Before Congress, Clemens Insists He Is Innocent
NEAL CONAN, host:
The steroids scandal in Major League Baseball made its way back to Capitol Hill today. Roger Clemens, one of the great pitchers of our time, appeared at the same witness table with his accuser and former trainer Brian McNamee. Both men were sworn in before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
(Soundbite of a House committee hearing)
Unidentified Man #1: Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you receive - that you will give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Unidentified Man #2: I do.
Unidentified Man #1: Chair will note, for the record, that each of the witnesses answered in the affirmative.
CONAN: In spite of that response, given their conflicting testimony, one of them likely committed perjury. Clemens argues he never used performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone on Clemens' orders. We're going to listen to quite a bit of what both men had to say today and what both men said in response to some questions.
And if you followed this story, did anything you heard today change your mind? 800-989-8255. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also weigh in on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.
Tom Goldman is NPR sports correspondent. He spent the day at the hearings. And he joins us now from Capitol Hill. Hey, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Neal. How are you?
CONAN: I'm well, thank you.
Set up this situation for us. This all stemmed from the publication of the Mitchell Report. I would guess that was late last year.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. In December of 2007, the Mitchell Report came out. And the one thing that stood out dramatically was that Brian McNamee, the former personal trainer to Roger Clemens, said he had injected several players with banned performance-enhancing drugs - human growth hormone and anabolic steroids. And the most prominent of those players was Roger Clemens.
The two other guys who he said he injected: Chuck Knoblauch, formerly of the New York Yankees, and Andy Pettitte, longtime friend of Roger Clemens. Both acknowledged that McNamee was right. Clemens said he was not right and has vehemently denied it. And anyone who has watched TV or heard the radio over the past month has heard Roger Clemens certainly, vehemently denying it. He's got a very flamboyant lawyer, who denies it at every stage.
And so the committee wanted to come back, and, you know, they said their purpose was to figure out if there is a discrepancy in the Mitchell Report. They said that is the ultimate goal here. We want to find out if it's a credible document, and that's why they wanted to look at this.
Of course, you know, what this boil down to was a lot of really nasty sordid stuff, and I think people had to be jarred every once in a while to remember this is about the Mitchell Report.
CONAN: And here's committee chairman Henry Waxman, Democrat from California, who began the hearing in his opening statement by remarking that there is a great deal at stake for both those gentlemen as they appeared before his committee today.
Representative HENRY WAXMAN (Democrat, California; Chairman; House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform): They don't disagree on a phone call or one meeting, they disagree on whether over a four - whether over a period of four years, Mr. McNamee repeatedly injected Mr. Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone.
It's impossible to believe that this is a simple misunderstanding. Someone isn't telling the truth. If Mr. McNamee is lying, then he has acted inexcusably and he has made Mr. Clemens an innocent victim. If Mr. Clemens isn't telling the truth, then he has acted shamefully and has smeared Mr. McNamee. I don't think there's anything in between.
CONAN: And then, Chairman Waxman went on to say that, well, both men had arguments in their favor, but both men had involved themselves in contradictions, too. And he sought - said the purpose of the meeting today was to try to resolve some of those contradictions.
In his opening statement, Roger Clemens defended his innocence.
Mr. ROGER CLEMENS (Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees): If I'm guilty of anything, it is of being too trusting of everyone, wanting to see the best in everyone, being too nice to everyone. If I'm considered to be ignorant to that, then so be it. I've chosen to live my life with a positive attitude, yet I'm accused to being a criminal, and I'm not supposed to be angry about that.
If I keep my emotions in check, then I'm accused of not caring. When I did speak out, I was accused of protesting too much, so I'm guilty. When I kept quiet at the advice of my attorney until he could find out why in the world I was being accused of these things, I must have had something to hide so I'm guilty.
People who make false accusations should not be allowed to define another person's life.
CONAN: Then, Mr. McNamee followed. Brian McNamee, Roger Clemens' former trainer, who pointed out that, well, his account involving other ball players turned out to be accurate.
Mr. BRIAN McNAMEE (Sports trainer): Make no mistake, when I told Senator Mitchell that I injected Andy Pettitte with performance-enhancing drugs, I told the truth. Andy Pettitte, who I know to be honest and decent, has since confirmed this. And make no mistake, when I told Senator Mitchell that I injected Chuck Knoblauch with performance-enhancing drugs, I told the truth. Chuck Knoblauch has also confirmed this as well.
And, make no mistake, when I told Senator Mitchell that I injected Roger Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, I told the truth. I told the truth about steroids and human growth hormone. I injected those drugs into the body of Roger Clemens at his direction. Unfortunately, Roger has denied this and has led a full court attack on my credibility.
