Thursday, September 15, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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2 Politicians Pass Lie-Detector Tests


OMAHA, Neb. - Candidates are often accused of lying, but not many take a lie-detector test.

In Nebraska, two congressional candidates agreed to be strapped to a polygraph machine in a high-tech political showdown over whether the GOP candidate said public schools were teaching immorality.

Democratic Rep. Peter Hoagland, who is seeking a fourth House term, and Republican Jon Christensen each passed the tests. Of course, they were asked different questions.

Christensen passed a test administered Aug. 20 by an independent polygraph examiner hired by the Omaha World-Herald. Hoaglund passed a test given two days later by a private investigator he hired. The two men are in a tight battle to represent an Omaha-area district.

The tests followed a feud over a Hoagland television commercial that portrayed Christensen as a religious-right extremist critical of public schools.

In the commercial, an Omaha teacher said Christensen came to her home and told her that public school books in Omaha teach immorality. Christensen denied chatting with the woman, Barbara Lebedz, or campaigning in her area. He also called Hoagland a "manipulative liar."

The dispute snowballed after Lebedz was asked whether she would submit to a lie-detector test. She said she would if Christensen would. He said he would if Hoagland would.

Lebedz never took the test. A polygraph examiner hired by Hoagland told her she was too emotional to undergo the exam at the time.

She attempted to take the test days after reporting to police that her family had received two death threats in phone calls over the commercial. The Hoagland campaign pulled the ads, citing the calls. Omaha police are investigating.

Polygraph results are inadmissible in Nebraska's courtrooms. Critics say it is a subjective test that hinges on the examiner's skills.

Although he passed his test, Hoagland remains skeptical.

"From the beginning, I have thought it makes no sense to have the credibility in this particular instance to be determined by a lie-detector machine," he said. "If it would satisfy some people, then it was worth it."

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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