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Treachery Cover-Up

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"Because sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded."

The villain has betrayed his team, or his country, or the entire human race. Now, he's been defeated...but there's just one complication. If the traitor's guilt is revealed, there will be consequences — perhaps his friends will seek revenge, or perhaps good people will also be dragged down, or maybe the traitor in question was a Regretful Traitor and his old friends still mostly think well of him, or perhaps the people's confidence in the whole system will be shaken as a result of these actions.

One solution: cover the whole thing up. Perhaps the traitor can be punished discreetly or persuaded to eliminate himself rather than be disgraced, or perhaps the heroes just have to suck it up and accept that he's untouchable, at least for now. Often, the question is rendered moot, as the villain's final struggle led to his death. In such cases, it is not uncommon for them to be reported as having died a hero, often with the implication that they were killed stopping the very evil they had, in reality, unleashed. (Note that if the character really did die stopping it, it is Redemption Equals Death, and while the heroes are likely to soften or hide his crimes, the motive will be different.)

Note this is also a useful plot device so "fictional" stories can pretend to have really happened, it was just "covered up".

Subtrope of Internal Retcon. Compare Never Speak Ill of the Dead and The Power of Legacy. The inversion is the Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit, where a dead person is made a scapegoat for crimes or actions they didn't do. Not to be confused with a still active traitor covering their tracks to still appear loyal.

Needless to say, expect spoilers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Inverted with the end of Code Geass. The few people who were in on it/worked it out are covering up the fact that Lelouch was actually creating world peace.
    • Played straight in episodes 19 and 20 of R2. Upon being confronted with what they believe to be the evidence of Zero's betrayal of their cause, the Black Knights attempt to execute Lelouch as a traitor. So as not to tarnish Zero's image as the symbol of resistance, they cover it up by reporting that he died heroically in the battle for Tokyo. A curious example, in that while the conspirators believe that they are covering up their victim's betrayal, the treachery they are covering up is their own, given the circumstances.
  • The end of Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School ends with the reformed Remnants of Despair taking the blame for the final Killing Game. In actuality, Kazuo Tengan, the founder of the Future Foundation, was not only responsible for orchestrating the final Killing Game but also planned to use Brainwashing for the Greater Good upon the entire world to end despair. As Tengan and the Future Foundation had been the sole bastion of order since the Tragedy, having their corruption be exposed would prove disastrous towards attempts to rebuild civilization. As such, the Remnants, who were already Hated by All for being Junko Enoshima's most devoted followers, sacrifice their only chance of redemption in the eyes of society by taking the fall for Tengan in a Zero-Approval Gambit.
  • The second Death Note movie ends with a coverup. Light's family is led to believe that he died trying to stop Kira.
  • In the later manga chapters of Elfen Lied, it is revealed that the Japanese government at last tumbled to the fact that something was not right with Chief Kakuzawa and his Diclonius Research Institute, and began a venture called Saseba to monitor his activities, eventually infiltrating and turning operatives inside the Institute. While part of this was done to stop Kakuzawa (and he needed stopping), the bigger part of the effort was to keep quiet that Japan had ever sponsored this madman. Given what Kouta relates in the very final chapter, their success in covering up is left unclear.
  • At the end of Fullmetal Alchemist, the Fuhrer was credited as having been a major force against the generals supposedly orchestrating the "alchemic experiment". In fact, he had been one of the driving forces for its completion and had brought the generals into the scheme. However, he was far too popular with the people and the evidence against him was lacking. It helped that the rebel forces had already claimed to be acting in the Fuhrer's name and pinned their own assassination attempt against him (which at the time they believed was successful) on the generals, even before the villainous plot was actually thwarted, even enlisted the unwitting support of the Fuhrer's wife.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Admiral Graham's plan to seal the Book of Darkness away with Hayate is largely overlooked outside of the upper echelons of the TSAB, and he merely resigns, only being officially accused of breaking into Bureau systems and interfering with the investigation. This extends into the film adaptation of the series, treated as a Show Within a Show in-universe, which excises Graham from the plot entirely.
    • In StrikerS Sound Stage X it is mentioned that many parts of the Jail Scaglietti incident are classified, presumably including Jail's origins and connection to the Bureau, which had created him.
  • This happened in Naruto with the planned coup by the Uchiha clan. Itachi killed them without exposing their treachery in order to keep their reputation from being tarnished, and to give Sasuke a target for his anger. It... didn't work out so well.
  • One Piece:
    • After the supposedly-government-allied pirate Crocodile was exposed, the World Government didn't bother to cover it up. They did, however, cover up the fact that another pirate crew resolved the issue by giving credit to a Marine who had conveniently been tailing the heroes, because a rogue pirate beating a government-aligned pirate, traitor or not, would be a source of deep embarrassment. Smoker, said Marine, was less than happy about it.
    • Played straight with Gecko Moria later on. Whatever his plans, they were never so public that the World Government couldn't deny it, and they were in fact more concerned about his image as a powerful pirate being tarnished when they had already lost two of their allied pirates already.
    • Defied by Admiral Fujitora at the end of the Dressrosa arc. After hearing the aforementioned Smoker's frustrations about the Alabasta incident, he ensured that the government could not repeat this for Dressrosa (and give him the credit) by publicly broadcasting the truth (that the Straw Hats and their allies were the ones who brought down the Donquixote Family and saved the kingdom) to all neighboring islands before reporting the incident to his superior, meaning that the Government has no choice but to publicly acknowledge the real version of the story. Said superior — Fleet Admiral Sakazuki/Akainu — was not happy.
  • Patlabor: The Movie: The true source of the malfunctioning labors is whitewashed so the Japanese government will not be disgraced. The corporation that built the faulty labor robots has given the government massive support and money.
  • Un-Go - Only reason why is Shinjuurou called "Defeated Detective"

