Little Sympathy for Bernie Madoff's Family

Can the Madoff family, still worth millions, really be asking the country for support?

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Surely, it's been a difficult time for the wife and son of Bernie Madoff, the man now serving a 150-year prison sentence for running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme and bilking investors out of their life savings. The couple's other son, Mark Madoff, committed suicide, hanging himself with a black dog leash while his two-year-old son slept nearby. Ruth Madoff, Bernie's wife, says she knew nothing about her husband's crimes while they were happening, but must endure the harassment, shame, and upsetting newspaper headlines that have come as a result of the scandal. And Andrew Madoff, the other son, feels betrayed.

They've been through an ordeal, no question about it. But is this really the time to be making a mass appeal for sympathy?

It seems the Madoffs think so. In a new book, Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family, Ruth and Andrew Madoff, along with Andrew's fiancee, Catherine Hooper tell all about their time with Bernie Madoff. The book was written by Laurie Sandell, but "arranged," CBS's 60 Minutes reports, by Hooper. And the complaints about Bernie Madoff are many.

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Said Andrew Madoff to 60 Minutes:

It was one of the hardest things to come to grips with, in trying to get my head around this, was that feeling that I had been used—almost as—as a human shield by him. He—it's—it's unforgivable. No—no father should do that to their sons.

A "human shield"? He wasn't in the middle of a revolution in Libya. He was the son of a crooked financier and involved in the family business. And while he may well not have known about his father's transgressions, he surely lived well from the deception his father engineered.

[See photos of unrest in Libya.]

Ruth Madoff was allowed to keep $2.5 million of the couple's stash, an amount she acknowledged to 60 Minutes is a lot of money to some people. But she added quickly that she's spending a lot on legal fees. And Andrew, while portraying himself as something of a victim, was a bit more coy with CBS's Morley Safer:

Safer: Let me ask a really intrusive question. How much are you worth as we speak?

Andrew: Well, I was fortunate over the years, running the business that Mark and I ran. It generated many millions of dollars in profits and enabled my brother and I both to live a comfortable lifestyle.

Safer: You haven't answered the question.

Andrew: I made, in—in good years—several million dollars. My life, at this point, is an ope—is an open book. The details of my financial past have been laid bare completely in the lawsuit against me. I haven't enjoyed it. But that's the reality that I live in.

Safer: Do you fear ending up broke?

Andrew: I think that it's a very real possibility, but I am prepared to start over again and build myself back up.

Think of all the people who have been unemployed for many months, even years. The people who have lost their homes and actually still owe money on the mortgage because their houses are worth so much less than they paid for them. The people who don't have health insurance, and live in fear of developing some illness they won't be able to afford to treat. Does Andrew Madoff think a few million dollars a year is still just "comfortable"?

[Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons on the economy. ]

The Madoff family has indeed endured a great deal of upheaval. But this is not the time to ask the rest of the country for support.

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