Among the hundreds of appearances discredited pathological liar and former NBA referee Tim Donaghy has made since 2009, I view his 2019 interview with Patrick Bet-David as one of the most problematic. Unlike the many sports media personalities who’ve interviewed Donaghy, “PBD” presents himself as someone with gravitas.
PBD has a great life story, and his interviews are often well-researched and informed. He also offers life and business advice, with a focus on ethics and leadership valuing transparency, speech, and debate (and has criticized others for not engaging in substantive discourse).
His podcasts are very popular and have featured prominent guests.
Ironically, PBD and his regular panelists routinely mock “fake news” and criticize media outlets and personalities. For example (and this is relevant in the case of Donaghy’s appearance), PBD personally called out Jon’ Stewart”s bookers recently for not finding an informed gun rights advocate to debate in a featured interview.
This is collectively why PBD’s 2019 interview of Tim Donaghy is so noteworthy and problematic. There was no evidence-based pushback from PBD, the influential and often critical host. The result was that a career con man was permitted to hustle PBD’s vast audience…with the assistance of self-professed ethical leader PBD.
That the interview took place in 2019 is important because (a) the public record was well established in 2007 and (b) the majority of the key claims Donaghy has repeated since his 2009 release from prison have been debunked with evidence (i.e., host PBD and his team could easily have prepared for Donaghy, even if restricted to the public record, as I will demonstrate).
As usual, I won’t go through each and every absurd or false claim in the podcast, but will highlight those which matter most. Also recall Brandolini’s Law aka “The Bullshit Asymmetry Principle” is in play here.
For those familiar with the Donaghy con, this is largely a repeat of his greatest hits. There are some noteworthy PBD-specific items I’ll highlight, however.
Part I: “The Usual” aka “Donaghy’s Greatest Hits”
- At 38:15 Donaghy says he stopped betting “for good” (with his buddy Jack Concannon, during the 2006-07 NBA season).
Donaghy argues he was desirous to stop betting but…
- At 38:53 Donaghy says he was threatened by pro gambler Jimmy Battista in December 2006 into betting on games he officiated
None of this true.
While Donaghy temporarily ceased betting with Concannon when he switched to betting with Battista in December 2006, according to federal authorities (FBI/AUSO) and to Donaghy’s plea agreement, he resumed betting with Concannon in February 2007 and was thus betting with Concannon AND with Battista until the scandal ended in April 2007.
Beyond this, Donaghy’s self-serving claim he only continued betting because Battista threatened him is again debunked with the official record and more. The feds (1) never considered this a racketeering scheme and (2) did not charge anyone with extortion, and – following Donaghy’s proffer sessions and guilty plea negotiations – (3) wrote that Donaghy “has never taken the position that he was anything other than a willing participant in the scheme with Battista and Martino, and, before them, with Jack Concannon.” Furthermore, Judge Carol Bagley Amon (4) described the conspiracy among Donaghy, Battista, and Martino as a business “arrangement”, before she (5) added that Donaghy was “more culpable” than his co-conspirators, (6) noting “without Mr. Donaghy, there was no scheme.”
How could PBD and his team be unaware of all of this widely-available information? (Please note the above is restricted to the public record and that I am not getting into the wealth information available in Gaming the Game, which was published in 2011 with considerable media attention and critical acclaim causing it to make the Best-Sellers list; i.e., one need not be familiar with me or my work to know the basics and it is apparent very little preparation was done.)
Want more details about this specific absurdity?
Since Donaghy was on PBD’s podcast for the purpose of hyping his best friend and fellow co-conspirator Tommy’s Martino’s film (more specifically on this below), please consider what Martino told the FBI about the above. The following are from FBI 302 summaries of Martino interviews contained in his confidential FBI file (please recall he proffered with the government after he got caught perjuring himself in front of the grand jury).
Actual context re that December 2006 meeting at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott between Donaghy, Martino, and Battista (“Baba”) occurred, according to Martino?
“Donaghy complained that Concannon was not giving him any money so he wanted to start giving picks to Baba.”
What about Battista allegedly threatening Donaghy, according to Martino?
“Martino never heard Baba threaten Donaghy in any way. Martino had the impression that Donaghy wanted to provide the picks to Baba for Donaghy’s own financial gain. Martino was not aware of Baba ever threatening Donaghy that he was going to hurt Donaghy or tell the NBA about the betting.”
