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Apology?

Copyright © 2000-2003, 2006, 2007, 2009-2012 by David E. Ross

This is an ongoing exposé of situations in which very public persons — politicians, entertainers, sports stars, corporate executives, religious leaders, et cetera — have done or said something very wrong and then offer what they call apologies but fail to apologize at all. Often, a key ingredient of an apology — an admission that the offender was indeed wrong — is missing. This page also includes incidents where apologies would certainly be appropriate, but the offender feels he or she is too special to apologize for anything. Finally, a few actual apologies are included so they may be contrasted with the false apologies. Where possible, an authoritative source is indicated.

Where I define a form of false apology, I name it in bold. Where I later refer to that same form of false apology, I name it in Italics.


Conditional Apology Cooupled with an Unapology

Richard Mourdock was the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Indiana in the 2012 election. In a debate with his Democrat opponent, the issue of abortion was raised. Reflecting the attitude of many Republican politicians, Mourdock stated his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. He stated that a pregnancy after rape is "something God intended to happen." This created great consternation not only among Indiana voters but also among other Republicans running for office, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Mourdock then offered the following conditional apology at a news conference:

If in any way people came away with the wrong meaning, I apologize.
At the same news conference he then retracted any apology:
For speaking from my heart, for speaking from the deepest level of my faith, I cannot apologize.
This created a new form of false apology — the unapology.

25 October 2012
[Source: Los Angeles Times]


While he might have been pandering to his conservative political base, Mourdock might have also been speaking of his sincere religious beliefs. It cannot be denied, however, that his statement is entirely about religious dogma. Jewish philosophy holds a contrary view:

A 19th-century rabbi, Yehuda Perilman, ruled that a raped woman has the right to abort because, unlike "mother earth," she need not nurture seed planted within her against her will; indeed, she may "uproot" seed illegally sown.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin


Rush Limbaugh Offers Another False Apology

When a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the mandate that health insurance plans cover the full costs of birth control, only men were called as witnesses to testify. College student Sandra Fluke wanted to testify but the committee's Republican majority refused to allow that. Shortly thereafter, a group of Democrat representative did have Fluke testify.

After Fluke's testimony, radio loudmouth Rush Limbaugh condemned Fluke as a slut. Limbaugh stated that Fluke wanted the taxpayers to fund her birth control so that she could be sexually active at no cost. He further ranted that asking others to pay so that she could have sexual intercourse made her a prostitute. In exchange for that, he wanted her to video-tape her sexual activities and put them on the Internet so that the rest of the public could also enjoy them.

Not only was Limbaugh rude, insulting, and slanderous, but he was also wrong. Under the new health insurance reform law, employers and individuals pay for their health insurance. Taxpayers do not.

As a number of Limbaugh's radio sponsors abruptly pulled their advertisements from his broadcasts, Limbaugh offered an apology to Fluke — a very false apology that appeared on his Web site. You can read it yourself. Notice how Limbaugh apologizes for his choice of words but not for the sentiments he expressed. Indeed, he reaffirmed his sentiments. Limbaugh's apology for phrasing is exceptionally false because, instead of admitting he was wrong, he compounds his error by restating his original tirade. In this, he did not fool his former sponsors; several publicly announced that they would no longer sponsor his radio show even though he "apologized".

4 March 2012
[Sources: Yahoo, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, and others]

Limbaugh again presented a false apology for phrasing. Not only does he still refuse to admit any wrongdoing, but now he is also engaged in iterated apologies. Fluke understands the difference between a true apology and a false one and has rejected all of them.

This is not the first time Limbaugh has been caught issuing a false apology, including using iterated apologies.

5 March 2012
[Source: CBS Radio News]


Another Politician Offers a Conditional Apology

In a speach commemorating the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., newly inauguerated Alabama Governor Robert Bentley stated:

Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother.
Non-Christians immediately questioned whether Governor Bentley was elected to be the secular executive of his state or to be the official missionary for his religion. The Reverend King had campaigned for the acceptance of all individuals, regardless of color, religion, or background; so even some Christians felt Governor Bentley's comments were out of order.

Governor Bently then "apologized", saying

If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.
Yes, the Governor is sorry, but only if someone was offended. And although he is sorry, he does not admit that he was wrong. The falsity of the Governor's apology has been noted by many individuals.

[Source: Yahoo/Reuters, 19 Jan 2011]


Apologizing for an Apology

Representative Joe Barton (R, Texas) apologized to British Petroleum (BP) — whose deep-water oil well in the Gulf of Mexico caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history — for the way President Obama is holding BP responsible for the deaths of 11 oil workers, cleanup, lost jobs, closing down of one of the most important fisheries in the world, and the devastation of the Gulf Coast tourist industry. Barton characterized as a "shakedown" BP's agreement to the President's demand that the company pay $20,000,000,000 into an escrow account to compensate individuals, businesses, and governments for damages.

