Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Charles Van Doren became a national celebrity after repeatedly winning on the popular 1950s quiz show "Twenty-One," and taking home record amounts of cash. It took a sore loser crying foul after being defeated by Van Doren, however, to expose the fraud behind the program. A New York grand jury investigated, leading to a 1959 congressional probe. Van Doren was convicted of perjury and was given a suspended sentence. The story was later dramatized in the 1994 film "Quiz Show." Two excerpts from The Post of Nov. 3, 1959:
By Richard L. Lyons
Charles Van Doren said yesterday it was so -- he was given questions and answers in advance for the television quiz show "21," which made him a $129,000 winner and a national celebrity.
His statement to the House Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight was the exact opposite of what he had been saying publicly for a year since the quiz scandal broke. He also conceded that he had lied under oath about it to a New York grand jury, an act which a committee member noted could lead to a perjury indictment.
After reviewing his testimony yesterday afternoon, the trustees of Columbia University accepted Van Doren's offer to resign his $5500-a-year post as assistant professor of English. He has also been relieved of all duties by National Broadcasting Co., where he appeared on the "Today" show, but his $50,000-a-year contract has not been canceled.
The 33-year-old scholar said that originally he had gone along with the "deceit," partly to make knowledge popular, and then had kept it up because he couldn't find any way out. He said he had told neither his family nor his lawyer about it until last month, when he decided the only way out was to tell the truth.
By Edward T. Folliard
Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive.
Charles Van Doren, a young fellow with much knowledge but little wisdom, could easily have told a quizmaster that it was Sir Walter Scott who wrote that couplet. But it was clear at the Capitol yesterday that he didn't get Sir Walter's message, or take to heart any of the other truisms to which he was exposed in the scholarly atmosphere in which he was reared.
"Truth is always the best way, indeed it is the only way," he said in his throat-slitting confession before the House Committee on Legislative Oversight.
But it had taken him three years to realize this, he said, three years in which he acknowledged having tried to protect his sudden leap to fame and fortune by lies, deceit and running away.
To judge from the crowd's reaction, Van Doren was something less than a hero to most of the men, women and youngsters who jammed the Caucus Room in the old House Office Building. Both anger and compassion were evident, but anger -- or perhaps disgust -- seemed to be the dominant emotion. ...
Van Doren, a lanky, curly-haired fellow of 33, who somehow reminded old-timers at the press table of the Charles A. Lindbergh of 30 years ago, read his confession and answered questions in a soft, cultivated voice. Meanwhile he smoked one filter-tip cigarette after another.
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