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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire…

On October 11, 2007, former North Carolina senator and presidential hopeful John Edwards spoke to reporters about rumors that he had an extramarital affair with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter. "The story is false," ABC News timeline "It's completely untrue, ridiculous." In the meantime, his wife Elizabeth was battling breast cancer.

On August 8, 2008, weeks after Edwards was spotted visiting Hunter at a Beverly Hills hotel, he publicly confessed the affair to an ABC News reporter. However, he vehemently denied being the father of Hunter's six-month-old baby. As if to salvage some of his tarnished image, he made certain to mention that his wife's cancer was in remission when the affair began.

Fast forward to January 21, 2010. In a statement issued to NBC news, Edwards admitted that he is indeed the father of Hunter's daughter. "It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and, hopefully, one day, when she understands, she will forgive me," Edwards said in his statement. Edwards' disclosure came just as another of his campaign aides, Andrew Young, would admit to claiming paternity for Hunter's child as a favor to the candidate.

So What Else is New?

Certainly, the "bombshell" revelation that a politician lied to the public should not come as a surprise. Politicians lie all the time, don't they? And didn't we all suspect that Edwards was fibbing all along? What is surprising is how easily he lied.

But here's a question for you. If he had come clean immediately, would that change your opinion of Edwards? If he had responded to the early rumors by saying, "Yep, we had an affair and there's a baby on the way," would you have more or less respect for him today?

Leaders confront the how-much-to-reveal dilemma all the time. Maybe there's an organizational shakeup coming six months down the road that will undoubtedly impact employees. Should you tell them now and give them adequate time to prepare (even if that means some good people might look for other jobs)? Or should you wait a few months in case the plans change and the turmoil can be avoided?

Your answer determines how much credibility you have. Face it: politicians have reputations as liars for a reason. Seriously, will you ever believe another thing John Edwards says? I, for one, am even having trouble buying his claim that he hopes his daughter will forgive him one day.
When faced with the choice of being too honest or just honest enough, err on the side that will preserve your credibility.

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