Bernie and Ruth Madoff, who no longer speak to each other (at her request) since their son’s suicide, have nevertheless got dueling TV interviews going. Hers will be seen on this Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” while his with Barbara Walters is scheduled for Friday’s 20/20, and offers the following interesting (and believable) quote from this remarkably blank individual:
“I feel safer [in prison] than outside,” Madoff said. “Days go by. I have people to talk to and no decisions to make. … I know that I will die in prison. I lived the last 20 years of my life in fear. Now I have no fear — nothing to think about because I’m no longer in control of my own life.”
That has the ring of truth.
I also find the comments to the linked article about the Walters interview interesting. Since there are over 5,000, I’ve only read a small fraction, but they (as expected) excoriate his wife, assuming she knew about his crimes all along and was an accessory before the fact. The amount of hatred directed at her seems nearly equal to that thrown his way.
I’ve never understood that, but I seem to be in a small minority in that regard. From the start, it has seemed quite possible to me that Madoff had managed to keep his perfidy secret from the family, and I’ve seen nothing since to change my mind. If there had been evidence of collusion, family members would have been indicted as well.
Good con artists are really good, and anyone can be a victim, especially in a relationship that assumes love and trust. In January of 2009 I wrote the following, and I stand by it now:
There are people…who say Ruth Madoff must have known; a wife would know and a wife should know. There are people who say the same thing about child molesters, serial killers, adulterers, and most of the other varieties of human wrongdoing. But it is my observation that, although it is sometimes true that wrongdoers leave a clear trail and that any spouse who doesn’t intuit what’s going on is in a state of denial, sometimes the culprits are so slick and so clever, so good at dissembling, that no one would ever know.
To think otherwise is a self-protective lie we tell ourselves to reassure ourselves that we could not be taken in this way; oh no, surely not! But the evidence points to the fact that Bernard Madoff was a master at taking people in, gaining their trust, and then politely screwing them. He fooled people who would otherwise have been wary. His reputation was spotless, stellar, and lengthy.
And his wife, apparently, was part of his game, if only unwittingly.
That doesn’t mean that his wife is any sort of exemplary person; I do not think she was or is. But until I hear something new, I’ll reserve my vitriol for the one who clearly deserves it: Madoff himself.
[NOTE: Another theme in the comments section of the Madoff/Walters article is that Barbara Walters is a POS for giving Madoff a forum. I'm not sure whether I agree with that, either, although I am most definitely no Walters fan. But I'm interested in hearing what makes a financial sociopath like Madoff tick, so I plan to watch the interviews.]