Roger Clemens: Bad Liar or Just Bad Truth Teller?

Either Roger Clemens is lying about his alleged steroid abuse, or he’s just a really bad truth teller.

One of my favorite blog posts to write was one I published about Jose Canseco’s 60 Minutes interview two years ago, asking readers to try and analyze his microexpressions as he told Mike Wallace how many players in Major League Baseball used steroids. The claim — at the time — was largely dismissed by the public, and I’ll admit to not believing a word Canseco said, based on his mannerisms alone. It seemed like an easy call. It turned out not to be.

Thinking back on that Canseco interview makes watching this whole Roger Clemens drama all the more mystifying to try and figure out. Whether it’s Clemens’ own 60 Minutes interview two nights ago or this incredible press conference video below, it’s just so hard to tell how much of anything is the truth:

One the one hand, he shows telltale signs of lying:

  1. His mouth wells up with saliva frequently and he swigs water to mask this fact.
  2. He nods his head “yes” while saying “no”.
  3. He doesn’t seem natural, completely forthcoming, or at-ease when answering questions.
  4. He surreptitiously taped a phone call (legal in Texas and New York apparently) to manipulate public opinion.

But on the other hand:

  1. If he *really* ends up voluntarily testifying in front of Congress and/or a jury at this point, he’d have to be a complete fool to lie about it… which suggests he’s not lying at all (provided he actually goes through with it). But then again, many people think Barry Bonds lied to his grand jury.
  2. As was proven with Canseco, just because your mannerisms make you “appear” untruthful, it doesn’t mean you are.
  3. Roger Clemens has no prior offenses before this and it’s essentially only one person who is pointing the finger at him… a guilty person in his own right at that.

It should be fascinating, albeit somewhat pathetic and depressing, to see how this whole thing pans out. Above anything else, I suppose, it’s nice to hear the guy getting out there and talking instead of hiding behind lawyers. That alone suggests we owe him the benefit of some more investigation before thinking our opinions are even halfway correct or mildly educated, for that matter.

UPDATE: Kottke points to a New York Times article that has now been published which asks the same sorts of body language questions. Interesting that body language experts are apparently only right about “half of the time”… which would imply the profession is essentially useless!
11 comments on “Roger Clemens: Bad Liar or Just Bad Truth Teller?”. Leave your own?
  1. PB says:

    There is a reason why polygraphs and body language experts don’t decide guilt or innocence: they are sometimes (perhaps even often) wrong. I am no Clemens fan and have no idea if he is telling the truth or not, but it must be asked how the Commissioner decided to hire an employee of the Boston Red Sox to conduct an impartial investigation of other teams’ players.

    If you do some googling, you find all sorts of shenanigans with Selig, Mitchell and the Red Sox when the team was sold to the current owners. You will also find that the sainted Mitchell (who constantly tells us we can trust him because he brokered peace in N. Ireland) is now a lobbyist for Big Tobacco and companies that exploit child labor. That, along with the fact that he is a Sox employee completely destroys his credibility IMO, because anyone who would accept a job with such clear conflict of interest has no integrity.

    The real issue here is not Clemens (who is being is being tried in the public square on very flimsy evidence), or the trainers that turned over and talked, but Selig wanting to break the players’ union and how he used this costly investigation as a lever to do it–all the while avoiding tarnishing his own reputation.

    It’s absolutely no accident that none of the most current championship teams have any key players in this report. This whole thing is a bag job of the first order.

  2. Scott says:

    “This was a military-style ambush from start to finish… a coup d’etat with Lyndon Johnson waiting in the wings.”

    Anyway, I think Jose has Tourette Syndrome. He’s always been “twitchy.” I say let them do all they steroids they want. I’m looking forward to seeing someone take a home-run swing and his arms land at 2nd base. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

  3. Adam Hobson says:

    I would completely believe Clemens if Andy Pettitte hadn’t already admitted to HGH use. Pettitte was the last guy that I would think to try to use performance enhancing drugs (not that HGH has ever been clinically proven to actually enhance performance). Pettitte’s admission also helps to semi-verify Brian McNamee’s claims. So now I do have to wonder about Clemens. The evidence may still be flimsy, but the doubt is there.