Not only did Barton outrage Democrat members of Congress, he also earned the outrage of his fellow Republicans (possibly because they sensed a potential loss of votes in the four affected Gulf Coast states). As a result, Barton offered the following "apology":

If anything I have said this morning has been misconstrued to the opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction.

Beginning with if and containing misconstrued, not once but twice, Barton has given us a rare combination of a conditional apology and a I was misunderstood apology. Missing is any admission by Barton that he was wrong.

Barton's apology is false three times over. He did not apologize. As many news media have informed us, Barton received $1,400,000 in campaign donations from the oil industry.

[Sources: The Seattle Times, 23 June 2010; Newsweek, 28 June 2010]


A Campaign Dinner With a Bad Taste

Political campaigns often involve fund-raising events in the form of dinners. In affluent urban areas, diners might pay $1,000 per plate to eat with a candidate. In rural and suburban areas, less expensive barbecues are common. These events are not restricted to the U.S.; they also occur in Canada and other nations.

image of poster In Canada, Nancy Heppner is a member of both the Legislative Assembly and the provincial cabinet in the province of Saskatchewan. Heppner belongs to the province's ruling Saskatchewan Party and represents the riding (election district) of Martensville.

The party's Martensville Constituency Association planned a dinner for Heppner and distributed flyers around the area to advertise the event. The event features Richard Picciotto as a speaker; Picciotto was a fire chief that had been trapped in the north tower of the World Trade Center when terrorists struck on 11 September 2001. The flyer shows a large photo of the World Trade Center in flames. Superimposed over the flames is text that reads, in part, "Pig Roast Dinner". Lower on the poster appear the words (referring to the speaker) "It will promote sincere and warm [emphasis added] remembrance in the hearts of all who hear it."

Criticism of using such a disaster to promote a political campaign was sharp. Much of the criticism focused on the "Pig Roast Dinner" text over flames that burned people alive. As a result of the uproar, Heppner offered a conditional apology:

It would make me feel horrible if anyone was offended by this … and if anybody is I would obviously apologize for it."
Note that the true meaning of Heppner's statement is that she is not yet apologizing. She is waiting for someone to tell her that the flyer was indeed offensive; then she would apologize only to that person.

This situation raises two questions:

[Sources: Canadian newspapers Globe and Mail and Star Phoenix, both 10 March 2010]


You Decide

The catalogue for on-line bookstore Amazon.com indicates the sales ranking of books it sells, indicating which titles are best sellers. In an attempt to "sanitize" searches of its catalogue, Amazon.com classified some 57,000 titles as "adult-themed". This sanitization — done without any announcement to their customers — removed the sales ranking from those titles.

A problem with this sanitization was quickly discovered by the public. Gay-themed books — whether fiction or non-fiction — were automatically categorized as adult-themed. This included books such as Heather Has Two Mommies, which is about parenting and not about sex. On the other hand, many heterosexual erotic works were not classified as adult-themed.

Amazon.com initially tried to justify its actions by stating:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.
Thus, the incident was a purposeful action by Amazon.com, an action for which the results were clearly not thoroughly analyzed beforehand.

When Amazon.com's statement failed to quiet the storm of protests, the company then stated:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles — in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

The question remains: Was this indeed a true apology by Amazon.com? Did Amazon.com admit they did something wrong, or are they trying to claim it was an accident? Did the company indicate any sorrow for targeting gay-themed titles, including non-erotic titles? Should the company issue a more explicit apology for equating gay with sex and for categorizing as adult-themed some works that are actually intended for teen readers, or is it too late (which would now make it an invalid iterated apology)? You judge. Let me know what you think.

[various sources including Yahoo Tech News, MSNBC, The Guardian (UK), and TechCrunch; 17 April 2009]


For the last eight years, Canadian troops have supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. The U.S., with a population of more than 300,000,000, lost 595 (as of today) toops killed while fighting there. Canada has a population of less than 32,000,000, and 116 Canadian soldiers have died in this cause. Proportional to national population, the Canadian toll is almost twice the U.S. casualties.

Lt. Gen. Andrew Leslie (Canada's Army Chief of Staff) recently indicated that recovering from the cost of supporting the U.S. efforts — both human costs and materials — will require at least a year after Canada withdraws its troops from Afghanistan in 2011. That led to very insulting remarks by Fox News talking head Greg Gutfeld, who said the Canadian military

wants to take a breather to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white capri pants. … Isn't this the perfect time to invade this ridiculous country. They have no army. … I thought that's where you go if you don't want to fight — go chill in Canada. I guess that'll be their tourism selling point: We're not in the war for a year. So come on by while we nap.