On this consequential matter, you should also know that when Donaghy was released from prison in 2009 and hyping his book, he referred to Martino as a “Gambino Crime Family member/associate” who threatened him and his family. When it suited his purposes (garnering attention for business interests, minimizing his culpability in the scheme, inviting sympathy), Donaghy said Battista AND mutual pal Martino (men he knew well for years) were mobsters, assuming – correctly – media members like PBD wouldn’t pause to consider the FBI and other law enforcement agencies never made such claims (despite an interest and motive to do so if it was remotely plausible). Immediately below is a montage of Donaghy statements from 2009-10 [note: audio is 1.5x for brevity].
This is likely why – with Donaghy on set with his scam book, which contains the demonstrably false claims – the original Valuetainment/PBD title for the Donaghy podcast was “NBA Referee Controlled by Mafia Gets Caught”
[Aside: I would love to know how and why that was chosen by PBD/Valuetainment, and why it was changed to “Tim Donaghy Opens Us (sic) About NBA Referees”. Did Donaghy request the change in consideration of Martino’s timely interests?]
When Martino approached Donaghy with an offer to help market Martino’s 2019 film, Donaghy altered his talking points to split Martino from Battista; now Martino, too, was essentially a mob extortion victim and no longer a “Gambino Crime Family member/associate” doing the threatening. And Martino is clearly willing to allow Donaghy to spout his nonsense as long as it helps the film project.
ALL OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION WAS AVAILABLE TO PBD AND HIS STAFF AT THE TIME OF HIS 2019 INTERVIEW WITH PATHOLOGICAL LIAR AND CAREER CON MAN DONAGHY.
Since PBD is also into sales and hype, let me say with enthusiasm – But wait, there’s more!
And about the location of the alleged threats? Donaghy told PBD they took place in a car ride, just as he did many outlets beginning in 2009. Well, in the 2022 Netflix “Untold” episode on the scandal, he describes them taking place in the Philadelphia Airport Marriott. Now that you know the above, you’ll grasp why Martino refuses to answer the question in the “Untold” episode – he would have had to explain how the two men lied over the last 15 years.
- At 39:53 Donaghy gets into his usual demonstrable bs about the end of the scandal. Donaghy told PBD/Valuetainment’s audience he was dying for the scandal to be over but knew “they” (“the mob”) would never let him out of the arrangement. He even told PBD and his audience federal authorities said his ominous threatening extortionists “would never give up the golden goose”.
None of this is true.
When Battista went into drug rehab in March 2007, the scheme simply switched to another pro gambler, Pete Ruggieri (another government cooperator, by the way). The scheme continued for a handful of games until Ruggieri shut the scheme down in April 2007 because he realized word was out on Donaghy fixing games and betting lines were moving too much for Ruggieri’s liking. These facts are according to everyone involved other than the public Tim Donaghy (including other pro gamblers not known to the public who cooperated with authorities), and according to the FBI/US Attorney’s Office. This is why the deals for Donaghy and others are for actions through April 2007, while Battista’s is for actions only through March. Even better, what was Donaghy’s reaction to Ruggieri shutting it down in April 2007? Donaghy pleaded to bet on one more game.
Again, from Donaghy best friend Martino’s FBI 302:
“Around March 2007, Baba went into drug rehab. At that point, [Donaghy] told Martino that he wanted Martino to continue the scheme with Pete Ruggieri…After Ruggieri decided to shut the scheme down, Donaghy pushed Martino to take one more game.”
This is all a far cry from the bs Donaghy told PBD and the Valuetainment audience about only betting 12/06-4/07 because he was threatened.
So, to sum up: 1) Donaghy didn’t stop betting “for good” with Jack Concannon in December 2006; 2) he wasn’t threatened by anyone including “the mob”/Battista/Martino; and 3) the only reason the scandal ended was because a pro gambler stopped it (i.e., it wasn’t ended by the NBA, by the FBI, and especially not by Donaghy).
PBD was unaware of these long-established facts and did not push back during the interview.
- At 51:10 Donaghy gets into his usual nonsense about the NBA and FBI clearing him of fixing games and each entity thoroughly reviewing “every” one of his game tapes.
None of this is true.
Like most everything in the 2019 PBD interview, this was debunked more than a decade ago (including explaining the very limited review of a fraction of Donaghy games) when Donaghy first started making the absurd claims. Indeed, retired FBI SSA Phil Scala has publicly refuted Donaghy’s claim re being cleared of fixing games multiple times, and the NBA issued a formal statement explicitly stating they never concluded Donaghy didn’t fix games (to say nothing of former Commissioner David Stern’s testimony to Congress on the matter).
- At 52:08 Donaghy speaks his common falsehood the FBI agents said he told the truth “at every turn” which is why retired FBI SSA Phil Scala wrote the foreword to his book.
