Seglin weighs in on the Kirk controversy for the New York Times

Jeffrey Seglin

Carrie Sheffield

June 07, 2010

Jeffrey Seglin, Writing, Literature and Publishing Associate Professor and author of the “Right Thing” ethics column for the New York Times syndicate, was interviewed by New York Times writer James Warren for an opinion piece on the lies that Illinois State Representative Mark Kirk has been caught telling on the campaign trail.

“I believe that when it comes to lying, there’s a pretty simple way to look at things,” Seglin told Warren. “It’s not the small lies that cause us trouble. It’s the lies we tell to cover that original lie that tend to take on a life of their own. Nothing could be truer when you think about Blumenthal and Kirk.” Richard Blumenthal is the Connecticut attorney general and Democratic United States Senate candidate who misrepresented his Vietnam War service record.

Warren’s story poked fun at Kirk’s fumbling over his military record in which he claimed to have received the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award for his service during NATO’s conflict with Serbia in the late 1990s—when, in fact, Kirk was not listed as a recipient of the award.

“Each could have talked about his accomplishments honestly, clearly, without embellishment, and still have been perceived to have served honorably,” Seglin said of Kirk and Blumenthal. “That each decided to embellish with a lie—or didn’t stop others from embellishing with a lie—suggests that little good can come of lying.”

“We live in a world of sophisticated self-promotion, whether it’s applying to college or for a job,” Warren wrote. “We’re savvy about highlighting accomplishments. But making stuff up is different, and motivation is always tricky to discern. Still, it takes a leap to believe that Mr. Kirk was moved by a desire to make everything right rather than a fear of being caught. “