Rene Henry
Rene Henry

Official Washington and Corporate America are killing the truth. Even worse, society is condoning their untruthful behavior. Lies have become so common that lying is becoming accepted behavior.

The Trump Administration even added new words to our vocabulary: “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Former White House communications director Hope Hicks told a Congressional committee she told “white lies.” To me, the truth is the truth and always will be. And a lie is a lie is a lie. Period.

The Fact Checker blog of the Washington Post reported that in just his first 466 days in office, president Donald Trump made 3,001 false or misleading claims. They didn’t report the number made by his staff.

In 2007, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington even made it legal for politicians to lie. In its 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the First Amendment protects political campaign lies. Why should I believe any Washington politicians? 

The FBI is the federal enforcer. The FBI can lie to you but anyone who lies to a federal agent faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Martha Stewart and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich were sent to prison for doing so. 

I’ve been lied to by companies, organizations, institutions and individuals. 

One lie or embellishment that I hear over and over from people in Corporate America is, “I work in the office of the president.” I’ve reported directly to several presidents during my career and always had an adjacent office. So, when someone tells me “I work in the office of the president,” should I assume s/he is physically located a few steps away from the head of the company? 

No. More often than not today that person has been given a glorified title and may be working hundreds or thousands of miles away from the president.

I don’t know when this ridiculous and absurd claim of working in the president's office began, but it's clear that the claimants are not exactly an arm's length away from the chief.  It's misleading, unethical, deceitful and a lie to say so.

I recently requested a current channel listing from Directv. I then learned that parent company AT&T follows the office of the president charade.

Before being acquired by AT&T, I only needed to email my request to customer service at Directv. Since AT&T discontinued the email address, I had to call a toll-free number. After failing to get help, I asked for the name of the president of Directv.

I next wrote to Michael Viola, AT&T’s senior VP of investor relations asking him this same question. No one from his office responded, but Diana Pon called and said she was in the office of the president.

She refused to give me the name of the head of Directv saying “Employment information, contact information and addresses are considered proprietary.…” 

I asked her to walk over to the desk of the executive assistant for Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman/president/CEO, and ask him or her if this was public information. 

I also asked to be connected with the head of PR to assist with this article. Pon never got back to me, I still have not received my channel listings, but did get an email saying my Directv charges would increase next month!

It's hard to believe that someone in Viola’s office didn't just respond. Instead, my request was elevated to the “president’s office.” I wrote him again and questioned his management practices. This time Viola’s gatekeeper directed my letter to one of Pon’s colleagues in the “office of the president,” Augustin Juarez. I was back to square one.

I get some of my best material for books and commentaries from personal experience. I doubt if Pon or Juarez with their superfluous titles have much contact with Stephenson. As a writer, I often rely on company presidents and their assistants for information.  AT&T is doing a disservice to so many honest and transparent companies. 

Last week AT&T’s Stephenson said it was a big mistake to hire Trump attorney Michael Cohen as a political consultant for $600,000. Does he have any idea how many people “work” in his office and is it a big mistake if they say they do? 

I love what my friend Kevin McCauley recently wrote as editor-in-chief of Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, the preeminent publication in public relations: “My grandmother used to threaten that she’d wash my mouth out with soap if I ever lied. The White House could use a shipment of soap right about now.” I would add to send a case or two as well to AT&T.

It is time now for companies to eliminate all misleading and deceptive practices, be transparent and always tell the truth.  No company has anything to gain by having an employee say “I work in the office of the president” when the employee does not.  

Ethics.  Honesty.  Integrity.  Truth.  Corporate America CEOs need to get back to the basics. 

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Rene A. Henry lives in Seattle and is the author of 10 books including “Customer Service: The Cornerstone of Success” which is available from Amazon in paperback, on Kindle and as an audio book. Many of his articles and commentaries and information on his books are on www.renehenry.com.