Terrible Apologies

A Tumblr of Poorly-Crafted Apologies

Cross-posted at my blog this morning:

Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has publicly apologized after ordering one of his aides to rape a pregnant journalist.

Zhirinovsky said he had “spoken out of turn” when addressing the female reporter at a press conference on Friday, and claimed he did not know that she was pregnant when he began his tirade.

"I apologize to her and to everyone in general that I may have offended," Zhirinovsky said on Vladimir Solovyov’s Sunday evening talk show on the Rossia-1 channel.

I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that I think this is a particularly terrible apology.

"[E]veryone … that I may have offended" is always a bad way to go because it suggests the offender thinks a fair number of people weren’t or wouldn’t be offended; it’s an especially bad choice of words in this case because everyone who saw or heard about this man’s insane tirade was offended.

Worse, though, was his attempt to minimize his offense, saying only that he’d “spoken out of turn.” In fact, what he said was that one female reporter should be raped, that a second female reporter who refused to stand idly by during the tirade was a lesbian, and that pregnant women in general should remain home where they belong.

That he attempts to excuse himself by claiming “he did not know that she was pregnant when he began his tirade” compounds his repugnant behavior by implying that none of this would have been seen as a problem if he’d said these things to or about a woman who wasn’t pregnant. In other words, he seems to believe that telling his aides to rape a female reporter who asked a question he didn’t like is only offensive if that reporter turns out to be pregnant. “I’m so sorry; I didn’t realize she was pregnant” might be something to say if you fail to offer your seat to a woman on the subway. Given what Zhirinovsky said, whether or not the reporter was pregnant isn’t an issue.

It’s pretty stunning and horrible to have to write any of this, but certainly not more stunning or horrible than Zhirinovsky’s behavior.

Cross-posted with my blog this morning:

“I am sorry if I offended anyone with my use of the N-word on Instagram,” the singer said in a statement on Saturday, Jan. 18. “It was not meant as a racial slur…I am not a racist.”

She added: “There’s no way to defend the use of the word. It was all about intention…It was used as a term of endearment toward my son who is white. I appreciate that it’s a provocative word and I apologize if it gave people the wrong impression. Forgive me.”

Her conciliatory tone is a lot different from her initial reaction. Before she realized the error of her ways, the Material Girl reposted the picture with a new caption:

“Ok let me start this again. #getoff of my d–k haters!”

As I’ve said before, if you find yourself asserting that you’re not a racist, it’s almost certainly the case that you just did something incredibly racist.

Better than saying you’re not a racist, when you’ve just demonstrated extreme insensitivity with regard to race, would be a straightforward apology and a promise to learn from your mistake. Worse is claiming that you use the n-word as a “term of endearment” toward your son. Far, far worse, obviously, is saying “#getoff of my d-k hater!” when people call you out on said “term of endearment.”

HT: Naadir Jeewa.

Cross-posted at my blog:

Potentially the wost apology of all time:

As for likening illegal immigrants to Satan, Krieser reluctantly apologized, explaining that he had used “a poor choice of words.” He eventually said he was sorry for what he said.

"If I had it to do over, I would not have put it up," Krieser said. "I certainly didn’t mean any offense."

I love the idea that this guy “certainly didn’t mean any offense” by his comments. I mean, how could anyone find it offensive to say that illegal immigrants make him think of Satan?

Oh, but perhaps there were other comments too? Indeed:

In a stunning online rant, a top Gov. Scott Walker official likened illegal immigrants to Satan during a Facebook debate over a bumper sticker declaring open season on foreigners living in the United States without documentation.

"You may see Jesus when you look at them,” Steven Krieserassistant deputy secretary at the state Department of Transportation, wrote Tuesday regarding illegal immigrants. “I see Satan.”

Krieser wrote that a “stream of wretched criminals” is crossing the border without obstruction. These individuals, he said, “completely ruined” entire states and industries, breeding “the animus that many American citizens feel toward them.”

If these comments were “a poor choice of words,” I wonder what a good choice of words would have looked like?

Anyhow, I’m sure everyone is ready to accept his apology. I mean, it’s not like this guy has a history of questionable behavior. Oh, but of course he does:

This isn’t the first time that Krieser has found himself in hot water.

In 2011, he sent a memo to Division of Motor Vehicles employees saying they should not voluntarily tell state residents that they can obtain a voter identification card for free.

Krieser distributed the memo after lawmakers passed a law requiring state residents to present identification before they can vote.

Gosh, I wonder which potential voters might have had a more difficult time voting as a result of Krieser’s memo …

HT: Michael Tofias.

Chief Mark Kessler is an actual Gilberton, Pennsylvania police chief currently getting YouTube famous for dropping f-bombs and blasting gunfire all over the rural landscape. By the way, his colorful use of the language is most definitely Not Safe For Work, so be careful about where you watch these admittedly hilarious videos.

1.Leaving aside the fact that it’s a fake apology, this is almost certainly the worst apology ever.

2. These are your tax dollars at work, Gilberton, PA residents.

HT: D. Harland Harris.

I did not understand ‘Uncle Tom’ as a racist term, and there seems to be some debate about it. I do apologize for it, however.

That’s Minnesota State Representative Ryan Winkler, “apologizing” for referring to Justice Clarence Thomas as “Uncle Thomas” after yesterday’s Voting Rights Act ruling.

On his Twitter account Tuesday, state Rep. Ryan Winkler called the justices’ 5-4 ruling striking down a part of the law racist, and the work of “four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas” ….

That tweet was quickly deleted, and Mr. Winkler, who is white and represents some upper middle class suburbs west-southwest of Minneapolis, offered a conditional-tense quasi-apology in subsequent tweets.