Of course, Canadians were outraged. Canada's Defense Minister Peter MacKay demanded an apology from Fox and Gutfeld. Gutfeld finally offered an I was misunderstood pseudo-apology, claiming the whole thing was a joke. Canadians don't think the subject should be part of a comedy routine, especially when — in the same week that Gutfeld made his comment — four more coffins containing Canadian casualties arrived from Afghanistan. MacKay accepted Gutfeld's false apology, but many other Canadians are still furious.

In the U.S., Gutfeld also came under attack. Many in this country noted that Gutfeld's show "Red Eye" airs at 3:00am and is thus watched by very, very few.

In the meantime, commedian Doug Benson — who was a guest on Gutfeld's show when the latter made his unfortunate comments and who replied "I didn't even know that they were in the war." — suddenly found himself without a gig. Benson was scheduled to appear at a club in Edmonton, Alberta; but the club's owner cancelled the performance when informed of how Benson seconded Gutfeld's insult to the Canadian troops.

Let's be clear. Gutfeld insulted brave troops of a strong ally of the U.S. Benson showed serious ignorance of what is really happening in this world. Neither admitted being wrong. Thus, no true apology was offered.

[Canadian Press, 23 March 2009]


Twenty years ago, Richard Williamson was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church after he was ordained as a bishop in an unauthorized ceremony. This year, Williamson was readmitted to the Church when Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication. The Pope was unaware that Williamson had repeatedly denied the existence of the Holocaust, when the Nazis exterminated 6,000,000 Jews and 6,000,000 other civilians. Williamson claimed as recently as this year that there were no gas chambers in the death camps and that "only" 300,000 Jews died under the Nazis. When the Pope was made aware of Williamson's claims — through world-wide outrage from Jews and non-Jews alike — he ordered Williamson to apologize for his remarks.

Williamson skirted a conditional apology:

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

However, Williamson gave an incomplete apology when he failed to admit that he was wrong. Even the Vatican has noted Williamson's failure, leaving his status in the Church in question.

Williamson, who had been operating a seminary in Argentina, was expelled from that nation as a consequence of the uproar over his revisionist views.

[Yahoo/Reuters 26-27 February 2009]
28 February 2009, 17 April 2009


*** Begin right sidebar ***

The initial list price of the full-capability iPhone was actually $599. Who did Apple think they were fooling by not calling this $600? The difference is less than 0.2%.

The marked-down price is actually $399, which differs from $400 by 0.25% (¼ of 1%).

I choose to give the prices as round numbers: $600 and $400.

*** End right sidebar ***

For many people, the "hype" over Apple's iPhone in the summer of 2007 proved irresistible. I know of two students (twins) at a nearby high school who spelled each other while waiting 25 hours in line to be among the first to buy this new gadget. At $600 each, the twins bought 12! They immediately sold five via eBay for enough of a markup over the $600 list price to make a profit, even after paying shipping and eBay's commission. They then sold one to a friend. The six iPhones that they did not immediately sell were returned to Apple for a full refund. No, they did not keep an iPhone for themselves; they told me they could not afford to own one.

The iPhone was designed to work only with wireless service from AT&T. (Another high school student, however, quickly discovered how to defeat that restriction.) The hype was so great that more iPhones were sold — including those sold for more than the $600 list price — than AT&T could initially activate. Some who purchased on the first day could not activate their iPhones until three days later.

But then sales of iPhones began to fall. Thus, early in September 2007, Apple announced a $200 price cut. $600 iPhones were suddenly worth $400 only two months after their introduction, infuriating a significant number of Apple customers. (When a similar price cut occurs in a tract of new homes, the result is often a lawsuit by early buyers against the builder for undercutting their tenuous equity.)

CEO Steve Jobs quickly apologized to Apple's customers by offering them a $100 store credit for each $600 iPhone. I call this an airline apology because the airlines use a similar tactic. After you wait on the tarmac in the blazing sun for seven hours or your flight is cancelled, not because of weather or equipment problems but merely because not enough tickets were sold, the airline gives you a voucher for less than the price of a ticket and valid only with that airline. You are mad! You don't want to ever fly on that airline again. But their apology involves having to use your own money along with the voucher to buy another ticket with that same airline. With Apple, the credit is only half the immediate loss in value of a $600 iPhone; and it too requires that the injured customer again buy something from Apple.

[Los Angeles Times, 7 September 2007]
9 September 2007


Former actor Michael J. Fox appeared in a political TV ad in support of a Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate for the November 2006 election. Fox, visibly afflicted with tremors of the Parkinson's disease that ended his acting career, supported the candidate because she favored expanding medical research with stem cells, research that might lead to a cure for Parkinson's.

Radio commentator Rush Limbaugh claimed that Fox was either overacting or without his medications in order to magnify the tremors that were visible in the ad. However, it was obvious not only to neurologists who treat Parkinson's but also to victims of that disease and their families and friends that Fox's tremors were real even if he were taking all his medications.