    Comic Books 
  • The Invisible Man's decision to sell out humanity to aliens was covered up in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. "Covered up" means Hyde raped him to death.
  • Star Wars Legends: After Haazen's manipulations are revealed in Knights of the Old Republic, the Jedi realize that they cannot let anyone know a Sith rose within their own ranks, or that he was able to spark a small-scale civil war. So they keep it a secret amongst themselves and blame the damage to the Coruscant Jedi Temple on the Mandalorians.
  • Teen Titans: Even though she was The Mole, the Titans gave Terra a hero's funeral and kept her betrayal of the team a secret after her death.

    Fan Works 
  • Zigzagged in the Alternate Tail Series regarding Laxus (who takes Jellal's place as the puppet leader of the Tower of Heaven). While Mira is honest with Kagura about some of the actions that Laxus committed, she withholds that he killed Simon, Kagura's brother, when the latter tried to protect Mira, instead telling her that it was the mastermind controlling Laxus that was responsible. This is because Kagura thought that the same Laxus helped her years ago in her search for her brother before dropping her off at Cait Shelter.
  • Déjà vu no Jutsu: After evidence of Shimura Danzo's crimes are discovered, including how they have been working with Orochimaru and were responsible for the death of Sakumo, they are used to draw out other members of ROOT before Natsumi kills them. Officially, it's claimed that they succumbed to old injuries that were complicated by an illness.
  • Dirty Sympathy: This is why Edgeworth won't extradite Klavier and Apollo back to the U.S. All their cases would be put into question, endangering innocents like Wocky Kitaki and Vera Misham. Their convictions could be overturned, which could allow Kristoph his freedom since his initial conviction is dependent on a crime he didn't commit, and Phoenix would lose his creditability and the progress he made.
  • In Frozen Hearts (Sakume), this is downplayed with regards to Prince Hans; who is confined, away from the public eye, while his parents weigh how to punish him for his crimes, as a result of not wanting word to get out before his punishment is decided. The King and Queen of the Southern Isles ultimately go public regarding his wrongdoing, though.
  • In Gray So Quiet, when Obito arrives at the Gate to the Pure World, his sister Mikoto asks him why he told Sasuke that his father Fugaku was leading the Uchiha Coup instead than Mikoto. Obito admits that he wanted to preserve Sasuke and Itachi's image of Mikoto as a compassionate mother, rather than someone ruthless enough to overthrow the Hidden Leaf.
  • In Harry Potter fanfic The Riddle Of Jim Lillian, Hermione claims that it was Draco Malfoy who killed Ron, Neville, and Luna, tortured Ginny, broke Harry's wand and leaked the Prophecy to Voldemort. In the final chapters, however, it's revealed that Ron was the one who committed most of those crimes, with Ginny accidentally killing him when she attacked him in a rage after he revealed his treachery. Harry convinces Ginny and Hermione to lie that Draco - who has already committed numerous crimes as a Death Eater - committed Ron's crimes to protect the Weasleys, who would be vilified as the family of the traitorous Ron and blame themselves for Ron's turn to evil.
  • In My Mirror, Sword and Shield despite Emperor Lelouch telling the truth that Sir Raleigh murdered Princess Euphemia, no one believes him due to Lelouch's previous execution of noble hostages. Sir Raleigh goes down in history as a martyr while Suzaku, the one who avenged her, goes down as her murderer.
  • Obito-Sensei: Itachi's massacre of the Uchiha clan is used to help cover up how they were planning a coup against the Hokage and the Damiyo. One of the masterminds, Mikoto, survived the purge, and is allowed to remain in charge of their clan.
  • In The Seven Misfortunes of Lady Fortune, neither Gabriel Agreste's villainy, nor his part in the attempt to assassinate Marinette are ever revealed to the public. Instead, the heroes put together a half-truth involving the other two people connected to the crime.
  • Chapter 258 of Tales of Fairies involves a play that applies In-Universe Adaptational Villainy to the Fairy Tail guild (with the exception of Lucy and Wendy). Regarding Laxus's banishment from the guild after he nearly destroyed Magnolia to become Guild Master, the play has Laxus save Magnolia from Fairy Tail's destructive brawls and leaves to do good around the world. The real Laxus, however, is frustrated that the play makes him out to be a hero instead of acknowledging his failures.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In Angels & Demons, Ventresca immolates himself due to guilt over his misdeeds, but his official cause of death is that he died of injuries due to crash-landing on the ground.
  • In the film The Art of War, Wesley Snipes' character is set up for the murder of the Chinese ambassador in the middle of US-China trade talks. After finding out that a UN Liaison/Covert Mission Control who was involved in the talks is the mastermind, he reveals the truth to the Triads. She is murdered by a member of the Triads and is lauded as a hero, who gave her life to ensure the success of US-China trade relations. Of course, this also serves as a big "fuck you" to her, as she was secretly working on sabotaging the talks.
  • Assassination: The mastermind behind the assassination attempts on the First Lady is a high-ranking White House official. His death is reported as a medical condition to avoid a scandal. [1]
  • The Blue Max: General Count von Klugermann whitewashes or covers-ups Bruno Stachel's crimes because Germany needs a war hero since revolution is becoming more likely. Otto Heidemann is outraged at these cover-ups but agrees to stay silent since the military and political leadership agree with Klugermann. Heidemann knows that very few officers will take his side if confronted with political pressure. [2], [3]
  • The Dark Knight: Harvey Dent was horribly burned by the Joker, who kidnapped him and put him in a room full of gasoline, and driven to near insanity because the Joker lied about where Rachel was and where Harvey was, so Bruce manages to save Harvey, who gets half his face burned off because that half was doused in gasoline, while Rachel dies because the cops couldn't get there fast enough. While he is in the hospital, the Joker comes to him and manages to convince him to go after all the corrupt cops in the police force and even betray JIM GORDON AND BATMAN, the only good cops left, in order to avenge Rachel. Because he figures that he and Rachel each had a 50/50 chance of surviving, due to which one would be rescued by Batman, he gives all of the cops a 50/50 chance on whether they live or die as Two-Face. In the end, when he is holding a gun to Gordon's son, Batman tackles him and knocks him off a 20-foot height, killing him. But if he was reported as a villain, all 150 criminals he convicted would go free, so Commissioner Gordon and Batman agree to tell the press that Batman killed the traitorous cops, so that Harvey can die a hero. As a result, the Dent Act is passed, allowing the police to clean up Gotham's streets, further making it impossible to report on the terrible things Harvey did. Until The Dark Knight Rises, when Bane finally blows the whistle on it all.
  • In A Fistful of Dynamite, that's what John decides to do with Dr. Villega's treachery, due to the latter's breaking only under torture and deliberate self-sacrifice to atone his deed.
  • The ending of the Jet Li movie Hero (2002) indicates that the would-be assassin was killed as a traitor, but buried as a hero.
  • By the end of Iron Man, the government has concocted a story to cover up most of the final battle, including that Treacherous Advisor Obidiah Stane disappeared in a plane crash whose wreckage was never found. It's doubtful that their Treachery Cover-Up story ever got a chance to play out, though, since Tony completely breaks their script at the press conference and outs himself as Iron Man.
  • L.A. Confidential: Once in the movie, twice in the book. Ed has to cover up Dudley's identity as the Big Bad, but his father did it back in the day by helping Dieterling frame Atherton for the murders his son committed.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ended on an inversion. The reporters chose to cover up the fact the protagonist, a famous Senator and Vice-Presidential prospect, confessed that he did not kill the eponymous outlaw which made him a legendary figure.
  • In The Rock, a threat by a much-decorated Marine General to use chemical weapons against San Francisco was covered up, helped by the fact that the General threatened to launch the gas if the FBI alerted the media.
  • Telefon: Grigori Bortsov is sent to kill Nikolai Dalchimsky so the KGB will not have to reveal the fact it failed to shut down a network of sleeper agents. [4]
  • At the end of Tomorrow Never Dies, M orders the coverup of the death of media baron Elliot Carver as a "boating accident", a bit of karmic irony considering his mass-media manipulation based plan. (What had actually happened is that Bond killed Carver with his giant drill after foiling his attempt at War for Fun and Profit.)
  • In xXx: State of the Union, the Secretary of Defence plotted to overthrow the government and kill the President, but was given a hero's funeral for rescuing the President because of just how massive an embarrassment that would have been. It certainly helped that the Secretary had every witness murdered, leaving only the people that would cover for him.


By Authors:

