World Leaders Who Lied On the Job

World leaders lie. One look at history backs up this claim. Today, lying is almost expected from leaders. Continue reading to find out more about presidents, dictators, and other world leaders who lie.

Why world leaders lie

G20 Nations Hold Hamburg Summit

They mostly lie to their own people. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Those in power lie so much, books on the subject exist. One, for example, is Why Leaders Lie, by John J. Mearsheimer. “I find that leaders do not lie very often to other countries, but instead seem more inclined to lie to their own people,” Mearsheimer writes. Most leaders on our list lied to their people. We know leaders lie, but why they lie is less clear. One reason for lying is about control. “Telling the truth feels like giving up control,” David J. Ley, Ph.D., of Psychology Today writes. The last thing world leaders want to feel is out-of-control or powerless.

Hint: People in power are better liars.

Powerful people are better liars

Trump shakes hands with Putin

They’re able to lie without a conscious. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Leaders lie. This is not news. Although the idea that powerful people are better liars may be news to some. A study, entitled, People with Power are Better Liars, explains why those in positions of power are good liars. “People in power are able to lie better,” Dana Carney, a management professor at Columbia Business School and a co-author of the study, told NBC News. “It just doesn’t hurt them as much to do it,” Carney added.

Lyndon B. Johnson

US President Lyndon B Johnson shaking the hands of crowds of people

He lied to start the Vietnam War. | Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The 36th U.S. president, LBJ, as he’s commonly referred to, got in big trouble after telling the American people about attacks on U.S. destroyers that launched the Vietnam War. The problem is those attacks never happened. As a result of the alleged attacks, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving LBJ the power to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression,” according to History. In 2005, the NSA released previously classified documents about the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The documents show the U.S. destroyer did fire first, while previously enemy ships supposedly fired first, causing the conflict to escalate to war.

Hint: Maintaining a palace landed this leader in jail.

Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak Egypt

Egypt is stilling having corruption problems. | Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Using government funds to renovate and maintain presidential palaces, landed Egypt’s former leader, Hosni Mubarak, and his two sons in jail, according to CNN. The family supposedly embezzled $18 million. After serving his sentence, Mubarak is now at home in Egypt. However, his legal trouble is far from over. “He remains under investigation in other corruption cases and is therefore not allowed to travel,” Yasser Ahmed, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs against Mubarak, told the Los Angeles Times.

Hint: This scandal defines one president’s legacy.   

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

Nixon’s crime is infamous. | Keystone/Getty Images

Richard Nixon’s lies on the job ended with his resignation. Dubbed the Watergate scandal, Nixon supposedly oversaw a break-in into the Democratic National Committee offices. Later, evidence showed Nixon’s involvement. “Nixon denied any personal involvement, but the courts forced him to yield tape recordings which indicated that he had, in fact, tried to divert the investigation,” the White House says. To this day, Nixon is the only U.S. president to resign.

Hint: This world leader lied about children dying. 

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein

He claimed the sanctions were killing hundreds of thousands of children. | -/AFP/Getty Image

Sanctions supposedly killed more than 500,000 children, The Washington Post says. According to a new study, the numbers are false. Hussein’s numerical figure is a “spectacular lie,” the study, titled Changing Views On Child Mortality and Economic Sanctions in Iraq: A History of Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics, says. The study’s findings show “the government of Iraq cleverly manipulated survey data to fool the international community.” The study found “no evidence of unusually high levels of child mortality during 1991-2003.”

Hint: Admitting to a lie was not this president’s strong suit.

Ronald Reagan

He admitted in a speech that he lied. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Ronald Reagan, who led America through the 1980s, lied to the American public late in the decade. Although Reagan lied on other occasions, this particular lie is a whopper. Reagan lied about supplying an enemy with weapons, relating to the Iran Contra Affair. In a speech addressing the controversy, Reagan admitted he lied without saying the words outright. “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages,” Reagan said in a March 4, 1987 speech. “My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”

Hint: This leader claimed gunfire was celebratory, not a danger.