When the outrage against Limbaugh's comments became an unending roar, he offered a conditional apology:

So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act …
[emphasis added]

Note that Limbaugh apologized only if he were wrong. A real apology requires an unconditional admission of being wrong.

[NBC News, 24 October 2006;
Associated Press, 25 October 2006]

By the following day, Limbaugh changed his statement twice, now making it an iterated apology, which is no more valid than his prior conditional apology. Also, he finally admits he was wrong but only that he accused Fox of the wrong misdeed, now asserting that Fox deliberately took too much medication (instead of not enough) in order to increase his tremors. The truth is that Parkinson's is highly variable, even in a single patient. It's impossible to predict from hour to hour how the symptoms will appear or how the symptoms will respond to medication.

Further, Limbaugh tried to explain that he never claimed Fox was faking the tremors. Instead, Limbaugh claims he used the word acting. Think! When an actor plies his craft on the stage, are his emotions real? Is the actor really the person he is portraying? Or is it merely believable fiction? Thus, if he claimed Fox was acting, what did Limbaugh really mean by using that word?

Limbaugh will just not surrender his general assertion that Fox somehow exaggerated his symptoms to create sympathy, making all of Limbaugh's "apologies" false.

[Limbaugh's own Web site, 26 October 2006]

In the end, Fox's candidate for U.S. Senate won her election. Limbaugh being a jerk did not help his candidate.


Former baseball star Pete Rose has been selling autographed baseballs for $299 each. The baseballs feature "I'm sorry I bet on baseball" printed in block letters above his signature. Although called apology baseballs, this commercial apology is no real apology at all.

Apologies are not supposed to earn a monetary profit for a person who admits committing a wrong. That person should only earn a possible forgiveness.

If we have to pay Pete Rose to apologize, is he really sorry?

[Associated Press and others, 23 September 2006]


During a televised floor debate on legislation in the Canadian Parliament, three MPs from the governing Conservative party were seen on television making crude, insulting arm gestures to MPs from the opposition Liberal party. To some, the gestures suggested that the Liberals should participate in an impossible sexual activity.

Asked to apologize, Conservative MP Jacques Gourde replied that he was merely trying to mimic an arm-wrestle. He also stated, "If it was misinterpreted, I apologize."

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said, " … if any of my gestures have offended them or any member in this house, I wish to apologize and withdraw them."

These are just more example of conditional apologies. In the case of Gourde, there was also an element of I was misunderstood although a large public audience clearly saw what Gourde did and meant. During subsequent floor debates, Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois MPs expressed their dissatisfaction with such fake, meaningless apologies that failed to admit any wrong-doing.

[CTV and Canadian Press, both 14 June 2006]


In a speech to a Christian church, Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence) demonstrated a severe lack of his supposed area of expertise. In a diatribe against Moslems, he stated that his mission is "a battle with Satan." The struggle against Islam, Boykin said, is "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

Not only did Gen. Boykin insult Moslems. Despite his reference to Judeo-Christian roots, he also offended Jews by referring to the U.S. as a Christian nation. (This is a secular nation, home to individuals of many beliefs and of non-belief.) Boykin offered an "apology" that failed to indicate he had done anything wrong, thereby lacking the essential ingredient of a true apology. He also claims his comments were taken out of context, the classic I was misunderstood defense of those who cannot admit any error.

[various sources including Yahoo/Reuters,
Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek]
23 October 2003


Senator Trent Lott (R, Mississippi) finally agreed to resign as the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, a result of his praising the 1948 presidential campaign — on a segregationist platform — of Strom Thurmond. Splitting away from the Democrat party that year because of his opposition to the civil rights plank in the Democrat platform, Thurmond ran as a "Dixiecrat". In reference to "one of the nastiest, openly racial campaigns of modern times", Lott said 54 years later, "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for President, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Lott did apologize, especially to those harmed by segregation. And his apology did not seem to contain many of the flaws documented on this page. However, Lott's apology reeks of hypocrisy when we recall his long history of segregationist attitudes. In college, Lott fought vigorously to keep blacks out of his fraternity, not just the chapter at "Ole Miss", but nationally. Throughout his career in Congress — both in the House and the Senate — Lott supported tax breaks for a segregationist college, tried to make a hero of Jefferson Davis, praised the segregationist Council of Conservative Citizens, voted against civil rights laws, and blocked confirmation of minorities nominated by various Presidents to be judges. He denounced the Civil War as "the war of Northern aggression". Finally, contrary to Lott's assertion that he "winged" his comments at Thurmond's party ("I was too much into the moment."), he praised Thurmond's campaign before, almost 22 years ago and almost with the same words.