  • Clive Cussler: Many of the villains have massive influence and wealth; the Vigilante Man only stops them.
  • David Weber frequently uses this trope.
    • Path of the Fury (In Fury Born): Alicia Dierdre DeVries of the Imperial Cadre “drop commando” unit resigns after Wadislaw Watts is allowed to escape a court-martial in exchange for his assistance in destroying a Rishathan espionage network. Nobody in the imperial government wants a court-martial since it will humiliate the Cadre. Later averted when the Terran Emperor tells DeVries that Fleet Admiral Subrahmanyan Treadwell, Vice Admiral Amos Brinkman, and the rest of the secessionist conspirators will be court-martialed.
    • Honor Harrington:
      • Many of the genetic slavery incidents are ignored or whitewashed due to political considerations. The high-level criminals escape while the low-level criminals are convicted.
      • Several of the people in the High Ridge government escape a trial since the Grantville government cannot afford to risk accusations of a political vendetta, allowing Baron High Ridge himself and Reginald Houseman to avoid significant penalties for their malfeasance. We learn in A Rising Thunder that High Ridge was convicted and sentenced to prison for bribery, vote-buying, perjury, extortion and obstruction of justice.
      • The "North Hollow files", which Pavel Young's family has used to control members of Parliament, are ordered destroyed rather than published since publication would result in political chaos and 33% of the information is a forgery.
      • After Arnold Giancola and Yves Grosclaude are killed in air car accidents, Eloise Pritchart refuses to cover up the public revelation of diplomatic forgery in the long term. Nevertheless, she orders a short-term cover-up until reliable evidence can be obtained. The primary problems are obtaining legal evidence and avoiding accusations of the government arranging convenient accidents for the main suspects.
      • After Operation Hassan causes chaos in the Manticorian and Grayson governments in Ashes of Victory, only the Masadan and Grayson (Samuel Mueller) conspirators are convicted. Haven is not accused because the only credible witness is killed to ensure secrecy.
      • Samuel Mueller is not held responsible for his collaboration with William Allen Hillman Fitzclarence because of weak evidence. Later he becomes the leader of the political opposition and any accusation against him would only allow Mueller to accuse the Grayson government of a political vendetta.
      • After it is revealed that Havenite agents assassinated Roger III Winton, Elizabeth Adrienne Samantha Annette Winton is forced to cover up the assassination since a trial would result in massive witch-hunts, an anti-Haven “Red Scare” or a declaration of war. One of the conspirators has standards and confesses her role. She participated out of well-intentioned idealism; she is not a traitor to the state.
    • Safehold:
      • When the Duke of Tirian is revealed to be a traitor and attempts to kill Earl Grey Harbor his treachery isn't concealed but the Bodyguard Betrayal by Grey Harbor's guardsman is covered up. They need a way to downplay Merlin's involvement in rescuing Grey Harbor and claiming that the guardsman fought alongside Merlin to protect Grey Harbor makes the story less unbelievable.

By Titles:

