Weird History

Lies And Untruths That Affected Human History 

Jacoby Bancroft
Updated February 4, 2020 118.7k views 11 items

When an average person tells a white lie, it’s for something trivial like wanting to spare another's feelings or attempting to avoid your niece's first violin recital. However, it’s an entirely different story when little white lies in history make their way into our textbooks. There have been a number of powerful leaders (including emperors, Founding Fathers, presidents, and some of the worst people in history) who have bent the truth for one reason or another.

Who's on this list of monumental fibbers? Check out the list below for some of the biggest lies that changed history. Forever.

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Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev Said Chernobyl Was Under Control
Soviet Leader Mikhail Go... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Lies And Untruths That Affected Human History
Photo: Fed Govt/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

It's still one of the worst disasters in world history, and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev lied about its seriousness. As radiation infected the area around Chernobyl, Gorbachev announced to the world that everything was being handled and "the worst is behind us." That lie is still affecting people today.

The area remains uninhabitable and nuclear contamination spread far beyond Chernobyl, even reaching Italy and France. Thousands of people and animals have suffered radiation poisoning from the nuclear meltdown.

Nixon Swore He Knew Nothing About Watergate
Nixon Swore He Knew Noth... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Lies And Untruths That Affected Human History
Photo:  Oliver F. Atkins/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Good Ol’ Tricky Dick. The president behind the infamous Watergate scandal made everything monumentally worse by lying about it. He swore up and down that he had no knowledge of the Watergate cover-up. It wasn’t until the courts forced Nixon to hand over his tapes - which he had made by secretly recording everything that was said in the Oval Office - that the lies were exposed, forcing Nixon to resign before the country could impeach him.

It was a dark day for America, as it was one of the first times citizens were confronted with the possibility of not trusting the government. 

Clinton Denied Having An Affair With A Staffer
Clinton Denied Having An... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Lies And Untruths That Affected Human History
Photo: Bob McNeely, The White House/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky was another wake-up call for America and the political system. Instead of confessing to it, Clinton doubled-down on his lie, giving us one of the most famous presidential quotes ever. Right after refusing to have had relations with Lewinsky, Clinton said: "I never told anybody to lie, not a single time, never." 

After months passed and more evidence came out about the affair, including a DNA sample from Lewinsky's blue dress, Clinton changed his story and finally confessed under oath. He might always be known more for this lie than for his presidential accomplishments.

LBJ Lied To The American Public About Vietnam
LBJ Lied To The American... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Lies And Untruths That Affected Human History
Photo:  Yoichi Okamoto/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

President Lyndon B. Johnson lied to the American public about how the war in Vietnam was going in order to preserve public morale. In 1967, he painted the picture like everything was going according to plan and the fighting would soon end. The truth was quite different.

Once the Tet Offensive took place and coverage of the war spread across news and television, it was clear how much Johnson had been keeping from the American people. This inflamed anti-war protests and lowered Johnson's approval rating. A few months later, Johnson dropped out of the presidential race.