News Release

Presidential Lying: The Sordid Details

Many critics of President Clinton contend that his record of deception has uniquely disgraced the office of the presidency. But historian Howard Zinn, the author of the best-selling A People’s History of the United States, says: “There is a long history of presidents who have lied to us and deceived us, about governmental actions that led to the deaths of thousands, even millions of people.” Here are a few of the examples cited by Zinn:

  • President Truman “described Hiroshima — just devastated by a U.S.-dropped atomic bomb — as ‘an important Japanese army base.’ More than 100,000 civilians — men, women and children — in a city of 350,000 died there. Truman lied about our war in Korea. He said that we were fighting for democracy, but we were protecting South Korea — a military dictatorship. More than 50,000 Americans died. And perhaps 2 million Koreans.”
  • President Eisenhower “lied about our spy flights over the Soviet Union, even after one flier on such a mission was shot down. He deceived the nation and the world about the U.S. involvement in the 1954 coup that overthrew a democratic government in Guatemala. That coup put in place a succession of military juntas that then took tens of thousands of lives.”
  • President Kennedy “lied to the nation about U.S. involvement in the fatal 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, telling a press conference: ‘I can assure you that the United States has no intention of using force to overthrow the Castro regime.'”
  • Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon “all lied to the nation about what was happening in Vietnam. Johnson and Nixon both lied when they claimed only military targets were bombed in the war. And Nixon kept secret from the nation the bombing of Cambodia.”
  • President Reagan “lied to the nation about his covert and illegal support of the contras in Nicaragua during the 1980s. He lied about the importance of Grenada in order to justify the 1983 American invasion of that little island.”
  • President Bush “lied about the reasons for invading Panama in 1989, saying it was to stop the drug trade; in fact, the drug trade has flourished [since then]. And he deceived the nation about his real interest in the Persian Gulf.””And what of Clinton’s deceptions — not about sexual activities — but about matters of life and death? Politicians and journalists who are indignant that he lied about sex with ‘that woman’ were silent when he deceived the nation about the need to bomb a ‘nerve gas plant’ in the Sudan. His administration could not produce convincing evidence that the plant was anything but what the Sudanese government said it was — a plant that produced medicines.”

    For more information, contact:

    Howard Zinn
    Sam Husseini
    Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.