  • The final fate of the Camerlengo in Angels & Demons.
  • The Black Ice: Detective Cal Moore of the LAPD fakes his own death by killing his cartel kingpin half-brother, switching identities, and taking his brother's place as a drug lord. After he's killed for real by hero cop Harry Bosch, the department covers everything up. Moore is said to have been killed in the line of duty and he gets a hero's funeral.
  • Choose Your Enemies: According to the Imperial histories Vail quotes, the Eldar fled the Ironfound System after a member of the Imperial ruling class pulled Taking You with Me with a fusion bomb. Cain is disgusted by the cover-up — the person in question was running a Chaos cult and got munched when the daemon-summoning worked, the Eldar left because Vail and Cain helped them take out that daemon and the fusion bomb was an Inquisitorial precaution to make sure they'd gotten all the cultists.
  • In the Codex Alera, Valiar Marcus, stalwart centurion of the First Aleran Legion, is actually an alias for Fidelias ex Cursori, traitor to the crown who helped orchestrate the deaths and misery of thousands of Alerans in support of the Aquitaines' bid to overthrow the First Lord. When the character's true identity is confirmed to the new First Lord of Alera, he is nearly executed, but is ultimately sentenced to continue serving the crown under his alias for the rest of his days.
  • This happens in the Discworld novel Pyramids. Teppic, the current Pharaoh of Djelibeybi, always believed his was a noble lineage. However, in a prophetic dream, when he meets the founder of the nation, he finds the founder was a camel thief who was running away from guards. Suffice it to say, he never tells anyone this, even Ptraci who eventually becomes Pharaoh in his stead.
  • Twisted a bit in The Elenium. The person who's been blackmailed into trying to murder Sparhawk for half a book takes poison before confessing, and expects to be outed as a traitor. Instead, Sparhawk and Kurik arrange matters so everyone will think one of the besieging army shot him.
  • Everest (2002): In the third book, Cap learns that Tilt Crowley has been spying on the expedition for a tabloid magazine and tried to sabotage Dominic to make him turn back so that Tilt would be the youngest person to make the summit. However, Cap keeps this secret after a remorseful Tilt dies while trying to rescue Dominic.
  • Father Brown:
    • The entire premise of G. K. Chesterton's short story Sign of the Broken Sword (1910), which may be one of the earliest examples of this trope. The motivations of those covering up are neatly summarized by Father Brown:
      And then, for the honour of England and of his daughter, they took an oath to seal up for ever the story... Perhaps — Heaven help them — they tried to forget it.
    • The same plot shows up in The Bottomless Well. A famous general tries to assassinate a friend who he believes is making advances on his wife, but due to an accidental Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo manages to kill himself instead. Since the political consequences of revealing the general's crimes would be unacceptable, his death is covered up as an accident.
  • The Fourth Protocol. The Chessmaster head of British Intelligence covers up a False Flag Operation involving a government minister because it makes more sense to Feed the Mole. On discovering a Soviet plan to detonate a nuclear bomb on British soil, he covers that up as well in an unspoken agreement with his KGB opposite number (in exchange for information to end the plot), because exposure of the plan could heat up the Cold War and invite Soviet retaliation.
  • In The Gods Themselves, Hallam is guilty of stealing the work of other scientists, ruining at least two careers due to personal grudges, and hindering all attempts to save Earth from a supernova for the sake of prestige. In the end, after the heroes succeed in preventing the supernova, it is mentioned that Hallam will lose most of his influence, but will probably retain some honorable position and won't be prosecuted... exposing the greatest genius of humanity as a total fraud will cause too much damage to the prestige of science.
  • Inverted in How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom. The fact that Georg Carmine was not a traitor to his country was covered up, since his betrayal served as a useful cover for getting rid of many other people who actually were treasonous. It's eventually revealed to the public that he wasn't actually a traitor, though a few sensitive details are still kept secret.
  • A lot of things that Jack Reacher gets involved in wind up with him killing the bad guy and walking away in the sunset with someone else getting credit for what he did, or no explanation at all.
  • Jack Ryan:
    • The Hunt for Red October: The defection of the Red October is covered up so the American military maintains a strategic advantage.
    • The Cardinal of the Kremlin: The defection of Nikolay Borissovich Gerasimov is covered up by the American and Soviet governments to avoid political problems with an arms control treaty. Several Soviet characters state that the court-martial of 'Cardinal' might not be possible since he is a war hero.
  • James Bond:
    • The death of Le Chiffre in Casino Royale is published as a suicide to focus attention on his trade union. Destroying the communist supported labor union and the French communist party is more important than confronting the Soviet Union. The Soviet assassin who kills Le Chiffre says that the publication of his gambling and embezzlement has undermined communist prestige in the NATO nations.
    • When Drax's habit of cheating at cards is found out in Moonraker, James Bond is put against him to teach him a lesson instead of causing a scandal out of it, as it could jeopardize the Moonraker project.
  • In Last Flight, the Antivan royal guard mutiny en masse, murdering King Elaudio and a great many of his nobles for failing to evacuate Antiva City before the darkspawn could lay siege to it, ensuring a massacre when the city is inevitably sacked. After the Grey Wardens defeat the mutineers, a cover story is given out that King Elaudio was killed in battle defending his city from the darkspawn to preserve morale.
  • In H. Beam Piper's story "The Mercenaries", the leader of a freelance scientific research team executes a traitor in their midst. The death is passed off as a suicide to protect the team (and incidentally assures that the deceased will be remembered for his genuine scientific contributions). It's understood that the real story will be read between the lines... thereby protecting the team's reputation for trustworthiness and ability to take out its own trash.
