He Lied in Elaborate Ways. But to What End?

Christopher Massimine was a pathological liar—did he have control over it?
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2022 2:55 PM CST
He Lied in Elaborate Ways. But to What End?
   (Getty Images / z_wei)

Are pathological liars conniving or mentally ill? In Christopher Massimine's case, he says it's the latter. The 36-year-old was last year uncomfortably thrust into the spotlight when it emerged the resume he used to land the job as managing director of the Pioneer Theater Company in Salt Lake City contained falsehoods, among them that he had a master's degree and Tony nominations. But that wasn't all he lied about. As Ellen Barry writes in a lengthy piece for the New York Times, the 36-year-old has been a prolific liar for decades, and in most cases, not to obtain something, but more as a way to "cope," as his former psychiatrist says.

His wife, Maggie, first realized her husband had a problem in 2018, when he went to Cambodia—and emailed her to say he was at Everest base camp and sent her a photo of a man he suggested was his Sherpa. She knew it was all but impossible: He had no Chinese visa or mountaineering background, nor had he been away long enough to acclimate to such an elevation. The next year, he told her he had won a Humanitarian of the Year Award and flew to Washington, DC, to get it, returning home with photos and a medal; that too was made up.

Barry goes deep into the lies and the fallout, but also looks more broadly at an emerging psychiatric view of liars as having a mental illness and able to benefit from the kinds of behavioral therapies that are effective with compulsions like nail-biting. Massimine himself checked into a psychiatric hospital for treatment and now meets with a therapist. He told Barry he had managed not to lie for a full nine weeks; Maggie wasn't so sure. (Read the full story for the recent "embellishment" Maggie noticed.)

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