Barton Caught in Another Whopper of a Lie

David Barton has added a new trick to his repertoire. In addition to lying about American history and the Constitution, he’s now telling lies about his own personal history. First he lied about being on the Oral Roberts basketball team when he went to school there. Now he’s apparently lying about having been a translator for the Russian gymnastics team. Warren Throckmorton has been tracking down the details. Here’s what Barton claimed on his radio show:

Barton: I spoke Russian, I was fluent in Russian and when the Russian uh gymnastics team came to America in 1976, I got to be translator for ‘em and do translating just so…the accounts of when we went to stores was a blast.

Green: Wait, wait stop wait. You speak Russian?

Barton: I don’t now, but I was at one time fluent in Russian and again translated for the Russian gymnastics team when they came to America, but at the same time we were working our tails off to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union and and had several trips that went there smuggling Bibles in, so…

This seems farfetched, to say the least. So Throckmorton started doing some research. It looks like Barton only took a single Russian class at ORU, maybe two. That would hardly make him fluent. As for that claim about translating for the Russian gymnastics team:

I spoke at length with Ron Munn who worked for the Nissen Corporation. Nissen provided personnel and equipment for the Russian Gymnastics Team tours of the United States. I also corresponded with Leigh Hennessy Robson, who won an event in the World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships held at the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University in July 1976. The importance of that event and Mrs. Robson’s participation will be clear shortly.

I found Munn through this blog post about the Nissen Corporation’s activities in the mid-1970s. He told me about several tours of the U.S. by the Russian Gymnastics Team through the 1970s but said there was only one in 1976. The Russian team was in Montreal from mid-July through early August for the Olympics. These Olympics featured Romania’s Nadia Comaneci, and Russia’s Olga Korbut and Nellie Kim. Later in 1976, the Russian team toured the U.S. for about 2 weeks in December. Munn supplied images from the program which I will provide at the end of the post. Munn spent time with the team, and even went dancing with Olga Korbut on one of the tour stops. He does not recall any outsiders working in translation with the team. The Russians brought their own interpreters which was customary for international sports teams (see this image, which is also below, for a picture of an interpreter in a program for the 1974 Russian Trampoline Gymnastics Team). Barton’s claim here seems extremely far fetched.

Perhaps Barton was thinking of the Russian Trampoline Team which competed in the World Trampoline Championship at Oral Roberts University in July 1976. In addition to his work on the Russian gymnastics tours, Munn was also at ORU as an announcer for the event as a part of his work with the Nissen Corporation. This company was founded by George Nissen who invented the modern trampoline and developed the sport internationally. Munn married one of Nissen’s daughters. I also corresponded with Leigh Hennessy Robson, a competitor for the United States who won two gold medals and a silver at the meet. Robson’s father, Jeff Hennessy, was the meet director. Leigh and her father are the only father-daughter pair to be inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Leigh Robson said that the Russian team brought their own interpreters. She told me, “Rest assured, David Barton did not translate Russian at the 1976 World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships at ORU.” She said the Russians also brought their own security to monitor the team. Munn added that the Soviets were concerned about Russian athletes defecting so they kept them under constant watch. The idea of using American translators did not make sense to Munn or Robson.

Barton, of course, has provided no evidence for either his illustrious basketball career or his claim to have been a translator for Russian gymnasts who had their own translators. At some point, I’m sure he’ll just dismiss it as an attack by liberal commie bastards. That’s his usual tactic when caught lying.

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  • Deen

    How do you forget to speak a language that you once spoke fluently? I can understand getting a little rusty from disuse, but I can’t understand not being able to speak it at all anymore.

  • Modusoperandi

    Why does he bother telling this story? His one about beating Ivan Drago in the ring is much better.

  • theschwa

    Barton is just being humble. He did not even mention his actions when the US had a close encounter with extraterrestrials at Devil’s Tower in the ’70s, and he developed the light and musical communication system.

  • Taz

    “And when I wasn’t being a star basketball player I was a translator for the Russian Gymnastics Team . . . yeah, that’s the ticket.”

  • eric

    @1: I think ~40 years of non-use would make that part of the story at least plausible. However, the rest of it isn’t.

  • caseloweraz

    Hey, give David Barton a break. He’s just vying for Bill O’Reilly’s job.

  • MikeMa

    What was Barton doing working with those commies? What secrets was he giving to the Russians? Shame, blacklisting, horror.

    Oh, Barton is a pathological lying favorite of the dim and gullible. Carry on.

  • arakasi

    I was just a kid in the 70’s, but my understanding is that the Soviets kept a pretty tight leash on the athletes that represented the USSR. The claim that they would allow the use of non-goverment approved translators triggers my bullshit meter.

  • rationalinks

    Barton is a lying sack, but I am willing to give him the “can’t speak Russian now”. When my grandfather was a kid he only spoke French and Chippewa (long story). When I was a kid and he was in his mid 60’s and 70’s he couldn’t speak a word of either. So I’d say IF (and that’s a big if) Barton could speak Russian 40 years ago, it’s plausible that he couldn’t speak any now if he hasn’t used it since. Then again, Barton is such a liar I highly doubt he was ever fluent in anything other than lying.

  • briandavis

    I suspect the real story will be something like this. Barton and a companion were standing close enough to some Russian athlete to overhear them. (or were watching them on TV) Barton used his first year Russian skills to tell his companion, “That guy just told his coach that he’s thirsty.” With Barton’s idea of truth this would qualify as being one of the team’s translators.

  • Nick Gotts


    I don’t think so – not if you were fluent enough to act as a translator for an international sports team. Stroke, brain tumour or traumatic brain injury might account for it, but not mere disuse.

  • colnago80

    Re Nick Gotts

    You are assuming that Barton has never had a stroke, brain tumor, or traumatic brain injury.

  • Larry


    And, you, calnago80, are assuming that he has a brain.

  • Chris Nonimus
  • lorn

    Oh, come on. Give Barton break. His speaking Russian, and then forgetting it is well within the Christian tradition of speaking in tongues and not being able to translate it when not ‘in the spirit’.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    Barton uses his fantastic Russian skills to smile at one of the athletes and say “kahk dee-lah” and he’s TRANSLATING!

    You just have to know how he defines the word.

  • Michael Heath

    Chris @ 14,

    Heh on both counts.

  • Crudely Wrott, lurching towards recrudescence

    I used to speak fluent ancient Greek! Really. Ionic dialect as I recall . . . or perhaps it was Ironic. I forget, it’s been ages and since then I’ve spoken altogether too much Americanish.

  • dcsohl

    Eric@5: Actually, not even that part of the story is plausible. A famous study done in 1984 by Harry Bahrick was conducted on this very topic.

    He surveyed students of Spanish from all walks of life, those who had only had a few semesters to those who were (or had been) fluent at one point. He correlated their knowledge of Spanish against two primary factors: how much they knew at their peak, and how long it had been since they had last really used the language (ranging from a few months to 50 years).

    He found that over the first 5 years of disuse, you forget what you knew… but after 5 years, you stop forgetting. The amount people retained after 5 years was proportional to how much they had known at their peak.

    As somebody who was once quite good (though not fluent) in French and has not seriously used it in almost 20 years, I can tell you, I still retain a hell of a lot of it. If Barton were good enough to be a translator, he’d still be fairly good at the language. He would not be completely unable to speak it.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    Anyone who remembers that time period at all knows that there is no chance at all that the Soviet Union would have used anyone but a fellow Soviet as an interpreter for one of their sports teams while traveling in the west. The interpreter was most likely a KGB officer to boot.