  • Used in the Paladin of Shadows series by John Ringo. Information on a rape/sex slave ring used by politicians from multiple nations is entrusted to the Kildar since public exposure will topple several governments.
  • This is deconstructed in Serpico. The protagonist is regularly told that the NYPD can and should "clean its own laundry", but its method of doing so is just to transfer a Dirty Cop to another unit, where he often continues his activities with other corrupt police in that unit. It's only when Serpico goes public that something is done.
  • In Seven Days in May, the President decided that what had happened must never become public knowledge, in order to preserve the idea that a Military Coup against the United States government is simply unthinkable.
  • Prince Serg in Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor:
    • Cordelia Naismith's issues in the latter part of the book are primarily due to the fact that she worked out how the whole war was a smokescreen for the Barrayaran Emperor to assassinate his own son and dare not let that information leak even to well-meaning therapists on her own side.
    • Emperor Ezar himself sets things up for his son to die a war hero (along with ~5000 of his own soldiers, half the Barrayaran fleet, etc.) rather than hold him openly responsible for crimes ranging from Domestic Abuse to involvement in regicidal plots in order to more thoroughly purge Serg's enablers and avoid politically complicating backlash on his only grandson & heir Gregor.
  • In Star Trek: Mere Anarchy, the capital of planet Mestiko is named vosTraal in honour of a native leader, Traal. According to the history books, Traal sacrificed himself to save the planet. What those books leave out is that this was in fact a Heel–Face Turn and he was originally a traitor, allied with the Klingons. Only when he realized that the Klingons cared nothing for his people and would gladly sacrifice his tribe did he turn on them. In order to keep the troubled planet united, this is obscured from history in favour of an entirely heroic portrait.
  • U.S.S. Seawolf: The president of the United States prevents his son, Linus Clark from being court-martialed for negligence. Despite the official story, many in the military know the truth and lose all trust in the current administration.
  • At the end of Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Gaunt is assured that Rime's death at Rawne's hands is being passed off as an honorable death in battle. He's glad not to have the Inquisition breathing down his neck for killing an Inquisitor.
  • In Warrior Cats:
    • When Hollyleaf apparently dies in the tunnels after trying to escape from her Clan and everything that had gone wrong, Lionblaze and Jayfeather cover up her treachery by telling the Clan she had died chasing a squirrel into the tunnel so that she would be remembered as a brave hunter rather than Ashfur's killer.
    • It's hard to judge whether or not they did this for Hawkfrost. They did cover up the fact that Brambleclaw killed him, but there is conflicting evidence on whether or not they covered up why he was killed. In The Sight, some warriors have a conversation about the mysterious circumstances of his death and say that his Clanmates mourned him, and RiverClan seems relatively ignorant of his treachery in other books, which would suggest he did get a cover-up. But then in After Sunset: We Need To Talk, Cloudtail says to a WindClan patrol that Hawkfrost tried to kill Firestar, which suggests everyone knows about it.
    • The Clan does not reveal Ashfur's treachery after Long Shadows, nor Tigerstar's after he is exiled in Forest of Secrets, possibly because it will make their Clan seem weak.
  • Worm:
    • The public is not informed that Armsmaster is actually under house arrest for violating the truce during the Leviathan attack.
    • The trope also gets played with: Alexandria's true crimes are covered up with a different set of crimes, because she was a renowned hero, and the government wanted to avoid people being dispirited by her death, but couldn't afford to expose her true actions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • In "Deathwatcher", Jha'dur states she will escape a trial since none of the major galactic nation-states wants her to expose their collaboration with the Dilgar or they want her immortality drug.
    • In several episodes, the Drazi government refuses to help since they do not want to be humiliated or lose an advantage.
  • Castle: Team Castle agrees to cover up Captain Montgomery's shameful past because of his years spent as The Atoner. Plus, he's dead.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Deadly Assassin", when Time Lord Presidential candidate Chancellor Goth was revealed to have assassinated the President to further the Master's scheme, Borusa ordered that his You Have Failed Me death be explained as dying heroically fighting the Master.
  • In the Firefly episode "Ariel", Jayne, about to be Thrown Out the Airlock by Mal for betraying Simon and River to the Alliance, pleads with Mal — not for his life (he already tried that and failed), but for Mal to make up a story to conceal his guilt. This convinced Mal to give him another chance.
    Jayne: What are you gonna tell the others?
    Mal: About what?
    Jayne: About why I'm dead.
    Mal: Haven't much thought about that.
    Jayne: Make something up. Don't tell 'em what I did.
    • Unfortunately for Jayne, the cover-up itself doesn't last long, at least in regards to the ones he betrayed. Those darned Psychic Powers...
  • In Fringe, John Scott's betrayal is covered up to prevent scandal touching the FBI. Which is rather a good thing as it later transpires that he wasn't a traitor at all, but deep undercover.
  • Life on Mars (2006): In one episode a drug dealer dies after rough handling by a CID officer, and even the victim's mother doesn't want an inquiry. Sam Tyler uncovers a tape of the incident and gives it to apparently by-the-book Superintendent Rathbone, only to see Rathbone destroy the tape in front of him as "the matter has been handled internally" (with the guilty officer's demotion) and he's not going to bring the police department "crashing down" over this matter. Tyler says bitterly that men like Rathbone should be "surgically removed" — of course, coming from 2006, Tyler knows all too well that corruption can't be eliminated without destroying public faith in the police.