And let me be clear, despite Roger Clemens' statements to the contrary, I never injected Roger Clemens or anyone else with lidocaine or B-12. I have no reason to lie and every reason not to. If I do lie, I will be prosecuted. I was never promised to any special treatment or consideration for fingering star players. I was never coerced to provide information against anyone. All that I was ever told to was to tell the truth to the best of my ability. And that is what I have done.
CONAN: Tom Goldman, the - what Brian McNamee just said was, he's backed up by Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens close friend, and by former teammate on the New York Yankees, Chuck Knoblauch. They gave out statements as they were read by - they do not appear to testify today. But as their statements were rather - this was very damaging against Roger Clemens.
GOLDMAN: Well, yeah, and certainly the one by Andy Pettitte. You know, Representative Elijah Cummings said, you know, he's as confused as everyone. And he says we got these two guys on both sides. I'm looking for something in the middle that will give me a sense of who's telling the truth here.
And what he focused on and several other lawmakers focused on was an affidavit signed by Andy Pettitte instead of testifying today, and also Andy Pettitte's sworn deposition.
And here's what they said. First of all, they said Andy Pettitte is a longtime friend of Clemens. He's a God-fearing man. He has unimpeachable character. And, you know, they asked Roger Clemens, do you think Andy Pettitte would lie. And Clemens said, no. No, he's an honorable guy. So, then what Cummings did was he pointed out that Pettitte said in his deposition that in 1999 - either 1999 or 2000, he had a conversation with Roger Clemens in which Clemens admitted using human growth hormone, banned human growth hormone. And then, he said they had another conversation in 2005 in which Pettitte came to Clemens and asked him what will you say in public if someone asked you about this. And Clemens said to Pettitte, according to Pettitte, that he would not - he would tell the truth, because he's never used it. And Andy Pettitte said, hey, Roger, you told me that back in 1999 or 2000 that you did use it. And Roger said, no, I didn't. And Andy Pettitte said, oh.
And so, when asked about that, Roger Clemens answers weren't too convincing. He said Andy Pettitte misremembered, he misspoke, he misheard. And that seemed, at least to Elijah Cummings, several other lawmakers, certainly to skeptical journalists that didn't seem to be too strong a statement.
CONAN: On the same, on the other hand, Republican Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana pointed out that there had been several inconsistencies by the other witness, Brian McNamee.
Representative DAN BURTON (Republican, Indiana): Again, I'm going to make sure I got this straight. Your friend, Roger Clemens, you allegedly gave him these shots. You kept the pads and the needles for five years and went on and kept working for him because he was your employer, and then you said you felt bad about proposing and giving these to the Mitchell committee when you first started talking to them?
Mr. McNAMEE: Yes, sir.
Rep. BURTON: Gee-whiz, are you kidding me?
Mr. McNAMEE: No, sir.
Rep. BURTON: My goodness. Mr. McNamee, I'm going to read you a series of statements attributed to you regarding your involvement with steroids. I don't have any dealings with steroids or amphetamines. I don't buy it, sell it, condone it or recommend it. I don't make money from it. It's not part of my livelihood and not part of my business. Did you say that?
Mr. McNAMEE: Yup.
Rep. BURTON: That's a lie, right?
Mr. McNAMEE: Partial.
Rep. BURTON: Partial?
Mr. McNAMEE: Partial lie.
Rep. BURTON: McNamee pleads guilty to knowing the ins and outs of steroids but says I have no involvement as far as supplying it, getting it, selling it, telling them to use it. Jon Heyman, The sixth man: Clemens trainer denies link to Grimsley log - is that a lie?
Mr. McNAMEE: Yes, sir.
Rep. BURTON: Okay. You know, I'm not going to read anymore of this. This is really disgusting. You're here as a sworn witness. You're here to tell the truth. You're here under oath. And yet, we have lie after lie after lie after lie after lie, where you've told this committee and the people of this country that Roger Clemens did things - I don't know what to believe. I know one thing I don't believe, and that's you.
CONAN: And Tom Goldman, neither one of these witnesses came off entirely credible today.
GOLDMAN: Absolutely not. Let me just point out one thing Representative Mark Souder said during the hearing. And Congressman Henry Waxman, the chairman of this committee pointed that out, pointed what Souder said - pointed out what Souder said.
Apparently, Souder has had some experience investigating illicit drug operations. And he said it's common for people involved in this kind of stuff to tell little stories or lies or withhold information first. And then, the stories get bigger as things come out.
People involved in this kind of thing, certainly you could say Brian McNamee, who is involved in illegal activities with injecting, as he says, injecting players with banned drugs. Certainly, he's the kind of guy. And he said it often today, he wanted to be protective of these people, so he didn't give all the information at once.
So Representative Souder was pointing out, you know, what appears to be withholding information and lies, as Representative Burton said, not uncommon among people involved in these kinds of activities.