Moammar Gadhafi

Moamer Kadhafi of Libya

He was either delusional or a huge liar. | Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

Moammar Gadhafi, the leader of Libya, lied a lot. Gadhafi was a man who “early in the revolt against his regime claimed that the Libyan people still loved him, that the gunfire in his country was merely celebratory, and who announced a ceasefire only to continue his attacks on rebel forces,” according to The Washington Post. During 2011’s Arab Spring, Gadhafi’s life ended after spending months on the run, Biography says.

Hint: This president lied and later led the country in a disastrous invasion.

John F. Kennedy


The Bay of Pigs was a huge disaster. | National Archive/Newsmakers

“I have previously stated, and I repeat now, that the United States intends no military intervention in Cuba,” John F. Kennedy wrote in a letter to Nikita Khrushchev, according to the Office of the Historian. Months later, the U.S. invaded Cuba in the disaster known as the Bay of Pigs. Cuban troops outnumbered U.S. troops so much that the Americans surrendered after 24 hours, History says.

Hint: This leader gave tips on how to make people believe a lie.

Adolf Hitler

Hitler In Crowd

He would gaslight everyone into believing what he says. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed,” Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, once said. One can only imagine the lies Hitler told himself on a daily basis. Continuing the pattern with leaders, Hitler lied while in power. “Hitler used the tactics of bluff masterfully, at times giving the impression of being a feckless Chaplinesque clown, at other times a sleeping serpent, at others yet a trustworthy statesman,” Ron Rosenbaum wrote in a Los Angeles Review of Books article.

Hint: This catchphrase defines a former president. 

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton addresses Lewinsky Scandal

This was one of the most infamous presidential lies. | Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images

By now, Bill Clinton saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” is something of a punchline. While in office, Bill Clinton had an affair with then White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. After denying the allegations, Clinton eventually came clean about the extramarital affair. Partly because of his affair, the House impeached Clinton on Oct. 8, 1998, Politico says.

Hint: President Donald Trump’s lies are many.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump Speech on Tax Reform

He takes lying to another level. | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Many of Trump’s lies are “basically about him polishing his ego,” John Weaver, a Republican strategist told the New York Times. In June 2017, the New York Times listed Trump’s lies up until that point. The list fills an entire page of the newspaper. The most recent example of Trump lying sounds more like something a teenager would say to their parents. Trump claimed to be “back to work,” but later showed up at his golf course, Newsweek says.

Hint: This president made a campaign promise and failed miserably.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

United States president Franklin Delano Roosevelt

He lied, but at least the war was won. | Central Press/Getty Images

While serving in office, Franklin D. Roosevelt, or FDR, lied. “”I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars,” FDR told voters while campaigning for his third term, according to the National Archives. FDR met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to discuss how they would defeat the nazis, Smithsonian Magazine says. The “boys” Roosevelt mentioned during his reelection campaign, did in fact go to war during World War II.

Hint: This leader lies are crazy, they’re hardly believable.

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong-Un

He can tell the people whatever he wants without them being able to check. | Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

The leader of North Korea, dictator Kim Jong Un, lies to the North Korean people on a regular basis. The lies about himself and his family are many, stemming from births to athletic accomplishments. One of Kim Jon Un’s biggest lies is about the internet. Only North Korean government officials are allowed to use the internet. Most other citizens don’t know the internet exists, according to Slate.

Hint: This crisis is so famous, it’s become part of a movie.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower

He had to admit his lie when one was captured. | James Anthony Wills/Wikimedia Commons

Denying American spy planes were surveying the Soviet Union for intelligence led to a crisis during Eisenhower’s administration. No spy planes were flying in Soviet airspace, claimed Eisenhower, according to History. But after being shot down in Soviet airspace, American pilot Francis Gary Powers spent two years in a Soviet prison for espionage. Having no choice, Eisenhower admitted his original plan. In the first ever “spy swap,” Powers went home in exchange for a soviet agent who was being held by the U.S. government. For a visual take on the incident, watch Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!

Read more: These Are the Smartest and Dumbest U.S. Presidents and How Donald Trump Compares