By Bob Latham
Rudy Giuliani’s remarkable statement in an interview with Chuck Todd that “truth isn’t truth” has very much become the meme that Todd, on the spot, predicted it would be. But if Hizzoner is right, it has serious ramifications for the legal system, which at its core is a search for truth. For instance, if truth isn’t truth, how will a jury in a libel case decide the truth or falsity of a publication? When we swear witnesses in, will we ask them if they are prepared to “tell the truth, the other truth, and nothing but what you think the truth should be?” Will Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence, “[w]e hold these truths to be self-evident,” be repurposed to “we hold these truths to be negotiable?”
Mayor Giuliani might consider himself fortunate that former USBA heavyweight champion Carl “The Truth” Williams is no longer around to disagree with the truth not being the truth. I suppose that in one way, given Williams’ passing five years ago, we actually are in a post-Truth world. There is, however, a chorus of musical artists whose lyrics either assume the existence of actual truth or crave it, even in an ever-changing world. Lucinda Williams acknowledged as much when she sang “everything’s gonna change, everything but the truth.” The underlying principle in Grace Slick’s powerful opening vocal on “Somebody to Love,” “when the truth is found. . .,” is that truth is findable. Nancy Sinatra highlighted the difference between truth and untruth when she scolded: “You’ve been lyin’, when you should have been truthin’.” Mark Knopfler, the lead singer of Dire Straits, in the song “Industrial Disease,” accepted the logic that two people cannot make conflicting statements and both be right when he sang “two men say they’re Jesus; one of them must be wrong.” And then there is John Lennon’s lament: “All I want is the truth – just gimme some truth.”
In a post-Truth world, presumably untruths would not be discernible either. Thus, Fleetwood Mac’s “tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies” on whatever future tour Christine McVie is on would become “tell me alternative facts, tell me sweet little alternative facts.”
Since I really do not want the soundtrack of our lives to have to be rewritten, I’m going to hold on to the traditional notion of truth for a while longer. While I do, it may be useful to remember the prescient lyrics of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown: “don’t tell a lie about me and I won’t tell the truth about you.”
Dallas partner Robert P. Latham has developed nationally recognized experience in the areas of media law and intellectual property litigation and chairs both practice areas at Jackson Walker. Bob’s trial practice also involves complex commercial disputes as well as sports law, unfair competition, securities, probate, employment, banking, international, and class action matters. Bob is a published author and columnist, and he has spoken internationally on matters relating to free speech, technology, intellectual property litigation, and sports. Bob has also been listed in The Best Lawyers in America under Litigation – First Amendment, Litigation – Intellectual Property, and Sports Law among other categories.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.