  • Percy from the 2010 show Nikita uses this to his advantage. The reason Government officials have not shut down Percy and Division long ago is that Percy has numerous "black boxes" (black portable hard drives) that contain all of the government's dirty secrets on them, hidden, and they can be activated to be shown to the public if Percy so chooses, and if he is killed, which is why he is untouchable and is the reason why Nikita can't just easily infiltrate and kill him.
  • SeaQuest DSV:
    • In "Games", Rubin Zellar says he was sentenced to a remote prison since none of his clients wanted to be exposed for collaborating with him. It is later discovered that at least 91% of the evidence against him was destroyed; the remaining was labeled top-secret.
    • In "Good Soldiers", the SeaQuest is sent to destroy evidence of illegal medical experiments conducted by the United Earth Oceans Organization. In addition to the fact that the enemies of the UEO would gain a propaganda victory; the people involved in the illegal experiments are seen as heroes and or have become high ranking members of the organization.
  • On Sons of Anarchy SAMCRO does this all the time. They need to present a unified front to both their allies and enemies so all disputes and betrayals are handled internally and a cover story is presented to the outside world. From the beginning, a major plot element is the fact that if the truth about John Teller's death ever came out, it would be impossible to cover up and it would destroy the club.
    • In the show's backstory, the Sons were once involved in a bloody gang war with the Mayans. One of their associates betrayed them and was killed for it. He was buried in an unmarked grave with some dead Mayans and his family was told that he was abducted and murdered by the Mayans. The truth only comes out when the bodies are discovered years later.
    • When two prominent members of the Belfast chapter betray SAMCRO to the IRA, they are both killed. One of them is publicly denounced as a traitor but the other is given a hero's funeral and his part in the betrayal covered up.
  • Space: Above and Beyond: The Chig War starts due to political-industrial deceptions. Nevertheless, there is no proof other than rumors.
  • Star Trek:
    • Section 31 is able to remain hidden since those in the United Federation of Planets either: do not believe Section 31 exists, lack evidence, are working for them, or realize that exposure will undermine the government. Those that do oppose them, such as the Kirk cabal, lack the power and evidence to do anything useful.
    • The Tezwa incident and Min Zife’s involvement are covered up to avoid war.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "Sins of the Father", Worf's father is made a scapegoat for treason actually committed by Duras' father because the Klingon government does not dare offend Duras' powerful family. When they did actually get around to cutting the family out (after Worf killed Duras), it resulted in civil war in the 2-part episode "Redemption".
    • In "The Wounded", both Picard and Captain Macet of the Cardassians are eager to stop Captain Ben Maxwell when he goes on the warpath, destroying two Cardassian ships and a science station. Macet believes Maxwell is carrying out a personal vendetta, and Picard eventually concurs, while Maxwell claims the Cardassians are gearing up for war. Maxwell breaks down, surrenders and calls off another attack, but Picard realizes he was right. He tells Macet this, but assures him he'll keep it between them so as to preserve peace between their races.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
  • In Star Trek: Discovery, Kol-Sha, the leader of the House of Kor, kidnaps Chancellor L'Rell's child and threatens his life if L'Rell doesn't abdicate her post in his favor. After Kol-Sha and his accomplices are dealt with, L'Rell fears backlash from the House of Kor and instead proclaims that Kol-Sha died with honor, protecting her from another traitor.
  • In an episode of The Wayans Bros., Latrell, Shawn's best friend from high school comes to visit, to the detriment of Marlon, because Latrell enjoys playing pranks on Marlon. Although Shawn loves having Latrell around, Marlon becomes suspicious because, despite playing for a Greek professional basketball, Latrell doesn't have any spending money and keeps borrowing from Shawn, however Shawn sides with Laterll and kicks Marlon out of the apartment until Latrell leaves. When Dee reads from a sports magazine that highlights basketball teams from outside the U.S., they discover that Latrell is not in the roster of any of the Greek teams. When Marlon confronts Latrell for lying about playing professional basketball, he admits that he was drafted into a team, but was cut before the beginning of that season, and is currently unemployed, and returns the money he borrowed from Shawn, and kicks him out of the apartment. When Shawn asks about Latrell, Marlon says Latrell had to go back to train for the next season, and probably won't be back for a long time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man has tried to bury all records of the Horus Heresy, under the logic that citizens would only be upset to learn that in the Imperium's golden age fully half of the Adeptus Astartes Legions went renegade, bowed to the Chaos Gods, and nearly destroyed human civilization. How effective this cover-up has been depends on the edition and writer, so in some cases, Horus is known as an arch-heretic, while in others Imperial forces are shocked when Chaos Space Marines start firing on them.
    • The Dark Angels have the shameful secret that elements of their chapter turned traitor after the Horus Heresy, and have gone through incredible lengths to hunt down those Fallen and keep their existence hidden from the wider Imperium. Ironically, the chapter's secretive and unreliable nature has alienated them from other Imperial forces anyway, and evidence suggests that high-ranking members of the Inquisition know about the Fallen, but don't care, making the Dark Angels' mission self-destructive and entirely pointless.
      • While the evidence is that the Inquisition doesn't care about that, that may very well be because of the Dark Angel's self-appointed mission to hunt their traitors. They feel they don't need to bother trying to punishing them for something they're attempting to repent for. They also don't need to piss off one of the oldest and strongest chapters, as very little left to really tie to them to Imperium, so they might even decide to go their own way if pushed enough.