NPR's Tom Goldman, our sports correspondent up on Capitol Hill today, covering - I guess is going to be called the Clemens hearings.
You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And let's get some listeners on the line. Gary(ph) is calling us from Green Bay in Wisconsin.
GARY (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking the call. I think after Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton revalidated parsing words as an art form, and Roger - from what I heard - stated he did not take any human growth hormones or steroids, and his trainer said he injected him, I think it's just parsing the words and difference between taking and injecting.
CONAN: Did that come into it, do you think, Tom?
GOLDMAN: That was not raised today. But Gary raises an interesting issue. I mean, the congressmen say they're going to go over every inch of the testimony. And, you know, before they decide on what action to take further. And they may look at that kind of thing.
CONAN: When you say what action to take further, whether this case is going referred to the Justice Department to figure out who might get charged for perjury.
GOLDMAN: Exactly, right.
CONAN: All right. Gary, thanks very much.
GARY: Thank you.
Let's see if we can go now to - this is Darryl(ph), Darryl with us from Howell in Michigan.
DARRYL (Caller): Yeah.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
DARRYL: Thanks for taking my call.
DARRYL: I watched the proceedings today and I, you know, a lot of discussion was around how kids take, you know, take all this in. I just hope that at the end of all, it's just not forgotten that you don't lie under oath and that that is his (unintelligible) that's been, you know, see the consequences of lying, too.
I hope - you know, what do you think about that?
CONAN: The kids - Tom, I think today was refreshingly different from previous hearings. We didn't hear a lot of stories about, you know, listening to baseball games on transistor radios on tractors or going with their grandfather to the polo grounds.
But on the other hand, there was a lot of testimony about the effect of these hearings and the findings of the Mitchell Report in these hearings about their effect on kids.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, absolutely. And probably the most interesting interview I did was with a couple, named the Moreros(ph), who lost a son in 2004. He committed suicide and they say it was because of steroids. He tried to withdraw from steroids very quickly, and it caused all kinds of emotional problems, they say.
And they were probably the only two people in that hearing reacting really viscerally and reacting emotionally, while, you know, you had media people kind of rolling their eyes at different times, and politicians grandstanding at times.
These people were reacting from the gut, and their message was it does have an impact. And for all the people out there who say, you know, this doesn't really matter, let's get on with spring training - it does matter, because it is affecting children. And their son, they said before he committed suicide, admitted, hey, I'm going to drugs because, you know, it worked for Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, two guys who have been associated with banned performance-enhancing drugs. Of course, Barry Bonds has denied it. Both have denied it.
CONAN: Darryl, thanks very much.
Let's go now to Nicole(ph), Nicole is on the line from San Antonio.
NICOLE (Caller): Hi. As a young person and a sports fan, I'm just so frustrated. While I understand that it started as an issue and the kids are following these examples, we're in the midst of war. We're in the midst of one of the most exciting elections in decades, foreign policy shambles. Why is Congress focusing on baseball as opposed to any one of the number of things that they could help solve for our country or the world? Or, maybe hold this administration accountable for something as opposed to grilling Roger Clemens and his - like, there's so much more they could be focusing on. Why are we paying so much attention to this?
CONAN: Tom Goldman, a cynic might point out there were an awful lot of television cameras pointed at congressmen during an election year.
GOLDMAN: Certainly were, and you can't negate that whole idea. And probably, that was part of it. You know, one congressman did point out, and he anticipated that question and that complaint. And he said, look, you know, for the other - you know, we did this for five hours a day. The rest of the time, we are dealing with those kinds of issues that Nicole was talking about and probably are more important.
I've had this discussion in my own head: Why is this important other than it's my job to cover it?
There are big issues you're dealing with here. You know, this striking thing with - that will, you know, translate down to kids, of lying. And you get into the issues of cheating and following the rules and not taking short cuts. If you're an athlete, you could argue that those are important issues to bring up.
And, you know, Congress, last time they brought this up with baseball, it forced baseball to get tougher with its performance-enhancing drug testing and program. They were dragged, kicking and screaming into it. Who knows what this may do. It will forward the dialogue, I think, that I do think this country needs to have on performance-enhancing drugs, whether it's in sports or in society, because it's rampant in society.
CONAN: Nicole, thanks very much for the call.
And Tom Goldman, I guess we should also point out that the Barry Bonds trial for perjury, alleged perjury, that's still pending. And at the same time, you've got - this story is not going away. And in another part of Capitol Hill, you had Senator Arlen Specter, talking with the football league commissioner about Spygate, and what the coach or the Patriots may have done or not done.
So Congress and politics and sports and courtrooms, pitchers and catchers report later this week, Tom.
GOLDMAN: No sighting of David Stern in the NBA, though.
CONAN: Tom Goldman, NPR sports correspondent, with us from Capitol Hill. Thank you very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.