If Lott knows that such comments and actions are wrong — a key ingredient of any apology — why does he continue to utter them? If he regrets what he said — another key ingredient — why does he not stop saying it? However, his ongoing support of racial segregation indicates that Lott does not really think it is wrong; he has no regrets. Thus, his apologies are unacceptable. A hypocritical apology is no apology. Lott's hypocrisy was too much for even conservative Republicans to swallow. Seeing his support quickly erode, Lott resigned as Majority Leader (but not as a Senator).

[Newsweek, 23 December 2002]


In a 60 Minutes broadcast viewed around the world, Jerry Falwell denounced the founder of Islam, saying "I think Mohammed was a terrorist. I read enough of the history of his life written by both Moslems and — non-Moslems, (to know) that he was a — a violent man, a man of war." This outraged both Moslems and non-Moslems alike. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he regarded Falwell's comments "as much an insult to me as a Christian as they are to Moslems."

Falwell later "apologized". "I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for CBS's 60 Minutes were hurtful to the feelings of many Moslems. I intended no disrespect to any sincere, law-abiding Moslem," he said on 12 October. Falwell said his error came from answering a "controversial and loaded question" at the end of an hour-long interview. This statement is problematical for several reasons:

Of course, this is typical for Jerry Falwell. It reflects his actions a year ago — after blaming gays, feminists, supporters of a woman's right to choose whether to be pregnant, the ACLU, and People for the American Way — for the terrorist attacks in New York and the Pentagon.

[Los Angeles Times, 13 October 2002]


During the stock market boom in the late 1990s, brokerage Merrill Lynch issued very favorable analysis reports on a number of start-up Internet companies that later failed to perform as those reports predicted. Unknown to many investors who were harmed by following Merrill Lynch's advice, the brokerage was also providing investment banking services to those same Internet companies, often with very lucrative fees.

Now, in 2002, E-mail messages exchanged between analysts within Merrill Lynch show that the published analysis reports did not reflect their honest view of those companies' prospects. According to New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Merrill Lynch issued favorable but false reports in order to remain the investment banker for those companies.

Merrill Lynch CEO David Komansky has "apologized" for this situation, but he apologized for the wrong thing. "The e-mails that have come to light are very distressing and disappointing to us," Komansky said at the firm's annual meeting. "They fall far short of our professional standards and some are inconsistent with our policies. I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to our clients, our shareholders and our employees."

Komansky apologized for the E-mails, which told the truth. Never, never apologize for telling the truth. Komansky should instead apologize for issuing false analysis reports that resulted from a blatant conflict of interest. And to show the sincerity of Komansky's apology, Merrill Lynch should reimburse all investors who lost money because of those reports.

[Yahoo/Reuters, 26 April 2002]
28 April 2002


Over the years, Billy Graham has met with several U.S. Presidents. During a 1972 visit to the White House, Graham expressed some very vitriolic anti-Semitic feelings to President Nixon. Now, 30 years later, Graham apologized.

This delayed apology is not accepted! If what he said 30 years ago is wrong now, it was wrong then. Graham knew it. Yet he failed to apologize for the delay.

What really happened just now? The National Archives recently released tapes the White House recorded in early 1972. Graham's comments are clearly heard, so clearly that he cannot claim he was misquoted. Graham is not sorry for his anti-Semitism; he is only sorry that his comments were made public. Hypocrisy!

(This reminds me somewhat of Congressman Bob Livingston. On the verge of becoming Speaker of the House, Livingston abruptly resigned in 1999 when his ongoing adultery became public knowledge. Before that disclosure, he had no problem with an adulterer being Speaker — the third highest office in our national government — but Livingston did have a problem with the public knowing about it.)


On the same tape, President Nixon is heard to agree enthusiastically with Graham and even express his frustration over the fact that political considerations prevented him from publicly voicing similar sentiments. Nixon was widely suspected of anti-Semitic feelings ever since he first served in the House of Representatives in the late 1940s. Besides exposing Graham, the White House tapes confirm what many already believed about Nixon.

[Associated Press, 1-2 March 2002]
8 March 2002


Graham's son, Franklin (also a minister), tried to explain away his father's bigoted remarks by claiming they were taken out of context and misconstrued. As explained below regarding Jerry Falwell (18 September 2001), these are just variations of I was misunderstood. Franklin Graham also claims that his father was not talking about all Jews, just about Jewish control of the media.

Franklin Graham explains nothing. He actually makes the situation worse. First of all, Jews did not then and do not now control the media. Second, if Billy Graham were referring only to media ownership, his comments did not criticize the media but the Jewish ownership of some media companies. This narrowing of the scope of his comments still makes them offensive. The thoughts expressed are still anti-Semitic. (Just think of how it would sound if Graham had criticized black, Hispanic, or feminist control of the media.)

