Deciding on a headline for the story on John Rogers that Senior Editor George Waldon wrote for last week’s “Fifth Monday” feature became a group activity in the small Arkansas Business newsroom. We settled on “House of Cards,” which wasn’t particularly original but was fitting for the sports memorabilia dealer whose celebrated career was a sham.
One of the frontrunners was “Big Fat Liar,” which I ultimately rejected because I didn’t want to be accused of body-shaming. I didn’t want anything to distract from the point of Waldon’s reporting: Rogers lied to everyone in his path. He didn’t just lie to investors and lenders, although he certainly did that and will presumably spend time in federal prison as a result. (He is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Chicago on Sept. 12.)
This is an Opinion
Lying to get money is at least understandable. Rogers needed money to support the lifestyle he claimed to have earned, so he lied about the cost (and resale value) of assets he was financing. He offered up collateral that he never owned. He created a phony invoice for nonexistent equipment that would secure a fraudulent loan. It’s rational — criminal but not baffling.
But Rogers lied when there was no reason to lie. In one example Waldon uncovered, Rogers claimed in an online forum that he self-financed his photo archive business by liquidating $10 million in real estate. Simply not true. He also claimed that he and his wife owned the largest day care in the South, which was roughly equivalent to my claiming that I edit the largest publication in the South. Yes, the Rogerses were in the day care business; otherwise, it’s nonsense.
He lied to Mac Hogan, an investor who now has a $42 million judgment against Rogers, said Rogers’ lies started when they met and continued in his statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about efforts to pay Hogan. (It’s barely worth noting, but Rogers also lied to reporters. Hold that thought.)
He lied to customers. His faking of a Heisman Trophy has been widely reported, so Waldon didn’t delve into that last week, but counterfeiting memorabilia seems to have been a big part of Rogers’ business.
He lied to people who sold him valuable assets like genuine photo collections and newspaper photo archives, leading to a parade of civil suits.
His lifestyle — over-the-top mansion in North Little Rock, $10,000-a-month lease on a condo overlooking New York’s Central Park — was a lie, suggesting that his businesses were throwing off that kind of profit. His bookkeeping was a lie. In a maneuver reminiscent of Enron’s infamous Nigerian barges, Rogers booked borrowed money as revenue.
After he made a plea deal and admitted to a federal crime, Rogers went on Facebook to complain about the Democrat-Gazette’s repeated use of a particular police booking photo — the one made, he wrote, “in July of 2015 where I was high on Cocaine.”
Rogers, lying to himself, suggested that his irrepressible manliness might be the reason the D-G was punishing him: “So tell me, did I possibly grab the backside of an editor’s wife? Or, God forbid, did I sleep with one of their wives?”
Even in his dispute with another publication, he couldn’t resist throwing in a lie about this publication’s tireless reporting on what certainly ranks as one of the three largest frauds ever perpetrated in our state. “I’m paying the dear cost of sleeping with a reporter’s wife through one writer at Arkansas Business,” he wrote.
In addition to lying to journalists, then, Rogers lied about journalists. This is undoubtedly the most socially acceptable of his lies — it is, after all, a favorite diversionary tactic of the president of the United States — although it seems to be losing its power to persuade.
After Greg Gianforte went from zero to violent assault in 10 seconds, the Montana Republican initially lied about provocation by a pesky reporter who had dared ask him a question. Only after witnesses described the attack in even starker terms than did the victim did Gianforte acknowledge wrongdoing.
By then he had been elected to Congress. Well over half of the votes had been cast before the attack, so it’s hard to say whether Gianforte was helped or hurt when he attacked a reporter and followed it up with a big fat lie.
Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.