These Are History’s Most Notorious Liars

From scientists to presidents, famous people throughout history have told infamous lies.

Watergate set the bar for presidential lies when Nixon insisted he played no role. On the morning of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested after breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington, D.C. The media, led by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, doggedly pursued the story, exposing wiretaps, secret documents, and hush money. President Richard Nixon denied involvement in the scandal, declaring, “I am not a crook,” in a nationally televised press conference. But the White House cover-up failed. Faced with almost certain impeachment, Nixon resigned from his second term in office on August 9, 1974.

The White Sox shocked the nation when they threw the World Series. Nearly a century ago, some members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team accepted a bribe—as much as $100,000 (about $1.4 million today)—to deliberately lose the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Suspicions arose in the first game after uncharacteristically sloppy pitching by the White Sox, who were heavily favored to win. “I don’t know why I did it,” pitcher Eddie Cicotte testified before a grand jury. “I must have been crazy.” He and seven other players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were indicted on nine counts of conspiracy but acquitted by a jury. They were banned from the game for life.

Many made claims to be the grand duchess of Russia, but all of them were frauds. It was a gruesome crime: In 1918 Bolshevik revolutionaries executed Russian tsar Nicholas II, the empress, and their five children. But did Anastasia, the youngest daughter, escape? Several impersonators exploited this hope, most famously Anna Anderson, an Anastasia look-alike who filed an unsuccessful suit in 1938 to try to prove her identity—and claim an inheritance. Anderson, who had supporters as well as detractors, died in 1984. A posthumous DNA test found she was unrelated to the Romanovs and appeared to confirm she was a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska.

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