[Los Angeles Times, 4 April 2002]
5 April 2002

Franklin Graham is also a practitioner of the false apology. In 2001, the younger Graham asserted that Islam "is a very evil and wicked religion."

Later, he tried to defuse the uproar by writing in the Wall Street Journal that he does not believe Muslims "are evil people because of their faith. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam … " However, in the same column, Franklin Graham also wrote that "the persecution or elimination of non-Muslims has been a cornerstone of Islamic conquests and rule for centuries. [the Koran] provides ample evidence that Islam encourages violence in order to win converts and to reach the ultimate goal of an Islamic world."

When an apology for an insult contains a new insult, the regret necessary for a true apology is missing.

[Athens (GA) Banner-Herald, 8 Dec 01]
6 April 2002


In response to efforts by the United States to garner support from Arab nations for a world-wide coalition against terrorism, Israeli Premier Arial Sharon expressed the concern of his people that abandonment of Israel might be the price the U.S. might pay for Moslem support. Recalling how England and France sacrificed Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in the 1930s in a futile attempt to appease Hitler, Sharon declared that Israel "will not be Czechoslovakia". He further warned President Bush, "Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense." As should be expected, President Bush took exception to Sharon's comments.

Sharon later offered a classic I was misunderstood apology for suggesting the United States was appeasing Arab states the way the West appeased Adolph Hitler on the eve of World War II. "To my regret, the metaphor [of Czechoslovakia] in my speech was not understood properly," Sharon said.

Unfortunately, the metaphor is quite apt. Many others believe that appeasement of the Arabs is indeed in Bush's agenda. The problem here is that Sharon again (as a year ago) demonstrated an inability to offer a real apology. Either he should have said, "I was wrong; I should not have said what I said." or else (as many would agree) he should have stuck with his original statement.

[Los Angeles Times]
7 October 2001


Shortly after the 11 September terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Jerry Falwell was interviewed by Pat Robertson on the latter's The 700 Club religious TV show. During the interview, Falwell asserted that God caused this death and destruction because of our nation's sins in allowing gays, feminists, supporters of a woman's right to choose whether to be pregnant, the ACLU, and People for the American Way to thrive. Robertson agreed and supported Falwell's conclusions. Later, in a written statement, Robertson declared, "We have insulted God at the highest level of our government. Then, we say, 'Why does this happen?' It is happening because God Almighty is lifting his protection from us."

As someone wrote to the Washington Post: "Falwell and Robertson would do well to reflect on the fact that this tragedy was begat by men who bear a remarkable resemblance to themselves: that is, religious zealots who are motivated by deep hatreds." Even President Bush condemned the comments.

Falwell initially offered a false apology: "I sincerely regret that comments I made during a long theological discussion on a Christian television program yesterday were taken out of their context and reported, and that my thoughts — reduced to sound bites — have detracted from the spirit of this day of mourning." I call this the I was misunderstood apology, which includes not only "My comments were taken out of context" but also "I was misquoted" (especially when either of these excuses proves false, as demonstrated two paragraphs down). Notice that Falwell did not apologize for what he said, only for how those comments intruded into our nation's mourning.

In the meantime, Robertson declared, "In no way has any guest on my program suggested that anyone other than the Middle East terrorists were responsible for the tragic events that took place on Tuesday."

The problem is that the transcript of the interview clearly indicates that Falwell did indeed blame those who refuse to adopt his constipated morality. Nothing was taken out of context, and Robertson is either deceiving himself or trying to deceive the rest of us if he denies what was said.

Finally, Falwell made a true apology. He said, "In the midst of the shock and mourning of a dark week for America, I made a statement that I should not have made and which I sincerely regret. I want to apologize to every American, including those I named." Falwell also said his comments were ill-timed, insensitive, and divisive (but not wrong). While this is a true apology, I am not sure it is acceptable. After all, it was obtained only iteratively, after his I was misunderstood apology was rejected by the general public. I question whether an iterated apology is indeed sincere, or is it merely a case of trying something else when a false apology fails. In any case, we should take issue with Falwell's admission that his comments were ill-timed. When is the right time to make public statements that are insulting, rude, bigoted, and ignorant?

Robertson, on the other hand, pleaded ignorance. Rather than apologizing for endorsing Falwell's comments twice, he asserted that the comments were "not fully understood" by himself or his staff. This kind of ignorance in a man who aspired to be President frightens me. Lacking the ability to recognize immoral hatred should discredit Robertson from any religious leadership. This pathetic I was stupid apology is unacceptable without any acknowledgement that a wrong was committed and a sincere expression of regret.

[various sources, especially AP/Yahoo]
18 September 2001
Updated 9 November 2003


My suspicions a year ago about Falwell's iterated apology proved valid. CNN.com reports he still stands by his assessment of the terrorist attacks, blaming the "secularization of America" for exacerbating God's wrath. "I just think those statements were ill-timed," Falwell said. In other words, he really did not regret his comments — regret being a key element in an apology — and merely regretted his timing in expressing them.

