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'The Moment of Truth' turns into a time of pain

On Monday night's episode of the Fox game show "The Moment of Truth," Lauren Cleri admitted that she had been fired from a job for stealing money, would rather give food to a dog than a homeless person, knows things about her father that she keeps from her mother and has avoided sex with her husband by pretending to be asleep.

Then, things got worse. And, according to an article in the New York Post, Cleri and her husband are now separated because of it.

Yes, said Cleri -- whose husband, parents and siblings were sitting before her, along with a studio audience and 8.9 million television viewers -- she has taken off her wedding ring when out with friends, and, yes, she was still in love with a former boyfriend on her wedding day. After she answered that question truthfully, her ex-boyfriend, Frank, not to be confused with her husband, Frank,  took the stage to ask, "If I wanted to get back together with you, would you leave your husband?"

"The Moment of Truth" premiered on Fox in January and has performed very well in the ratings. Contestants must answer 21 questions truthfully in order to win $500,000. The questions are selected from a pre-interview they did while strapped to a polygraph. The contestant's loved ones also get one, and only one, preemptory challenge in which they can hit a buzzer to skip a question they may not want to hear the answer to. Along the way, contestants can win $10,000, $25,000 and so on, and once they reach those milestones, they can quit and keep the money. If they answer a question falsely -- as determined by their pre-interview replies -- they are bounced from the game with nothing.

Howard Schultz, the show's executive producer, said on the telephone Wednesday that they investigate every contestant thoroughly, "to create a composite photograph, a mosaic, if you will."

And they know what they're in for, Schultz said. "We let every contestant know that we're going to reach as deep and as far into their lives as we can. Anything is potentially fair game."

He continued: "If we're doing a show called 'The Moment of Truth,' we have to be scrupulously honest with people."

According to Schultz, the producers asked ex-boyfriend Frank to keep his appearance a surprise. A segment producer told Schultz that Cleri had been texting Frank all week to find out whether he might be on the show as one of her interrogators.

As well she should have. Although Cleri's sister hit the buzzer, to much booing from the audience, when ex-boyfriend Frank asked whether she would leave husband Frank for him, his replacement question was no better: "Do you believe I'm the man you should be married to?"

Cleri answered yes, which was apparently the truth, and got to the $100,000 marker.

The host, Mark Walberg (not that Mark Wahlberg), resumed asking the questions. Has she cheated on her husband? Yes, she has. Frank Cleri put his head in his hands. She had two more questions to go before winning $200,000.

Then "The Moment of Truth" turned into a modern "Scarlet Letter." Does Cleri think she's a good person?

Yes, she does, she answered.

No, she doesn't, read the polygraph. Suddenly, Cleri was shocked and penniless. Her family, including her husband, surrounded her.

Walberg asked why that might have happened. Cleri said she didn't know, that she does think she's a good person. "Yet it came up as a lie, which means that somewhere in you, you haven't forgiven yourself," Walberg said. "And somewhere your truth is that you don't think you're a good person at all." (An attempt to contact Cleri through her MySpace page went unanswered as of press time.)

Schultz said that from what he's read, the polygraph is 94% to 97% accurate. When a contestant answers falsely on a seemingly simple question, Schultz said sometimes "they don't even hear what they're saying." However, various studies say the accuracy of polygraphs can't be pinpointed, with some tests estimating they're less than 70% accurate.

When "The Moment of Truth" has perhaps busted up a marriage, is the show responsible?

"I don't know," Schultz said. "She's the one answering the questions."

They have a psychologist on the set to talk with contestants and families afterward. In Cleri's case, Schultz said that the infidelity had come up off-camera before the taping, and he said to her, "Do you realize what this could mean?"

For what it ultimately could mean, the Web provided some answers Wednesday. An excerpt of Cleri's episode was highly viewed on YouTube. It had been viewed 146,206 times and counting, with 1,678 comments (and counting).

And on Cleri's MySpace page, the settings had been changed to "private." It read: "Lauren is going through a VERY difficult time right now. Please leave me alone. Please."

--Kate Aurthur

Comments () | Archives (24)

Wow, how shallow she is. I hope both her husband and her ex see her for what she is...someone who cares nothing for anyone's feelings but herself. She is not even very pretty. It was pretty obvious that her sister is quite angry with her and rightfully so. Her dad can't see past his nose. The ex was too smug and cocky. I felt sorry for her husbad

LOL What in the hell was she thinking? Is the possibility of $500,000 worth the potential destruction of your entire life? Apparently so.

