't want to lose my fans. I didn't want to disappoint anybody. Which is why I said I didn't want to go down the aisle just to go down the aisle because I'm pregnant. I want to be ready to do that, so let's just say that I'm married — which was the wrong thing to do."

Lance Armstrong says nope to doping

For years, Lance Armstrong denied using any illegal means while in the midst of a record-breaking cycling career. He used his platform to generate vast sums of money for cancer research, but he used that same platform to lie about doping. At every turn, he gave emphatic denials, during press conferences, as a guest on Larry King Live, and in post-race interviews.

Then the United States Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) report came out (via Washington Post), which revealed that Armstrong had been doping all along. Armstrong, in the face of overwhelming evidence against him, was left with no choice but to admit defeat and own up to his cheating past. He did so with flavor, taking to Oprah to make his doping confession.

Yet, while Armstrong admits he lied, he doesn't necessarily regret doing so. In fact, he says that he would do it again if he had to. In an interview with CNN, the disgraced cyclist said, "Once you say 'no,' you have to keep saying 'no.' If this stuff hadn't taken place with the federal investigation, I'd probably still be saying 'no' with the same conviction and tone as before. But that gig is up."

Extra virgin Britney Spears

Rightly or wrongly, a large part of Britney Spears' good girl image was tied to her virginity early in her career. She had a wholesome vibe that allowed her to straddle the line between innocent and sexy, a winning combination in the public eye. For years, Spears declared that she was a virgin and planned to remain one until marriage.

While the truth behind that statement should not have mattered, the press badgered the pop singer every chance they could. Then the beans were spilled, but not by Spears and not in a very direct way. Though many fans believed that Spears and her then-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake, had been intimate, it wasn't until Timberlake, post-breakup, uncomfortably laughed the question away when speaking to Barbara Walters on 20/20 that people truly felt confident in their suspicions.

Britney appears to have clued in to this as well. Shortly after that interview, Spears opened up about her sex life, admitting to breaking her vow of chastity. In an interview with W Magazine (via Entertainment Weekly), Spears said, "I thought he was the one. But I was wrong! I didn't think he was gonna go on Barbara Walters and sell me out."

Joaquin Phoenix dupes Letterman again

When Joaquin Phoenix visits The Late Show with David Letterman, fans have a right to be a little suspicious about what they hear. After all, it was on that show that the actor appeared dishevelled and disinterested, tricking the audience into thinking he was quitting acting when he was really playing a role for the mockumentary, I'm Still Here.

But no one in the studio audience could have foreseen Phoenix lying about something like getting married. Well, that's precisely what he did. Phoenix started by telling a funny story about doing yoga, which then led in to the announcement that he asked his instructor to marry him and she accepted.

Well, somewhat predictably, this wasn't true, and the lie didn't last long. The following morning, while on Good Morning America, Phoenix told the truth. "I think like my life's so boring," he said. "It seemed like something exciting to talk about, and I wanted the audience to like me, and they really like people that are getting married, so I just thought I would say that I was getting married."