[CNN.com, 27 October 2002]
2 November 2002


About 2/3 of the judges of the Appeal Court in the Canadian province of Alberta and 3/4 of their staff complained that something in their courthouse was causing respiratory distress and making them ill. ("Sick building" syndrome is indeed known to occur.) So the judges decided to move the court.

Provincial premier Ralph Klein did not appreciate the impact this would have on Alberta's budget and made some disparaging comments at a public event. The judges say the remarks were inflammatory and require a public apology. As with too many other public personalities, Klein offered a conditional apology, apologizing only if any offense was taken. (Any such "apology" is itself offensive.)

Later, Klein indicated he was willing to apologize but declined to actually do so. He was waiting for the results of negotiations over the wording. Huh? A true apology must be sincere, not negotiated.

The judges might not need an apology. They are considering a lawsuit against Klein for interfering with the independence of the judiciary and for causing disrespect of the courts. Misspoken words and a failure to mitigate them with a true apology may cost Klein a significant amount of money.

[Canadian Press, 31 July 01]
posted 18 September 2001
(Yes, this is late; I have no excuse and offer no apology.)


After the Secret Service excluded (without any reason) a Moslem Congressional intern from a White House meeting, the entire group of Moslems scheduled to meet with presidential advisor Rev. Mark Scott (the associate director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives) walked out of the meeting. President George Bush offered a true apology, indicating that "action was taken that was wrong and inappropriate". This contrasts significantly with his conditional apology when he insulted Jews in 1993.

[Reuters/Yahoo]
29 June 2001


In Canada, MP Tom Wappel wrote a letter to James Baxter, an elderly war veteran, who requested Wappel's help in obtaining federal veteran's benefits. Wappel's letter scolded Baxter for supporting Wappel's opponent in the last election. "How is it that you are writing me for help if you did not think enough of my abilities to justify voting for me?" Wappel asked.

After the letter became the subject of a public uproar, Wappel then admitted that he was mistaken in his attitude. "With the benefit of hindsight, I accept the criticism levelled [sic in the Canada News report] against me that the letter showed lack of judgment. I offer my sincere apologies for any upset caused by my letter or my initial defensive reaction."

Opposition MPs claim that Wappel only apologized after his actions became public knowledge. They also note that Wappel previously stated that he might reserve his services only to those who support him in elections.

However, Wappel's apology deserves note: He actually admitted that he was wrong! Despite questions about his motives for apologizing, it was an actual apology. How unusual for a politician!

[Canada News, 11 May 01]
28 May 2001

MP = Member of Parliament


For Easter, cartoonist Johnny Hart went too far with his B.C. Supported with New Testament quotes, his strip depicts a Jewish menorah burning up until all that is left is a Christian cross. To me, the message is that Christianity triumphs over the wreckage of Judaism. Poppycock!

I initially thought this strip would lend support to those anti-Semites who belittle Judaism as merely an anachronistic relict. Then, I discovered the situation is worse. This cartoon strip is the product of an actual bigot who previously declared: "Jews and Muslims who don't accept Jesus will burn in Hell." (We have a President who said something similar several years ago.)

In response to criticism, Hart replied: "I sincerely apologize if I have offended any readers." Well, I am indeed offended. Is he so ignorant that he could not realize that others would also be offended?

Hart's conditional apology (very similar to Bush's) is meaningless. Hart fails to admit he is wrong. At best he implies that he is wrong only if someone is offended. That makes him even more wrong. Of course, religious zealots can never see that they are wrong when they deny that other paths to God might exist. They just cannot imagine apologizing when they publicly demean others' religions.

[Los Angeles Times]
updated 13 April 2001


Earlier, I described two ploys often used by those who commit a wrong and who want to avoid the admission of guilt implied by an apology: the lemming defense and blame the victim. Now we see an example of a third ploy: demand an apology from the victim.

*** Begin Right Sidebar ***

Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 09:00:57 -0700

To: Premier Dung
From: President Bush

The United States is truly sorry that your nation is not capable of training your pilots to fly without striking other aircraft. We are also sorry that you people lack the honor to respect the international laws governing collision avoidance between aircraft when flying in international airspace. We further regret that you cannot be trusted to respect the integrity of sovereign aircraft forced at gun point to land on your soil after your inept pilot forced a collision. We truly regret the state of incompetence demonstrated by the People's Dictatorship of China.

That being said, you are holding our servicemen hostage, illegally. You are holding our aircraft, illegally. I am sorry to inform you that all your Ambassadors, aides, businessmen, and students currently residing in the United States will have their visas revoked at midnight tonight. I am also sorry to inform you that all Chinese assets in the United States are frozen. I am sorry to inform Beanie Baby collectors that all imports from the PDC will be halted. All foreign aid monies to the PDC and all IMF etc funds are cancelled.