    Video Games 
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Dorian was blackmailed by his former Yiga Clan superiors into spying on Kakariko Village and eventually stealing the Shrine Orb that Paya had been guarding. Once Link defeats the Yiga Blademaster who planned to kill Dorian after this anyway and finds out about all this, he agrees to keep Dorian's past connections with the Yiga Clan and recent actions under wraps.
  • Happens at one part during Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and staying true to the series premise, is much more twisted than usual: (extra big spoiler) to get a spy close to Big Bad Volgin, the Boss is given the mission to pose as a defector and gaining Volgins trust by bringing him two "stolen" nuclear bombs as a gift. But apparently, nobody had thought that Volgin would use them against a KGB facility. To cover-up that the US government practically gave the nukes to Volgin, Naked Snake is given the mission to kill her, so that nobody will ever suspect that her defection was fake. Being loyal to her country to the end, she accepts death by the hands of her former pupil and best friend. Snake learns about it only after he had killed her.
  • In Persona 5, members of The Conspiracy mean to send Joker/The Protagonist to jail as a Silent Scapegoat to save their reputations instead of admitting fault after Shido's Change-Of-Heart-inspired confession of all their collective crimes. Maxing Confidants will avert this, though. All the people Joker helped throughout the course of the game — including his party members, which count a well-known model, his school's valedictorian, and a young woman from a wealthy family among its ranks; a determined journalist, his homeroom teacher, his probation officer, and a member of the National Diet, Japan's legislative body — band together to gather enough evidence to get him released from prison. CMoF points, too, for Dirty Cops trying to keep tabs on him after and being stymied by the Team Pet disabling their car's engine.
  • Happens a lot in the Resident Evil universe, starting with Umbrella having Raccoon City to cover their asses. They're caught by Resident Evil 4, though.
  • In Sacrifice, if you side with James, the hero covers up the fact that the prophet Mithras was the omnicidal demon Marduk in another form.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line, a CIA team is in Dubai as Agent Provocateurs stirring up the local populace against the rogue US Army regiment that took control of the city following a natural disaster. The agent in command, however, wants to attack the city's water supply so that everyone — soldier and civilian alike — dies before the rest of the Middle East learns what atrocities American soldiers committed to preserve martial law, which he thinks will lead to war with the entire region.
  • In Starcraft I, Alexei Stukov's is killed by Samir Duran on orders from Admiral DuGalle, but publicly he died "a hero's death during the final valiant assault on Char".
  • Happens in Suikoden; Sanchez is exposed at a vital point for the rebellion, and the game's strategist orders that their treachery be concealed (with the rest of the cast forcing them to play their role) because the knowledge of a high-ranking traitor would undermine confidence. Even after the game's end, they are eventually secretly 'pardoned' (but exiled to a single city and never genuinely forgiven) because the revelation that one of the heroes of the revolution was a traitor would be dangerous for the stability of the new republic. However, the fact that he's a high-ranking character with no Star of Destiny who constantly offers the main character alcohol should have been a giveaway if you were paying attention from the beginning.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, the heroes of the first game keep the truth about Mithos, Martel, and the Church secret, because frankly, the world doesn't need that kind of disillusionment.
    • In the original game, Lloyd and the party remain quiet about Governor-General Dorr collaborating with the Desians by enabling the people of Palmacosta to be taken to the ranch so that he can get his wife turned back to normal, so that the city can get through the crisis while trusting its leadership. Lloyd gets a significant across-the-board drop in the party's Relationship Values if you decide to say that you're not OK with this. Palmacosta ultimately gets destroyed at the end of Disc One.
  • Theia - The Crimson Eclipse: If the Ancestral Archives quest is done after beating Mishra at Altilliah's Heart, the final scene of the quest will be extended so that Dael tells King Coeus about Halcon's true nature as an evil, world-devouring alien. However, this information can't be made public, since Altillian society would collapse into mass panic if they knew their "spirit guide" was manipulating them and that they would never get a new home. According to the developer, this truth is still confidential in Ending E, since Ariathale's destruction means the Altillians have no alternatives for survival other than relying on Halcon. Averted in Endings A-D and X, where the Altillians have the option to move to Ariathale after Halcon's demise, meaning it's possible to reveal the truth without mass panic.
  • In Triangle Strategy, one of the possible story branches for Chapter XV has main protagonist Serenoa Wolffort visit his ailing father Symon. Once there, a party is held to celebrate the party's recent accomplishments, and it appears that Symon's health has improved enough to attend; unfortunately, assassins use the opportunity to strike him down, and try to kill Serenoa's party as well. In the aftermath, it's learned that the culprit who ordered the assassination was Patriatte, the leader of Glenbrook's Royalist faction, who considered the Wolfforts upstarts that had curried too much favor with both the royal family and the neighboring territory of Hyzante; in order to prevent further conflict, it's decided that the official story will be that Symon succumbed to his illness.

