Terrible Apologies

A Tumblr of Poorly-Crafted Apologies

This might be the most stunning one minute video I’ve seen.

The Republican Co-Majority Leader of the Oklahoma House of Representatives casually apologized yesterday for casually using an antisemitic slur during a debate on a bill to repeal an old law prohibiting retailers from selling their items at a loss.


“[Customers] might try to Jew me down on the price,” Johnson added. “That’s fine. You know what? That’s free market as well.”

After it was pointed out to him that the phrase “to Jew down” might be considered offensive by, say, Jewish people, Johnson half-heartedly apologized.

“I apologize to the Jews,” he said, to laughter from his colleagues in the House. “They’re good small business men as well.”

It’s worth noting that there isn’t a single Jewish member in either house of the Oklahoma Legislature.

Reached for comment by the Tulsa World, Joe Griffin, spokesperson for Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton), said Johnson “is not the first person to make a comment they regret. The chamber accepted his apology and has moved on.”

You watch and tell me if he’s actually apologizing here, seconds after using a slur and learning from a slip of paper someone hands to him that it is, in fact, offensive to use such a slur.

Oh, I’ll just tell you: He isn’t apologizing. He doesn’t care in the least. It’s actually funny to him. His colleagues, you’ll note, are laughing too.

HT: Michael Tofias.

[Cross-posted at my blog]

I would stand in front of them and tell them, ‘go to hell.’

Conservative Radio Host Bob Davis, speaking about the Newtown families who he claimed were infringing on his gun rights. Matthew Keys notes that Davis later apologized for his remarks.

My own sense is that he didn’t actually apologize at all, though he expects people to take what he said as an apology. What he actually said was:

I do not hide behind flowery language I do not pull my punches ah, when I’m passionate about something it comes out on the air, it’s real and it will always be that way …. What I said Friday was an emotional predecessor to a thought which can and will find a more refined expression by me and others in the future, I guarantee you. But this isn’t a newspaper or a magazine and we don’t filter our views or commentary before we say it, it is radio, it’s immediate, it can be emotional both in its immediate expression as well as its response. It’s unrealistic, I think, to expect a compete filter for anybody doing live media …. Um, but there are those who would silence the opposition in their desire to have their way, majority rule not withstanding. We all have the right to express our opinions on any subject.

So, yeah, not an apology.

Instead, he made it seem like critics of his ridiculous and offensive remarks were attempting to stifle his freedom of speech, he promised his listeners that they’d continue to get the unvarnished “truth” from him in the future, and he made clear that he’ll continue to explore the idea that led him to want to tell the Newtown shooting victims and co-victims to “go to hell.”

New Hampshire state Rep. Peter Hansen referred to women as “vaginas” in an email to colleagues sent on the Legislature’s official internal listserv. In response to a message debating a “stand your ground” measure being considered by the State House, the Republican lawmaker wrote:

What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims.

Hansen initially remained defiant in response to criticism, explaining that he had a “fairly well educated mind” and did not need his colleagues to act as “self-appointed wardens” to his speech. He went on to suggest that anyone offended by his use of female genitalia to describe women everywhere should “re-examine [their] psyche.”

But his critics persisted and Hansen relented over his figure of speech, at least a little:

It was not, and is not, my intention to demean women at any time. It is apparent that the intent of my remarks has been misinterpreted, the true goal of the message lost and for that I apologize to those who took offense.

“I have a fairly well educated mind”; “re-examine your psyche”; and “the intent of my remarks has been misinterpreted” are not the words you’re looking for when you apologize. Note, also, that he apologizes that the true goal of his message was lost to those who took offense; he specifically does not apology for being offensive.

HT: Jacob Levy.

Cross posted at my blog.

I am not a prejudiced person…I have built Habitat homes for colored people.

County Commissioner Jim Gile of Saline County, Kansas, apologizing for using the term “n*gger-rigging.” Gile said he meant “jury-rigged.”

In his apology, “Gile said he also has a close friend whom he regards as a sister who is black,” the Salina Journal reported. “‘I don’t ever do anything bad and don’t know how to do anything bad. People know I am not,’ he said.”

That second part of the quote … well … it pretty much works to negate the first part of the quote.

But most importantly, from the perspective of those who care about terrible apologies, it’s noteworthy that Gile said in his apology that he meant to say “jury-rigged”: “I had it (jury-rigged) on my brain and this came out.” But when he was asked in the moment to repeat what he’d said, his reply was “Afro-Americanized.”

