It's not unusual for a TV show to come along and cause all kinds of controversy, and we really saw it coming when the premise for The Moment of Truth was revealed. Hooking contestants up to a polygraph machine and then asking them very personal questions in order to win cash isn't exactly on par with answering trivia questions or spinning a wheel and solving a puzzle, after all.
The February 25, 2008 episode of The Moment of Truth, which was heavily advertised and moved to a special night and time, featured contestant Lauren Cleri, who answered some extremely personal questions in front of her husband, parents, and siblings. Host Mark Walberg introduced the episode by saying that this was the most uncomfortable he's ever been on television, and that if he had his way, this episode would never have aired.
How the Episode Played Out
Cleri's questions were mostly based on her marriage and a relationship with an ex-boyfriend, although she did reveal that she'd been fired from a job for stealing money. She explained that this was in the past, and believes that she is a better person now. That's fair enough – we've all done things in our pasts that we're not proud of.
However, as the questioning continued, Cleri also revealed that she takes her wedding ring off when she goes out with her girlfriends so as to appear single, she was in love with another man on her wedding day, and that she's cheated on her husband. Her poor husband, a NYC police officer named Frank, sat on the sidelines and simply shook his head.
The ex-boyfriend, oddly enough also called Frank, showed up as a "special guest" to ask Cleri one of the questions. The question was, "If I wanted to get back together with you, would you leave your husband for me?" After an awkward pause, Cleri's sister hit the pass button, which meant that Cleri didn't have to answer the question and another one would be asked in its place. The replacement question, also asked by her ex, was whether or not Cleri felt she should be married to Frank the ex-boyfriend instead of Frank the current husband. Cleri answered "yes."
As anticipated, water-cooler talk the following day revolved around whether or not the show and the questions asked have gone too far.
Has The Moment of Truth Crossed a Line?
Here's my take on the situation. The Moment of Truth asks all of the questions that they plan to use on the show beforehand, during the lie detector test. Cleri knew exactly what she was getting into before filming began, and had the option to walk away and never appear on the show. Her husband claims that he knew about all of the things she admitted to, but their friends and family had no idea there were problems in the marriage.
The Cleris obviously have many problems in their relationship, which they may not be able to overcome. But the fact that they opted to use their situation in order to try and win money on a game show doesn't sit quite right. As husband Frank told the New York Post, "Why couldn't she have done Deal or No Deal?" Indeed.
The "blame" for the outcome of this particular episode doesn't lie squarely at the feet of FOX, the network behind The Moment of Truth. While they certainly knew it would be good for ratings, it couldn't have happened if it weren't for this willing contestant, who has admitted that she did it for the money. She repeatedly told Walberg that she wanted to continue, and that it felt good to get this stuff all out in the open.
Cleri answered enough questions truthfully to earn $200,000. After all of the things she'd revealed during the course of the game, her next question seemed to be an easy one. "Do you think you're a good person?" She paused, and then said that yes, she did think she was a good person. Ironically, this was the question that did her in as the red screen came up and her answer was declared false. She lost the $200,000 and ended up walking away with nothing.
Only time will tell if it was worth it in the end.