That is painful to watch. Call me old fashioned, but that is NOT entertainment.

I believe Lauren's life is far from ruined. She is 26-years-old. She will get over this and rebuild; rather quickly I suspect. She has the unconditional support of her family. Witness her father saying over and over with absolute conviction, despite everything he has just heard, “it’s true [she is a good person].” She fully anticipates the cheating question—meaning she had already copped to it during the show’s prescreening and was fully prepared to unleash this “truth” on her husband. The announcer even says, “You probably know what I’m going to ask you?” to which she responds, “Sure.” Look even closer, and it seems that she even thinly represses a (you-know-what’s-coming) smile before answering. I even have a hard time accepting that her husband was as surprised by the news of his wife's infidelity as his reaction suggests (was that a hug he offers after she loses $200,000?). Oh, and apparently, contrary to her emotional reaction to her ex-boyfriend’s “surprise” appearance, she had been “texting [him] all week [prior to taping] to find out whether he might be on the show as one of her interrogators.” I have a feeling that dysfunction runs deep in this clan. I suspect that the writing was already on the wall for this marriage and this was just an opportunity for them all to make some quick cash. These are very young, arrogant and narcissistic people. If we should feel sorry for anyone, it should be ourselves for letting Fox manipulate us with this sad charade.

I think she'll get her 200,000 by taking her top off. Sad but true. She's not particularly attractive but it won't matter. Then vh1 reality shows, etc. Shrewdly calculated move, that marraige was already over.

As a polygraph examiner who does only criminal defense work, I know that the polygraph procedures being used on "Moment of Truth" do not correspond to any known technique and are contrary to conventional practices. That means that their "tests" have no validity. It is impossible to reach a determination of truth or deception using their methods and questions. They are just guessing at the results. This is not entertainment. It is a cynical effort to humiliate gullible and greedy participants for the sake of laughs. Televised dog fights would have more legitimacy.

Wait a second. This qualifies as entertainment in America? That explains a lot. Regardless of Cleri's own standards, deriving malicious pleasure from other people's failures is a telling measure of one's own moral bearings.

I admire Lauren. She did not want to be married to her current husband. Yet for some reason, she stayed married to him. There are two sides to every story...one person wll say one thing, the other person will say the other. I admire Lauren for speaking her mind. And why...I have done the same thing. I am a 40+ male, professional, working in the advertising industry. I have pretended to be asleep so that I wouldn't have to have sex with my wife, I have taken off my wedding ring during a night out, to show others that I'm single. I am not apolgizing for her behavior, but it happens, and it happens all the time. If you live in a glass house don't throw stones. But we all, all of us, live in glass houses.

Lauren is a hero. She spoke her mind. She wasn't happy. She is a young woman who probably married on the rebound. Her husband Frank looks like a dork. A dork is a dork, even if he is a NYPD cop. She made mistakes...she said things about their relationship that was hard for her...but do I blame her. NO!!!!! She is a victim of the new generation...get what you can, when you can, and don't look back. That's what we've told our kids, and that's how she grew up. I praise Lauren Cleri for now speaking her mind. I'm a married man, 50+, who has done worse than Lauren...give her a break.

Are you kidding? Lauren is no hero. If cheating on your spouse constitutes being a hero, then our world is really going to pot. She cheated on her husband and told America that she would rather be with her boyfriend. It was an interesting show, but I almost felt dirty for watching it. I feel bad for Frank and being a fellow Police Officer hope that all is well for him.

I just wanted to say that What Lauren did was maybe not the way to go about it. But she was obviously was not happy. she was living far away from family and friends. I believe that she turned her life around and did become a better person, she was truthful with her answers which had to not only be hard on her family and husband but herself also.

I wish you all luck, and happiness and would love to get to know this person.

this episode was VERY intense...i was shocked that the whole time her husband didn't shed a tear! i think that any person that was just informed their spouse is not only a CHEATER but THEIR spouses HEART and true feelings belong to their [her] former boyfriend would be devastating!!!! right??? i mean i would of been crushed, crying uncontrollably and probably walked off the set before having to sit there being humiliated on NATIONAL TV!!!! however Frank[husband] wanted her to continue playing saying what else could happen. wtf...it looked as if he was just disappointed but already knew the truth of wifes true feelings and just wanted the money. REALITY check is Lauren and Franks relationship was a loveless marriage based on Laurens lies and Franks obvious fantasy of his life!!!! i am ecstatic they were on the show because they were confronted as well as enlightened on their relationship...by AMERICA as GREAT entertainment!!!