None of this is true.
I have addressed this nonsense many times (see, e.g., here and here), each with examples of FBI agents, including Scala, directly refuting key Donaghy claims. In other interviews, Donaghy similarly claims the FBI vetted the book and supports it.
AGAIN, ALL OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION WAS AVAILABLE TO PBD AND HIS STAFF AT THE TIME OF HIS 2019 INTERVIEW WITH PATHOLOGICAL LIAR AND CAREER CON MAN DONAGHY.
Part II: 2019-specific Donaghy claims and PBD comments/actions
- At 43:17 PBD asks Donaghy when he last spoke with Battista.
Pause for a moment about this. Donaghy has been claiming for more than a decade by this point that Battista was a “Gambino crime family member/associate” who threatened his life, his wife, and kids, including minutes earlier in this interview. Why would Donaghy be speaking with a mobster extortion artist? Donaghy and PBD then joke a bit about the correspondence between Donaghy and Battista regarding restitution. Perhaps PBD didn’t realize what was occurring, but does high achiever and visionary leader PBD believe the federal government directs extortion victims to personally contact their offenders to get restitution? Of course not. Again, Donaghy made the false threat claims minutes earlier and it was as if PBD didn’t connect the dots between the moments. Donaghy lied to PBD’s face and to his audience with no awareness or pushback by the well-regarded and trusted host.
- At 45:35 Donaghy and PBD discuss the reason for the interview, namely his buddy Tommy Martino’s then-forthcoming film. Indeed, just prior PBD looked into the camera to let Martino know “I’ve heard good things (about you).”
I kept waiting for PBD to ask Donaghy about this incredibly odd situation. After all, Donaghy had spent a decade telling the world over and over that Martino was a Gambino crime family member/associate who threatened his wife and kids. Why on earth would Donaghy be out promoting anything put out by his alleged offender? Even better, this is what the film Donaghy was hyping used as promo text (emphasis added):
In 2007, when NBA referee Tim Donaghy got caught betting on games he worked, he said two men associated with the Gambino crime family – a bookie named Baba Battista and a drug dealer named Tommy Martino – threatened to kill his family if he didn’t give them gambling picks. That’s what Donaghy told the FBI, that’s what he told 60 Minutes, and that’s what he testified in court. But that’s not what really happened. That’s not even close. INSIDE GAME is the untold true story of one of the biggest scandals in sports history.
I would love to know if PBD was even aware of this. Based on what aired, PBD had no clue about this just like he didn’t about other matters of consequence.
To make this ostensibly newsworthy interview more embarrassing, after Donaghy lied to Valuetainment’s audience repeatedly throughout an hour, he was rewarded with PBD promoting Donaghy’s betting web site, PBD giving out copies of Donaghy’s scam book, and PBD playing a video game with the career con man.
This is all a far cry from the promo image, which suggests a critical, informed discussion if not debate.
Soon after the absurd appearance was filmed, PBD tweeted this reply to the discredited pathological liar who just lied to him repeatedly and hustled his audience: “Thanks, Tim. Can’t wait to launch the interview. We went deep into many topics within the NBA.”
Beyond the above easily demonstrable falsehoods (the focus of the post), there is also Donaghy’s incessant claim he used “inside information” to bet on NBA games (also used in the interview with PBD and here). Indeed, he has argued he bet roughly equally on games officiated by others as on those he did. After all, if “inside information” really was the reason for his betting success, it wouldn’t matter if he was on the court. I don’t include this in the blatant “falsehood” category, but please know there is ZERO evidence of this and a mountain of evidence to the contrary. For starters, his two co-conspirators (which includes his best friend and fellow government cooperator Martino) each state the 2006-07 season bets were originally exclusively on games officiated by Donaghy, and that when he attempted to bet on other games a few times they were losers and Battista told him he would no longer humor them. Furthermore, ALL pro gamblers who were part of the scandal (some of whom also cooperated with the feds) explained they were betting exclusively on games Donaghy officiated 03-07 because they knew he was fixing them. Lastly, as I comprehensively detail in the Gaming the Game Appendix, objective electronic betting records and betting line data clearly illustrate the bets were on Donaghy’s games.
“[Griffin] straddles the line between academic and storyteller, cop and journalist…[Gaming the Game] will blow your mind.” Philadelphia Magazine
“An exhaustively researched book threatening to overturn some comfortable assumptions about the NBA’s referee scandal …[Gaming the Game] delivers the intrigue you’d expect from a true crime thriller” ESPN.com