What the public remembers and what actually happened can be two very different things.
When I wrote Monday's column about the former Museum of Science and Industry renaming itself in honor of billionaire Ken Griffin, in return for $125 million, I focused on the futility of naming institutions after oneself, grasping at the will-o-wisp of mortality that eludes you no matter how many plaques are forged. I didn't raise the issue of whether Griffin is a good or bad guy because, frankly, I didn't know. While you typically can't go wrong assuming a rich guy is also a selfish jerk, there are exceptions, and I had plenty to chew on without considering that aspect.
That didn't keep readers from weighing in, some damning him for ego, others lauding him because he did a generous thing. And then there was this:
Dear Neil, in your column about Ken Griffin's largesse in donating a small part of his vast fortune to the Museum of Science and Industry in order to preserve his legacy you neglected to mention how he fought his wife tooth and nail in Court in order to deprive her of maintenance and child support for herself and their children. Poor thing—he could hardly afford to be a gentleman not to mention a good provider for his family. Now he is trying to rehabilitate his tarnished image. No good. Ken. You are a cad and always will be. Print this, Neil. Mary Lusak. P.S. I think the Museum of Science and Industry is a big bore too
Normally her curt "Print this, Neil" would have turned me off. I am not a short-order cook. I don't take orders. But that did spark a hazy recollection: something about child support. Did I overlook a significant aspect to this story? Endowing a museum while his own children sell matches in the street? If that is the situation, then elaboration is called for.
But it wasn't. Griffin and his wife, Anne Dias Griffin, divorced in 2015. Support was never the issue, since she was already rich herself, having started a hedge fund before meeting Griffin, and had already received $40 million from him. What flashed in the public eye, and my reader was recalling, though distorted, if not completely inverted, was that Griffin's soon-to-be ex-wife was asking for $1 million a month in child support for their three children, a figure which included $300,000 for private jets, $160,000 for vacations and $2,000 for stationery.
So the issue was never milk for the baby. Besides, this all got worked out, the divorce settlement was agreed upon and the matter was covered in brown paper and rushed from public view. Though it says something about the power of negative suggestion that Griffin was tarred as a deadbeat, when in reality he was balking at paying $7,200 a month for restaurant bills.