So, yeah, Gile was thinking something racist, then he said something really racist, and then he lied about what he meant to say when he “apologized.”

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on Thursday night stood by his use of a racial slur to describe Latinos, saying that he “meant no disrespect” when he told an Alaska radio interviewer, “We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes”:

“During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in the statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

This is a terrible apology in no small part because it’s not an apology at all. It’s also a terrible apology because it doesn’t make any sense.

Young isn’t sorry for using a racial slur and disrespecting people. He’s not even sorry that people felt disrespected by what he regards as a simply miscommunication. He simply insists that everyone used the word “wetbacks” without any ill intent back when he was younger and, though it has apparently now become a racial slur, he didn’t mean it that way.

It’s hard to imagine how Young “meant no disrespect” if he knows “that this term is not used in the same way nowadays.” What’s more, the fact that the term was commonly used when he was younger in no way suggests that it was less disrespecful back then. It was equally disrespecful and people are less inclined to casually toss it around today than they were then because, generally, people want at the very least to seem more respectful of others than Young apparently does.

Shocked issued a statement saying that, when she said things like, “When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization, and Jesus will come back” and “God hates faggots,” she was saying that’s what people would say if they hated gay people, not thatshe hates gay people. Don’t “believe everything you read on Facebook or Twitter,” says Shocked.

For those with time on their hands and the stomach for such things, here’s the whole bizarre, rambling, born-again, bigoted speech that led to Shocked’s non-apology:

HT: Mike K.

“Our cover illustration last week got strong reactions, which we regret,” Josh Tyrangiel, the magazine’s editor, wrote in a statement sent to POLITICO. “Our intention was not to incite or offend. If we had to do it over again we’d do it differently.” 

This one’s a particularly terrible apology.

First of all, there’s no apology; there’s simply a statement of regret. But the editor seems to suggest his regret is that the cover illustration “got strong reactions” rather than that the cover was overtly racist. And since he claims that the “intention was not to incite or offend,” he further implies that the strong reactions might have simply been the result of a misunderstanding, rather than the natural result of his decision to publish an offensive cover illustration.

Awful magazine cover, awful apology. Just awful.

HT: Drew Taub.

(Cross posted with my blog)

Crossposted from my own blog:

I’m quoted in an interesting Los Angeles Times op-ed on apologies, both political and personal [also reprinted in the Chicago Tribune]; here’s just one piece:

One of the most powerful gestures an individual can make toward another, a sincere apology combines two of humanity’s most ennobling attributes: conscience and accountability. “A proper apology — one that is timely, that recognizes the harm one has done to another and that doesn’t attempt to excuse or explain it away — can repair a relationship that might otherwise be irreparably damaged or destroyed,” says Ari Kohen, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska, who maintains a blog chronicling the worst apologies (terribleapologies.tumblr.com).

So why, if apologies can do so much good, do we have such a hard time extending them?

One explanation is that in such a politicized time, blame — and therefore contrition — has become partisan. We demand apologies from those with whom we disagree as a way to score political points. Democrats were outraged by Ann Coulter’s comment, but they regarded President Obama as a truth-teller when he dismissed Mitt Romney as a slinger of lies. And vice-versa.

An admission of guilt may also be something to avoid in a world strident about self-esteem. Undertaking an apology, after all, requires first feeling bad about oneself.

Via Short Form Blog:


Since its founding in 1989, DKNY has been inspired by and incorporated authentic New York into its imagery. For our Spring 2013 store window visuals we decided to celebrate the city that is in our name by showcasing “Only in NYC” images. We have immense respect for Brandon Stanton aka Humans of New York and approached him to work with us on this visual program. He declined to participate in the project. 

For the Spring 2013 windows program, we licensed and paid for photos from established photography service providers. However, it appears that inadvertently the store in Bangkok used an internal mock up containing some of Mr. Stanton’s images that was intended to merely show the direction of the spring visual program. We apologize for this error and are working to ensure that only the approved artwork is used. 

DKNY has always supported the arts and we deeply regret this mistake. Accordingly, we are making a charitable donation of $25,000 to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn in Mr. Stanton’s name. 

More info on the story over here.

Big day for apologies today.

As Mark Coatney notes, it’s as though the internet’s power to be offended and to call people out for their offenses has suddenly had some sort of effect and is resulting in some honest apologies.

And that, friends, is an example of a good apology.

It contains three simple things: An understanding of the offense, no excuses offered, and a promise to do better in the future.