  4. Matt Howell says:

    The problem is, without any corroborating evidence (a failed steroid test, spent syringes, receipts (ha!)), it’s just one guy’s word against another.

    Which is a pretty bad way to prove or disprove guilt or innocence. Usually the burden of proof is on the accuser… but when these things play out in public, instead of through due process, it gets turned around. Clemens is now in the unenviable position of having to prove that he *didn’t* use steroids. Which, how would you do that exactly?

  5. McNamee seems pretty shifty, and there have been a lot of good points made concerning his lack of credibility. Now that Clemens has sued the guy for defamation, how that plays out could be the most revealing of all.

    They say that the best defense to defamation is the truth; if McNamee has proof, he’ll either cough it up, or lose the suit.

    Unless there is a settlement, we’ll find out through transcripts just how far that particular hole goes.

  6. Jeff Croft says:

    Pettitte is definitely the rub, here. At this point, I don’t know what/who to believe.

  7. Rob Knight says:

    1. Rusty reminds me of Tom Delay. Not a good person to bring with you to a congressional committee controlled by Democrats.

    2. Clemens NEVER asks McNamee to come to the press conference to clear the air. Doesn’t even float the idea. Instead, he falls back on the “I’m feeling pretty bad” stuff.

    3. Clemens only asks McNamee “Why did you do it?” That question, every time he says it, sounds like “Why did you tell?”

    When I put myself in Clemens’ shoes (not that my scrawny butt would fit in them, I was an outfielder)…my lawyers have said I can talk to the guy AND their going to record it…I would think my first question would be worded somewhat like, “Why did you lie and tell them I did HGH when I didn’t?” Yet, Clemens doesn’t even come close to asking that. It is pretty obvious that McNamee has a tremendous amount of affection and respect for Clemens and it sounded like he wanted to help him. But Clemens never goes that far and it seems deliberate.

    It kind of stinks.

  8. Interesting that body language experts are apparently only right about “half of the time”… which would imply the profession is essentially useless!

    This is great.

    I just got out of planning meeting for our show this weekend, and we are going to be talking about Clemens as well. What I think is interesting is why do we care so much about this? Seriously? Nobody cared that drugs made the Beatles or Hendrix or Grateful Dead or Dave Matthews Band who they were (I am not even arguing it makes them better per se). So why do we seem to have an issue if athletes use drugs to make them stronger (i.e. better “artists”).

  9. Adam Hobson says:

    Andy, it’s not even like we care about all athletes and their use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. In the NFL, Shawne Merriman tests positive for banned PEDs, is suspended four games and still makes the Pro Bowl. Rodney Harrison is found to have used HGH in 2004 and suspended four games this year. Barely a sound is made over (other than the usual noise about Patriots and cheating).

    I think part of the reason we obsess over PEDs in baseball is because of the home run record. For whatever reason (Babe Ruth), we love that record and as thrilling as it is to see it challenged, we don’t actually want anyone to break it. There was controversy enough in the ’61 when Marris broke it, and he was perfectly clean then. Then players have the nerve to break the record twice in a few years span … of course we go crazy over it and we sink to any means necessary to explain it away. And since we’ve already obsessed over steroids with our sluggers, its only natural to carry over that obsession to the pitchers too.

  10. Greg says:

    I think he deserves an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

  11. Alex says:

    While a lot of things that Canseco said are probably true, he did write some stories in his book that aren’t. He talked about being on second base against the Mariners during Bret Boone’s one standout season, and Boone telling him that he was using steroids. Only one problem… Canseco never reached second base against the Mariners that year! I really don’t know who to believe. The worst part about it all is that now kids are doing it in high school and junior college to bulk up before they reach the leagues that test for it.

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