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Caught in trap of their own words

The Baltimore Sun

Do as I say, not as I do.

With those words - our beloved motto - we bid you welcome to the newly opened National Museum of Hypocrisy, and the unveiling of our new Hypocrites Hall of Fame.

This way, please.

Everybody has engaged in hypocrisy - from the publicly fallen TV evangelist to the parents sipping cocktails while warning their children of the dangers of drink.

But clearly, some do a much better job of it than others, and it is in honor of them that we have constructed this museum, which, if it really existed, would be in Washington.

Our mission is to pay homage to hypocrisy, and, as a nonprofit organization, we appreciate any donations you make so that our curator can have a huge salary and luxurious lifestyle.

We'll get to the Hall of Fame in a moment, but first we'd like to direct your attention to some of our other features, and let you know that, if you have further questions after the tour, you can reach our telephone help line anytime between 1 p.m. and 1:03 p.m. Your call is very important to us, which is why you'll be speaking to a recording.

We begin with a definition of hypocrisy, a noun: "Feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion."

In other words, "do as I say, not as I do," a phrase, by the way, that first appeared in English jurist John Selden's Table Talk (copyright 1654).

To your right is our auditorium. It should be noted that eight renowned scholars in the area of ethics and morals from prestigious universities such as Harvard, Penn, Rutgers and Georgetown, were invited to be here today to give you their thoughts on this topic, but none could make it. Two said they were too busy, two said they didn't feel qualified to comment and four didn't return calls or e-mails.

We had hoped to have a panel discussion on whether hypocrisy was on the rise in America - if the seemingly increasing number of people getting caught doing exactly the thing they have spent much of their lives speaking out against is an indication of lapsing values, or if it's just a matter of, with so much new technology, more people getting caught.

Instead, if you'll follow me, we will go directly to the tour of the Hypocrites Hall of Fame, which begins in the Politicians Wing - our largest. We start with our newest addition ...

Eliot Spitzer, New York governor: As attorney general, he had a reputation as a relentless prosecutor, including two cases involving prostitution rings in Staten Island, N.Y. After 16 arrests in connection with an escort service operation, he spoke publicly of the operation with "revulsion," The New York Times reported. This week, it came out that he was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet an employee of Emperors Club VIP in a room at Washington's Renaissance Mayflower Hotel. In a news conference, he apologized and called it "a private matter."

Larry Craig, Idaho senator: Accused in June of disorderly conduct after his arrest during an investigation of "lewd conduct" in an airport men's room in Minnesota. Craig entered a guilty plea (which he's now trying to withdraw through the Minnesota Court of Appeals), but denied he was gay. His voting record certainly isn't gay-friendly. He voted, in 1996, for the Defense of Marriage Act, and against a bill prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2006, he voted to cut off debate on a proposed constitutional amendment on gay marriage.

Mark Foley, former congressman from Florida: An outspoken proponent of long sentences for Internet predators, he was accused of sending sexually explicit notes on the Internet to young male congressional pages. After being confronted with the messages he had sent, Foley acknowledged he was gay, denied that any contact had occurred and resigned.

David Vitter, Louisiana senator: A politician who perennially campaigned on themes of family values, morality and ethics - until last July's disclosure that his phone number was among those on a list of client numbers kept by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam. Vitter admitted to a "very serious sin in my past," and is still in office.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House: Led the U.S. House of Representatives drive to impeach former President Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, only to admit last year that he was having an extra-marital affair with a congressional assistant at the time. "There are times I have fallen short of my own standards," he said.

Robert A. McKee, former Maryland delegate: A 29-year veteran state representative from Hagerstown, he sponsored the "Child Protection from Predators Act" as well as a bill to collect DNA samples from sexual predators. On Jan. 31, his home was raided and pictures of naked children were seized. He resigned, saying. "For me, this is deeply embarrassing. It reflects poorly on my service to the community."

We take you now to our Pundit Wing, which, as with the others, consists of people caught in lies. If you are starting to think there might be a connection between how much someone talks, and getting caught in hypocritical lies, you are on to something. After all, who talks more than ...

Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio talk show host: "Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country," he told his listeners in 1995. "If people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up." Ten years later, Limbaugh took a leave from his show after he was charged with illegally obtaining pain pills, to which he was addicted.

Moving on, this is our Self-Help Author Wing, and we'll just mention a couple of its members, starting with the largest portrait, that of ...

William Bennett, former secretary of education and virtue guru: The author of the Book of Virtues, and at least 10 other books setting the standard for proper behavior, admitted in 2003 to a gambling problem - one that some reports said led him to spending as much as $8 million. Since then, he's gone on to make frequent appearances on TV decrying the collapse of values and morals in the country.

Barbara DeAngelis, love expert: She's sold millions of books about how to make relationships work, and been divorced six times, one of them from Mars and Venus guy John Gray.

We'll move on now to our second largest wing, that which honors hypocrites in the field of religion.

That blank wall over there is reserved for a future exhibit on Catholic priests, but let me introduce you now to those whose portraits hang here:

James Bakker, televangelist: The former Assemblies of God minister who hosted the PTL Club with his then-wife Tammy Faye Bakker was brought down by a sex scandal - in part brought to light by fellow evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. After the adultery charges led to Bakker's resignation, he was convicted of charges related to accounting fraud and was imprisoned.

Jimmy Swaggart, televangelist: After exposing Bakker's sexual indiscretions, and denouncing him as a "cancer in the body of Christ," Swaggart was followed by a private detective who tracked him to a Louisiana motel room that he was sharing with a prostitute. Rather than give in to blackmail, Swaggart came clean in a teary televised confession in 1988. Swaggart returned to his televised pulpit after a suspension, but in 1991, he was found in his car in the company of another prostitute.

As we head toward the exit, please note the donation box to your right, our last stop today is the Foyer of Famous Quotations, each relating to hypocrisy. We have used only recycled paper for this display, the last load of which I carried in from my SUV this morning.

We'll allow you to spend a few quiet moments here reflecting before you depart.

"Hypocrisy is a revolting, psychopathic state." (Anton Chekhov)

"Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit. It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole-time job." (W. Somerset Maugham)

"It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime." (Thomas Payne)

"Many of us believe that wrongs aren't wrong if it's done by nice people like ourselves." (Author Unknown)

"Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all." (William Shakespeare)

"One should examine oneself a very long time before thinking of condemning others." (Moliere)

john.woestendiek@baltsun.com

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