I'm not going to be quick to demonize someone I've only seen on an overly glossed and produced network television show - for under 30 minutes at that. After all, who knows? Having to live knowing that "special someone" is also the "one that got away" is a tragic reality for many people.

As for the accuracy of the polygraph test, I just read an article where even one of the official test conductors for the show said the accuracy can be in the low 60% range. The article went on to say that just the jarring nature of the question alone can be enough to raise your pulse rate, etc. thereby messing with the results.

And the entertainment value? I have to admit, the premise is intriguing. But with the spectacle of the dramatic lights, set and smoke, I don't watch it anymore because it's too irking. It's like the modern-day, psychological equivalent to watching someone thrown in with the lions.

You know, it's amazing how arrogant people are. First, Lauren just looked like she wasn't an extremely nice person. She carried herself as if she was somewhat self-absorbed. But I was wrong, SHE WAS COMPLETELY SELF-ABSORBED. Her ex-boyfriend Frank, walked out like he was something special to behold. I think they all were in it for the money or her family and herself were in on it for the money, and she left her husband out to dry. I'm leaning toward the latter. I like how she said she was happy and wanted to get all these things off her chest. What stopped her from doing it before? Do we as human beings need something of material of monitary value, to help push us into being honest with not only our friends and families, but also ourselves? You may call me old-fashioned, but don't you think you may have realized you may be in love with another person before you get to the altar? I'm sickened by the lack of emotion displayed by Lauren, during the questions, and now they have the nerve to act like this all came out of nowhere. I got news for you, YOU BROUGHT IT ON YOURSELF!. They have the nerve to put, ("Lauren is going through a VERY difficult time right now. Please leave me alone. Please."), on her myspace? I like how they capped VERY, as if it just appeared out of nowhere. Bottom line is, if you love someone then love them completely, whether that be friendly or intimately. Don't go around acting like it doesn't affect you and when the heat comes down on you, just hide behind an excuse like, I'm going through a hard time. YOU BROUGHT IT ON YOURSELF, SO QUIT COMPLAINING AND FACE YOUR REALITY. You made your bed, now sleep in it!

Has anyone else noticed that "The Moment of Truth" hasn't come on in a while? Maybe the powers that be decided that the show caused too much grief. Too bad. I thought it was a terrific show. If you're stupid enough to sign on the dotted line, then you're fair game to have your dirty laundry aired out in front of God and everybody.

I really want to know how the questions for each contestant are came up with, i mean where do they get them. And what I dont understand is why someone would put there family through that when they know they have done such hurtful things.

This show is what helps make America look stupid, ignorant, immoral and Americans dumb as rocks. Freedom was never meant to be what it is in America today. Men and women in the Armed forces did not fight and die in all the wars we engaged in and are engaged in to promote the kind of peverted behaviors we see in America today. The so called writers who recently went on strike, are a bunch of mentally challenged individuals, WHY? because they are all stuck on stupid, all they are capable of producing and calling entertainment is sex, violence and pure stupidity. the have no ability what soever to produce anything of substance other than SEX< VIOLENCE< AND SHEAR STUPIDITY. No one should be surprised anymore about the media productions in America , they teach our children now to do anything for money and it goes on and on and on

Saw this show recently. It is terrible. Not entertainment at all. Even thought it was staged, as I couldn't believe how low this woman can be. The husband will be better off without her. And her parents, brother and sister must be totally ashamed of her.

Wow .. i mean WOW ... damn this to me was absolutely shocking but having said that to be honest this kinda show is exactly what people around the world would pay money to see and i don't think i can critisize the producers in anyway. As for Lauren and Frank i'd have to say they both knew that eventually the marriage would fall apart. I really felt so sorry for Frank and i hope Lauren can bounce back eventually. All the best.

I think everyone is being overcritical of her. Somewhere deep in our hearts, we all have negative thoughts of the life we live and the life that could hve been. If there was no love in her marriage, her husband would hve noticed!!..ppl give her a break..look at the problems in ur own life..

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