Category Archives: Apology

Parsing Representative Todd Akin’s Apology

Nothing seems to draw my attention quicker than a public “apology”.  Most aren’t worth the oxygen necessary to form the words, so I crawl out of my lethargy and take notice when one is prominently offered.

Representative Todd Akin got himself noticed during the doldrums of August when he famously said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  In context, he was discussing abortion, and attempting to make the point that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare.  (This blog post isn’t going to address the factual fallacies of Representative Akin’s statements or stance.  I’m only looking at the apology.)

After a firestorm erupted on the internet and calls for his resignation from the US Senate race in Missouri came fast and furious, including from Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Representative Aiken offered the following apology in a campaign video.

“Rape is an evil act.  I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize.  As a father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators.  I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault, and I pray for them.  The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy.  The truth is, rape has many victims.  The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold.  I ask for your forgiveness.”

How did this fare as an apology?

John Baldoni writing for Forbes believes that Representative Akin “flubbed his apology”.  He writes,

Akin also committed the first sin of insincerity – making the apology about himself and not the people he has offended.

Misogyny aside, Akin made another mistake — one that is all too common in today’s “apologize and it will go away” culture. Akin has made himself the focus on his apology, not the millions of women he had insulted.

Akin also attempted to disavow his insult by claiming that he had used a poor choice of words. As Ben Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” When you watch Akin apologize, you get the feeling that he cares more about his candidacy than he does about anything else.

I wouldn’t rate the apology as harshly as Baldoni.

First, Akin came close to admitting that he was wrong.  In his apology he didn’t defend his use of words as too often happens, but rather he states he used wrong words in wrong ways.  I would have liked to see him state unequivocally that he was wrong and insensitive to a violent act.

Second, he didn’t address his apology to a select group of people, but instead to the broader audience.  This is where I disagree with Baldoni.  To apologize “to those I have offended” too often blames those who are offended.  His at least was an attempt at a blanket apology.  In my view, this is positive.

Yes, he is attempting to keep his campaign alive.  The apology tries to score some points in that arena with his statement about predators.  The voters will have to decide that one.

Finally, I ask how clearly does the apology distance itself from the original statements.  Here is where the apology completely failed.  There is enough wiggle room in the apology that Representative Akin doesn’t have to change his view one bit.  “Rape can lead to pregnancy.” [emphasis mine]  This is a “safe” statement in that it doesn’t necessarily mean his position is changed. In fact, his original statement left open the same possibility when he said “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” [emphasis mine]

To me, this “apology” better than most public apologies, but still is primarily damage control.  It will be interesting to watch this play out.

 

 

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

March 8, 2009 F- Comic

March 8, 2009 F- Comic

This artist gets it!

Pondering Pastor

Pope Benedict agrees with me!

VATICAN CITY – An apology from a bishop who denied the Holocaust wasn’t good enough, the Vatican said Friday, adding that he must repudiate his views if he wants to be a Roman Catholic clergyman.

The statement by Bishop Richard Williamson “doesn’t appear to respect the conditions” the Vatican set out for him, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the pope.

While the pope did not focus on the apology itself, he could have.  Not only did Bishop Williamson issue a “pseudo-apology” but he did not recant his views about the Holocaust.  Good to see he is being held accountable.

Pondering Pastor

Funniest line in an apology this week

I just ran across this incident and “apology”.

The mayor of a small Southern California city says he will resign after being criticized for sharing an e-mail picture depicting the White House lawn planted with watermelons under the title “No Easter egg hunt this year.”

Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose issued a statement Thursday saying he is sorry and will step down as mayor at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Grose came under fire for sending the picture to what he called “a small group of friends.” One of the recipients, a local businesswoman and city volunteer, publicly scolded the mayor for his actions.

Grose says he accepts that the e-mail was in poor taste and has affected his ability to lead the city. Grose said he didn’t mean to offend anyone and claimed he was unaware of the racial stereotype linking black people with eating watermelons.

Located in Orange County, Los Alamitos is a 2 1/4-square-mile city of around 12,000 people.

OK, the man forwards a racist cartoon.  Evidently he thought it was funny if he forwarded it to “a small group of friends” (read that … “I didn’t expect my friends to freak out about this and make a big deal about it.  It’s not like I sent it around the world!”).

He claims that he didn’t mean to offend anyone (read … “that I sent this to”).

And then in the funniest line (or lie?) in an apology this week, he claimed he was unaware of the racial stereotype linking black people with eating watermelons!  If that’s true, then he has no business being a mayor, and the resignation is appropriate.  What, pray tell, would make such a cartoon funny if one was unaware of the stereotype and you were not racist?  Would the same cartoon have been passed along if instead of watermelons it had apples?  Give me a break!