  • In Dominic Deegan, Donovan Deegan hid from his wife the fact that their friend Karnak had tried to Murder the Hypotenuse (namely, him) just before his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Inverted very early on in Girl Genius. Silas Merlot, in a fit of temper, reveals that Dr. Beetle has been hiding a Hive Engine (a piece of poorly-understood technology containing highly dangerous organisms which can turn their victims into Sycophantic Servants) for his own research, which Baron Wulfenbach has expressly forbidden, because of the danger. Fearing the Baron's harsh punishments, Beetle panics and tries to bomb the Baron, but the gambit backfires and obliterates Beetle instead. Merlot gets about halfway through the first sentence of trying to conspire with the Baron to hide Beetle's death when the Baron declares his undying hatred for traitors, and he holds Merlot and his theatrics directly responsible for what just happened. He then declares that Merlot's punishment is that he is now in charge of Beetleburg...after the much-beloved Dr. Beetle is given a hero's funeral and the full details of his death, Merlot's involvement included, have been released to the public.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the circumstances of Lord Shojo's death at Miko's hands are concealed from the people of Azure City in order to prevent morale from being more seriously damaged than it already is. This may well contribute to the We ARE Struggling Together situation later on as rumors circulate about the circumstances of his death.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, Leonardo Lionheart tries to defect to the villains' side, but ends up dead by their hand. In the Volume 6 premiere, it's revealed that Qrow and Ozpin covered up his betrayal, and Leo is officially remembered as a hero who fought to the death to protect the school. When Yang calls Ozpin out on the lie, he explains that while Leo's actions were reprehensible, he thinks that one terrible mistake at the end of a person's life should not undo the good of a lifetime's worth of service and that the people of Mistral therefore deserve better than the truth.

    Western Animation 
  • In Season Five of Miraculous Ladybug, Gabriel Agreste is remembered as a hero who nobly gave their life attempting to stop the Big Bad from taking over Paris. In reality, Gabriel was the villain who'd been terrorizing Paris all along.
  • Done in The Simpsons concerning Jebidiah Springfield (posthumously). Lisa Simpson discovers he was not in fact a hero and was actually a ruthless criminal, and initially plans to reveal this before a holiday celebrating him. However, after seeing how much the town loves the man, she can't bring herself to do it and agrees to cover up the records.
  • In Steven Universe, towards the end of Rose's rebellion, Bismuth designed a weapon to shatter Gems, starting with the Diamonds. Horrified by her creation, and fearing a potential civil war within the rebellion between those that agreed with her and those loyal to Rose, Rose proofed Bismuth, then kept her gem bubbled inside Lion's mane, never telling anyone the truth of what happened.