What's With the Three Apologies?
Yes, this IS the third version of my apology and I'm not trying to hide or obscure that fact. I'm a writer, and rewriting is what good writers do. Nothing is written perfectly the first time out. My first apology was perceived as being unapologetic. I reread it with an honest and appraising eye and realized that yes, I was deflecting some blame from myself for my actions. No one but myself was responsible for my lies and so I edited out anything which seemed to cast blame on others. My second apology was perceived as too roundabout, making it seem perhaps not apologetic enough, so I have now shortened it. I'm not trying to hide anything or conceal anything by shortening my apology, only to clarify. The thing that certain people seem determined to ignore is that all three apologies used exactly the same language and that all three say that I am sorry that I ever lied to anyone. What you're seeing from drafts one through three is someone coming to grips with their responsibility to themselves and to the truth.
I'd also like to clear up a certain timeline issue which many people are obsessing over. On April 19th, 2004, Robin Groom, photo editor for the Washington Post, sent me an email stating "Richard Leiby sent me photo you provided him of the rangers. How do I credit the photo? What should the information in the caption be. Do you hold the rights to it? If not, can you tell me who does. Please see the Notice to Contributors that I'm required to send whenever we get handout."
I immediately knew that something weird was in the works. Richard Leiby had interviewed me a for an article a year earlier. When that story ran, several real Rangers realized that I was lying about my past and alerted Leiby. Richard Leiby then filed forms with the government and called my publishers, asking for proof of my military service, and now, almost a year later, he was evidently prepared to run another story, most probably exposing me as not having been in the Rangers.
I immediately took steps to deal with with the massive problem I had created for myself, starting by telling the people closest to me that I had been lying. I also began drafting an apology letter to be posted on my webpage. On April 27th, Leiby contacted my editors at Seven Stories Press demanding to see proof of my military service, and they called me, demanding to know the truth. At that moment, I could have compounded the lie, continuing to claim that I -was- in the Rangers and everyone else was mistaken or lying...
Instead, what I chose to do was to stop lying and to make a public confession. I immediately posted my confession to my webpage and began the process of calling the people closest to me to apologize in person. Not because I was forced to, or because I was worried about an imminent exposure, or because I wanted to "spin" my story, but because I was tired of living a lie and I was truly sorry that I had ever begun. On Friday April 30th, I called the Washington Post and spoke to Richard Leiby himself. I apologized for lying to him and his readers, and to everyone else for having lied. He informed me that his story would be running that coming Sunday, May 1st.
Anyone who thinks that it was easy to admit to all of my friends and coworkers that I had been lying is demented. I have crippled a thriving fiction writing career as well as destroyed several important friendships. I know there are people who think I'm not sorry for lying, but only for getting caught. Although it is clear to me at this point that I will never be able to convince those people otherwise, nothing could be further from the truth. I feel awful about my lie. Anyone who feels that I'm not sorry because I only told the truth when I was "about to be found out" has evidently never told a lie before in their entire life, because it takes a saint to admit to lying before being caught... especially a lie as big as this one had grown. I'm not a saint, just another human being. I'd like to meet that person, the one who has never lied. It must be nice being perfect.
What I've done was stupid. It was a stupid lie born of a pathetic attempt to cover up my own feelings of general unworthiness and inadequacy and to ward off death threats made due to my political point of view. I was not lying out of some sort of maliciousness or a desire to profit from the lie. The same skills which make me a good writer also made me a good liar... it's just that one day I crossed the line from making up stories about fictional characters and made up some exciting stories about myself. I'm sorry and I regret telling any of those stories to anyone. My job now to make sure it never happens again.
All I can do going forward is to apologize, to always tell the brutal truth, and to let my new lie-free life and artistic work speak for itself, and to ask that people forgive me as they would like to be forgiven for their own mistakes. Or, alternately, if they can't find it in themselves to forgive me, to at least stop sending me death threats.
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