Pondering Pastor

Bishop Richard Williamson Apology

Another day, another pseudo-apology.

A British bishop whose denial of the Holocaust embroiled Pope Benedict XVI in controversy has apologized for his remarks, a Catholic news agency said Thursday. Bishop Richard Williamson, with the conservative Society of St. Pius X, had faced worldwide criticism over a television interview in which he said no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust.

I’ve pieced together what the Zenit news agency reported about the actual words of the apology below.

“the Holy Father and my superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, have requested that I reconsider the remarks I made on Swedish television four months ago, because their consequences have been so heavy.”

“Observing these consequences I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them.”

“opinion […] of a non-historian,”

“formed 20 years ago on the basis of evidence then available, and rarely expressed in public since.”

“the events of recent weeks and the advice of senior members of the Society of St. Pius X have persuaded me of my responsibility for much distress caused.”

“To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize.”

“As the Holy Father has said, every act of unjust violence against one man hurts all mankind.”

Ah, even a Bishop has trouble with an apology.  He regrets making the remarks or regrets the impact that the remarks have had?  His “apology” seems to indicate the latter.  His apology reads as being “forced”.  What’s with the phrase “all souls that took honest scandal”?  That sounds to me a lot like he thinks that some have “taken dishonest scandal” at his words and raised much ado about nothing.

Then, in an interesting turn, the last line above has something important in it.  “Every act of unjust violence against one man (sic) hurts all mankind (sic).”  In the Lutheran understanding of the 8th Commandment (you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor), the Bishop’s words for which he is “apologizing” is an act of unjust violence.  If indeed that is true, and it therefore hurts “all mankind”, then the apology should be to all humanity, not just to those who “took honest scandal from what” he said.

Pondering Pastor

Rupert Murdoch Apology

Today, Rupert Murdoch issued an apology for the New York Post’s controversial editorial cartoon.

As the Chairman of the New York Post, I am ultimately responsible for what is printed in its pages. The buck stops with me.

Last week, we made a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted.

Over the past couple of days, I have spoken to a number of people and I now better understand the hurt this cartoon has caused. At the same time, I have had conversations with Post editors about the situation and I can assure you – without a doubt – that the only intent of that cartoon was to mock a badly written piece of legislation. It was not meant to be racist, but unfortunately, it was interpreted by many as such.

We all hold the readers of the New York Post in high regard and I promise you that we will seek to be more attuned to the sensitivities of our community.

Not bad as far as public apologies go … but not great either.  This apology, like many others issues the apology to those who felt offended, which is a little like blaming the victim.  Just prior to that, he admits that “we made a mistake”.  That is rarer!  He once again “blames the victim” when referring to the interpretation of racism, and the “sensitivities of our community”.  (Read: “If they weren’t so dog-gone sensitive, we wouldn’t have to be dealing with all this”)

What would I have liked to see?  How about a phrase something like, “It was not meant to be racist, but unfortunately, we used images that have historically been used in racist material, and did not fully anticipate the impact of these images on our readers.  Our choice of images was inappropriate.”  Now that acknowledges responsibility.

Pondering Pastor

New York Post pseudoApology

It is quite refreshing to hear the outcry about another pseudo-apology.  I’ve written a number of posts about these in the past.  There have been Tom Foley, John Hagee, Desparate Housewives, Bill Belichick, Southwest Airlines, Larry Craig, & Michael Vick.  The New York Post joins this club.  This is their apology.

Wednesday’s Page Six cartoon – caricaturing Monday’s police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut – has created considerable controversy.

It shows two police officers standing over the chimp’s body: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” one officer says.

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.

Period.

But it has been taken as something else – as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past – and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due.

Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.

The first failure is the often used line, “to those who were offended”.  This is usually a veiled statement about what is lacking in those who were offended than it is an apology.  Notice how the intent of the cartoon is defended in the words preceeding the “to those who were offended” reference.  In other words, “if you are so sensitive as to not get the joke, then we apologize”.

The second failure is to withold an apology to others.  The New York Post is what it is … a tabloid.  It thrives on the sensational and the outrageous.  It is by nature, defensive, always perceiving itself as being under attack.  It can and does hit back.  An apology is no place to do that.

I’m delighted to see many others jumping in and calling this “apology” what it is … a non-apology.

The New York Post writers don’t know about the historical caricature of people of African descent as apes?  Or is the juxtaposition between the killing of a chimpanzee and the stimulus package just too obvious to pass up?

To the New York Post: Sometimes an editorial cartoon is inappropriate.  Yours was inappropriate.

Pondering Pastor