A Brief History
Throughout history there have been phonies who liked to embellish their backgrounds. Some claimed to be royalty, others claimed to be war heroes, and some even boasted academic achievements they never earned. Perhaps you know people like this; for sure as heck we at History and Headlines do! The author has worked with goofs who claimed to be Viet Nam veterans who certainly were not, and sometimes more famous people have claimed a war record to help them attain elected office, only to be revealed as frauds later. Some researchers have even faked experiment results! Here 10 egregious examples of liars who have misrepresented themselves are listed. Not necessarily the most famous, but it is an eclectic bunch to cover a whole range of fields. Who would you nominate to the list?
10. “Essjay” Wikipedia Fake.
A person using the nom de plume of “Essjay” had been working on a volunteer basis for Wikipedia as an arbitrator and administrator for the online encyclopedia. He had claimed to have at least 2 doctoral degrees and a position as a “tenured professor” at a private college. He also claimed to have worked as a paralegal. In 2007, the story broke that his real name was Ryan Jordan and that he was a 24-year-old community college dropout. Oh, and at one point he had also claimed to be a monk at “The Abbey of Gethsemani.” He was not.
9. “Professor” Jaclyn LaPlaca.
This fraud landed a job as a professor at Kent State University at its Stark Campus in Ohio in 2003 after she claimed she had a PhD from Oxford. In reality, she had been booted from the PhD program there and was even stripped of her Masters degree for plagiarism. Though outed at Kent as a fraud in 2006, LaPlaca found another position at Wofsonian-Florida International University, where she again got the boot after they finally found out she had misrepresented her credentials.
8. Scott Thompson, What a Yahoo!
In 2012, it was revealed that Scott Thompson, CEO of the internet giant Yahoo, had lied about receiving a degree in Computer Science. He has also reportedly claimed to have thyroid cancer, but whether this was true or not is unknown because this announcement was made in the wake of the controversy regarding his college degree, and very soon afterward, he was declared cancer free. He has since stepped down from his position at Yahoo and is now the CEO for ShopRunner, an exclusive online store.
7. Sassafras Herbert, Dog with Degree.
Amazingly, there are lots of pet animals that have had degrees and other credentials awarded to them by “diploma mills” and less-than-scrupulous accreditation institutions. Apparently, many pet owners think this is great fun. Sassafras, for example, is a female pet poodle who received a diploma from the American Association of Nutrition and Dietary Consultants. This diploma cost her owner $50, which proves that a piece of paper is not necessarily proof of actual credentials. Other dogs and cats also have degrees (usually obtained on-line) in various fields such as medicine, real estate and childhood development. Molly, a Basset Hound, has a $300 high school diploma. The American University of London reportedly awarded an MBA to a dog named Pete for £4,500.
6. “Dr.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
This revered legend of the civil rights movement was awarded his doctoral degree from Boston University in 1955, but shockingly, following rumors, an investigation found in 1991 that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had plagiarized his dissertation. Though in virtually any other case a reputable university would definitely have stripped the offender of his degree, the school chose not to do so in regard to King.
5. “Marine Captain Rick Duncan,” Rick Strandlof.
Strandlof is a phony “war hero” who founded the Colorado Veterans Alliance and who claimed his name was Rick Duncan and that he was a medal-winning (Purple Heart and Silver Star) veteran Marine captain of the War in Iraq. When prosecuted under the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, his appeal went to a Federal Court who ruled the act unconstitutional, so this liar’s claims are apparently not a crime. On appeal by prosecutors, his convictions (5 misdemeanors) were reinstated, but later thrown out again. A new Stolen Valor Act was passed in 2013.
4. SEAL Imposters.
According to Don Shipley, a former Navy SEAL and security consultant and activist against phony “war heroes,” “the FBI estimates there are 300 SEAL imposters for every living Navy SEAL.“ Based on his own research, Shipley estimates the number to be much higher than that! For some reason, there is a huge impetus for men to lie about having been a SEAL.
3. Eduardo Jany, Congressional Candidate.
This 2014 Congressional candidate from Florida for the 13th district put forth a daunting resume for voters to swallow; he claimed to be an ex-police officer who was wounded in the line of duty; a war veteran who had earned a Bronze Star Medal; and that he had received degrees from Madison University and the University of Wisconsin and a degree in Police Administration from Harvard. He does not have these degrees, though he may have bought one from a “diploma mill,” and his Harvard “degree” was for merely attending a 4-week seminar that required no academic credentials. The wound he suffered while a police offer was from being accidentally shot by another officer. He never went to Afghanistan or Iraq but claims his Bronze Star came from a “classified” assignment in Yemen. At least he really did serve in the Army and the Marine Corps, on active duty and in the Reserve. Numerous other politicians and candidates have also been caught in lies or exaggerations about their military or academic records, but this guy takes the cake.
2. Sarah Palin, Moosehunter.
Are you under the impression Sarah Palin regularly goes moose hunting and has shot and killed one or more of these large species of deer? You are not alone; much of the public is under that false impression. Though not specifically claimed by Palin, her moose hunting was suggested in such a manipulative way to make you to believe it. She says moose meat is a favorite of hers and that she “knows how to dress a moose.” She never actually said she had killed one or even gutted, skinned and butchered one, but that is the impression the gullible U.S. public has gotten. Has “Sarah Barracuda” done or said anything to clarify the misunderstandings? No. In 2010, Palin went on a televised caribou hunt that revealed her lack of hunting and gun knowledge as she clumsily and unsafely handled rifles, missed her shot a few times, and asked her hunting buddy “Does it kick?” when handed a different rifle. Obviously, she is not a hunter but has fostered that false persona for political gain.
1. L. Ron Hubbard, Founder of Scientology.
Although Lafayette Ronald Hubbard did serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he was relieved of command of both of the small ships he commanded and had a decidedly mediocre military career. In Scientology literature, he claims to have won 21 medals for valor (he won none) and to have served in “all 5 theaters of war.” Fantastic claims of his war exploits and battle wounds are pure fiction like the fantasy books he wrote. He did receive 4 campaign medals just for being in the area but not for anything he did, and there is no record of him actually being in combat.
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