Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
|Subject||American politics, American conservatism|
|Preceded by||Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations|
|Followed by||The Truth (With Jokes)|
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them is a satirical book on American politics by Al Franken, a comedian and political commentator who later became a Democratic United States Senator from Minnesota. It was published in 2003 by Dutton Penguin. Franken had a study group of 14 Harvard graduate students known as "TeamFranken" to help him with the research. The book's subtitle, "A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right", is a parody of Fox News' tagline "Fair and Balanced." Fox sued Franken over the use of the phrase in a short-lived and unsuccessful lawsuit, which has been credited with increasing the sales of the book.
Lies is one of several books published in 2003 written by American liberals challenging the viewpoints of conservatives such as Bernard Goldberg, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter. These books by Franken and fellow authors such as Joe Conason, Michael Moore and Jim Hightower were described by columnist Molly Ivins as the "great liberal backlash of 2003."
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them largely targets prominent Republicans and conservatives, highlighting what Franken asserts are documentable lies in their claims. A significant portion of the book is devoted to comparisons between President George W. Bush and former president Bill Clinton regarding their economic, environmental, and military policies. Franken also criticizes several pundits, especially those he believes to be the most dishonest, including O'Reilly, Hannity, and Coulter.
Fox News sought damages from Franken, claiming in its lawsuit that the book's subtitle violated its trademark of the slogan "Fair and Balanced". The lawsuit was dismissed, and the attempt backfired on Fox News in that it provided Franken with free publicity just as the book was launched. "The book was originally scheduled to be released Sept. 22 but will be made available Aug. 21," according to its publisher. "We sped up the release because of tremendous demand for the book, generated by recent events."
In the lawsuit, Fox described Franken as "intoxicated or deranged" as well as "shrill and unstable." In response, Franken joked that he had trademarked the word "funny", and that Fox had infringed his intellectual property rights by characterizing him as "unfunny." The publicity resulting from the lawsuit propelled Franken's yet-to-be-released book to #1 on Amazon.com.
On August 22, 2003, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin denied Fox's request for an injunction to block the publication of Franken's book, characterizing the network's claim as "wholly without merit, both factually and legally." During the judge's questioning, spectators in the court's gallery frequently laughed at Fox's case. Franken later joked, "Usually when you say someone was literally laughed out of court, you mean they were figuratively laughed out of court, but Fox was literally laughed out of court." Three days later, Fox filed to dismiss its lawsuit.
Franken describes the legal battle in a paperback-only chapter of Lies entitled "I Win".
Difficulty posed by use of satire and nonfiction
In a largely favorable review of Franken's book in the Washington newspaper The Hill, reviewer Mary Lynn F. Jones wrote: "Franken's tendency to mix fact with fiction [also] left me wondering sometimes what was true and what wasn't." As an example, she cited a passage in Franken's book in which he wrote that former Bush foreign policy advisor Richard Armitage "bolted" from a Senate hearing and "[knocked] over veteran reporter Helen Thomas, breaking her hip and jaw". The paperback version has a footnote saying, "The Helen Thomas thing is a joke."
- Chapter and verse on the need for regime change by Mark Hertsgaard for the LA Times "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 11, 2008. Retrieved June 30, 2008.
- Krugman, Paul (2007-02-02). "Missing Molly Ivins". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
- Saulny, Susan (2003-08-23). "In Courtroom, Laughter at Fox and a Victory for Al Franken". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-15.[dead link]
- Corman, Mary (2003-08-23). "Franken Speaks Frankly". interview. Stanford Progressive. Archived from the original on 2007-01-09. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- Jones, Mary Lynn F. (2003-09-09). "Franken's humor overpowered by cynical Look at the Right". The Hill. Archived from the original on 2007-01-07. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
- Franken, page 218
- Franken, page 227 of the paperback