Sorry, Mr. Whatever Your Name Is—You Weren't Ambushed
Several years ago, I went on a date with a woman I had met on a dating website. She listed her age as 33—but after I had gone on several dates with her, she confessed to being 37.
I’m well aware of the sensitivities regarding age and understand the motivations behind someone lying about theirs. But I couldn’t get out of my mind that she had deceived me before we had even met and continued the lie for several dates—and for that reason (and not due to her actual age), I ended our brief relationship.
Voters in Laguna Beach, California must be feeling a similar sense of deception from Laguna Beach City Council candidate Jon Madison. According to the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot, Mr. Madison—if that’s his real name, which is also in doubt—“falsified his age, educational and work histories on his campaign website.”
Mr. Madison had a rather interesting response to questions posed by the Coastline Pilot about his numerous biographical inconsistencies:
“I am who I am,” Madison said in an interview after the forum. “I don’t think my educational history or my age or voter registration has anything to do with what I’m trying to do in this city.”
The Orange County Register reported Sunday that Madison may have lied on his campaign website about degrees he earned from two universities, in addition to apparent discrepancies in his birth date and work history….
“This is my first rodeo, and I’m disappointed that the media are bringing me down,” Madison said, adding that he is confused about why the six other council candidates are not receiving similar media attention. “I feel like I’m being ambushed. Come to my restaurant, even when I’m not there, and ask people what they think of me. They’ll tell you who I am.”
What Could He Do Now?
To me, those unanswered allegations are disqualifying. But his case made me wonder what I would advise Mr. Madison to do if he asked me to take him on as a client (this is hypothetical; I’d respectfully turn down the work).
Assuming these media reports are true, I’d advise Madison to do three things: Admit, apologize and ask forgiveness. I’d want to learn what forces led Mr. Madison to lie about his biography. If it was due to a normal human vulnerability—insecurity about his age or educational background, for example—I suspect some voters would be willing to overlook his past. But in order to do that, they would require complete honesty from this point on.
As an example, I could imagine him saying something like this:
“Media reports about my age and educational background are true. I didn’t complete the level of education I wish I had and always felt badly about that—so I made up a backstory about myself that allowed me to get through the day with a bit more pride. I’m sorry about that. Once I started telling those stories, it always felt like it was too late to come clean.
Over the past many years, I’ve met thousands of people at my restaurant—and they know the type of man I am. I’m asking people to look past the mistakes I’ve made in the past, make judgments about me based on the person they’ve gotten to know, and promise to always be truthful with voters as their public servant.”
Would that persuade me personally? No. But I suspect many people would appreciate that candor and give Madison a second look. Remember: Anthony Weiner briefly led in polls for the New York City mayor’s race last year, a sign that voters are often willing to overlook bad personal decisions.
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
h/t Political Wire