He said he “didn’t think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas should be even more concerned about racial discrimination than colleagues. But if such a suggestion is offensive, I apologize.”

So … if you’re playing along at home, that’s a politician who was outraged by a Supreme Court ruling on the topic of racism pouring some of his own special brand of racist gasoline onto yesterday’s raging bonfire of racism.

And then the terrible, terrible apology was:

  • A) I didn’t know that calling a black man an “Uncle Tom” was racist;
  • B) there’s some debate about whether it’s actually racist at all (presumably this debate mostly happens amongst racists);
  • C) black people should always think the way I think black people should think because I have a good sense of what’s in their interest; and
  • D) sorry if anyone was offended by this thing I wrote that, if you look at A) and B) above, you’ll see might not really be offensive unless you’re just overly sensitive.

With regard to A) above (and to the quote with which this blog post began),  Rep. Winkler’s Wikipedia page was recently updated to include this line: “Such a claim could raise questions about the veracity of his claim to have a BA in History from Harvard University.”

Seriously, though, will no one save these people from themselves and prohibit them from posting their thoughts on the internet?

HT: Ryan McIntosh.

(Cross-posted on my blog)

(via kohenari)

For being only forty-five seconds, there’s so much in this public apology that doesn’t work, it’s hard to know quite where to begin.

Deen repeatedly references “the wrong” without actually talking about it; she says that she wants “to grow from this” without explaining what that will entail; and she seems to suggest that it only recently occured to her that “Inappropriate hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable” (which is, of course, definitional).

But, of course, the most noteworthy failure is that it’s hard to escape the sense that Deen’s apology is entirely motivated by her desire to avoid the extreme cost of being identifed as a racist. Indeed, she concludes by asking for forgiveness not from the people she directly offended but from “my children, my team, my fans, my partners.” The references to fans and especially her team and partners comes precariously close to just saying what she really means, “Please don’t let this cost me anything.”

Cross-posted at my blog:

Serena Williams on Wednesday offered a slightly new twist on the classic non-apology apology after she was quoted by Rolling Stone delivering shockingly insensitive remarks about the Steubenville rape case, in which a 16-year-old girl was raped by two high school football players. Here’s her full statement from today (emphasis added):

“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved – that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written – what I supposedly said – is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.

“I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields – anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.”

And here’s the original quote as published by Rolling Stone in its profile of Williams. You’ll see why it didn’t take a leap for many to read the remarks as a version of the “she was asking for it” defense. (To say nothing of the fact that Williams decided to discuss the teen’s virginity.):

“Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you—don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”

It’s best not to say something terrible in the first place. But when you do, it’s best to apologize for saying that terrible thing, rather than apologizing that it was printed in a magazine and then implying that you might not actually have said the terrible thing in the first place. Better still, just instruct your publicist to draft a compelling apology … unless this is what the publicist thought was a compelling apology, in which case fire your publicist.

HT: Ian McDonald.

Cross-posted at my blog:

In the wake of a controversy that erupted around an address by Center for Inquiry CEO Ron Lindsay designed to welcome participants to the Women in Secularism 2 conference last month, the CFI Board released a statement that reads, in part:

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.

This is a terrible apology.

The Board doesn’t apologize to offended participants, who felt they were being lectured at by the CEO rather than welcomed by him and who then felt directly attacked by him, as when he directly attacked some of them in a blog post. (Lindsay’s own apology for that blog post is here.)

Instead, the Board chose to “express its unhappiness with the controversy” rather than with the way that its CEO handled his task of welcoming participants or engaging with them when they took to the internet to lament parts of his address that they felt were overtly critical of the role of feminism in secularism (as he suggested it was sometimes used to silence men).

It’s pretty much a guarantee that issuing a non-apology won’t achieve the result of bringing a month-old controvery under control; instead, it’s very likely to anger all the people who were offended in the first place.

HT: Olivia Hunt.

From President Obama’s speech on drones and national security today:

It is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live…

Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes…”

He feels pretty bad about it, but really the terrorists should feel worse.

So, there’s that.

Niall Ferguson apologized today for recently making a series of bizarre “off-the-cuff” comments about John Maynard Keynes that were publicized and pretty much universally decried:

I had been asked to comment on Keynes’s famous observation “In the long run we are all dead.” The point I had made in my presentation was that in the long run our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are alive, and will have to deal with the consequences of our economic actions.

But I should not have suggested – in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation – that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried.

My disagreements with Keynes’s economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation. It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life.

This is a promising apology from a prominent person who made a public misstep, which (as readers of the Terrible Apologies blog well know) is pretty rare. But then Ferguson goes and messes it up:

As those who know me and my work are well aware, I detest all prejudice, sexual or otherwise.

With this sentence, Ferguson effectively excuses himself rather than waiting for the people he offended to excuse him after he has apologized. Others might have said, “We forgive you because you’ve issued a compelling apology and because, of course, we know from our interactions with you or your work that you detest all prejudice.” Or they might not have. But nothing good can come of someone who says something prejudiced then proclaiming that he isn’t at all prejudiced. It just rings impossibly hollow when someone says, “I’m obviously not racist …” or “I am well known for having a high opinion of several Jews ….”

Whatever comes next is bound to be bad news.

If you’ve done something wrong, it’s best to simply say, “I’ve done something wrong and I’m terribly sorry for it” rather than to explain that you’re really not the sort of person who does these wrong things. If you’re really not that sort of person, you either wouldn’t have said the sort of offensive thing you said or people who know you would be rushing forward to explain that you’re really not this sort of person.

In short, excusing yourself in the middle of “An Unqualified Apology” really just provides a big qualifier for that apology.

[Cross-posted at my blog]