I am not sorry to announce, however, that sales of advanced technology military equipment to the Republic of Taiwan will be accelerated. Nor am I sorry to announce that two additional carrier battle groups will be assigned to patrol the waters off the coasts of the PDC.

I'm sure I can think of more things to do if I don't have my airmen and airplane returned by midnight, tonight.

Your friend, GW.

[contributed as a joke by my son]

*** End Right Sidebar ***

In recent months, the U.S. had warned China that its fighter jets were flying much too close to the U.S. surveillance planes that were in international air space over the South China Sea. The Chinese jets engaged in dangerous actions around the far less maneuverable prop-driven U.S. planes. On 1 April, a Chinese jet "buzzed" an EP-3 surveillance plane twice and finally collided with the U.S. plane. The apparent loss of the Chinese pilot and his fighter jet was partially caused by the fact that the U.S. plane could not dodge quickly enough. While the Chinese jet went down in the ocean, the damaged U.S. plane was able to struggle to a landing on China's Hainan Island.

Having engaged in provocative actions resulting in the loss of its own pilot and jet, China demanded an apology from the United States and also insisted that U.S. military planes not fly in international air space anywhere near China's coast. This is equivalent to the automobile driver who makes an illegal turn and then not only demands compensation from the driver who — having the right-of-way — broadsides him but also insists that his victim not drive on the public streets in that neighborhood again. This clever ploy causes others (who have not examined the incident carefully) to doubt the innocence of the victim.

President Bush acted properly when he extended condolences to the family of the Chinese pilot. However, many question his actions that placed diplomacy and conciliation — but also the freedom of the EP-3 surveillance plane's crew — ahead of reality. Was it indeed proper to apologize for invading Chinese airspace and landing a severely damaged plane on Chinese territory, a plane damaged by the deliberate action of the Chinese military? Was the U.S. pilot instead supposed to crash his plane into the ocean, with the possible loss of the crew? This was not something worthy of an apology. The apology should have come from China, for causing this incident.

(Presidents — both Democrat and Republican — seem far too eager to ignore and even forgive the misdeeds of China, mostly for the sake of trade and commerce. Perhaps, this is a symptom of the China Syndrome. Certainly, this does not help the cause of freedom in China. Given the significant trade imbalance in favor of China, this also does not help the U.S. economy.)

[various sources including the Los Angeles Times,
USA Today, Reuters/Yahoo, and CBS Radio]
8 April 2001
updated 12 April 2001


The citizens of San Francisco were shocked! In a city that loves its pets — a city named for the saint who talked to animals — two large dogs attacked and killed Diane Whipple as she returned from grocery shopping. No, they were not wild dogs roaming in the wilderness. These were a cross between English mastiff and Canary Island fighting dog, specifically bred for illegal dog fights; and the tragedy happened in the hallway right outside Whipple's apartment, just a few doors from the dogs' owners, attorneys Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel.

Using a ploy that is common when someone refuses to accept responsibility for a wrong — blame the victim — Knoller accused Whipple of causing her own death either by not staying inside her apartment or else not staying away from her apartment. Knoller also asserts that Whipple (a lacrosse coach at a local college) attracted the dogs because she was taking steroids to build up her body. (But lacrosse is a game for the swift and agile, not for the bulked-up muscle-bound.) Apparently no steroids were found in Whipple's body, so Knoller changed that accusation to specify some exotic perfume.

No one seems to be buying Knoller's attempt to avoid any apology to Whipple's friends. She has been indicted by a grand jury for murder. Noel (her husband) has been indicted for manslaughter. One dog has been killed by San Francisco animal control officers; the other dog is being held as evidence. Whipple's life companion filled a civil lawsuit against Knoller and Noel for the wrongful death of Whipple.

Could criminal and civil actions been avoided if Knoller and Noel had merely admitted they were wrong not to control their dogs and had expressed sincere apologies? Rarely do even severe mauling by dogs result in legal action. (But, of course, liability insurers do settle such claims without lawsuits.)

[various sources including the Los Angeles Times and Reuters/Yahoo]
28 March 2001


At their criminal trial in Los Angeles (moved from San Francisco because of very extensive pre-trial publicity), Knoller tried to defend herself by again blaming the victim. The jury was not convinced. Today — approximately a year after Whipple died — both Noel and Knoller were found guilty as charged.

21 March 2002


As the World Economic Forum (WEF) met in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2001, someone was hacking the database containing registration information on WEF attendees. Names, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information about Bill Gates, Yasser Arafat, and other attendees then appeared on a CD sent to a major Swiss newspaper.

The WEF's first response was to point at computer security breaches afflicting other organizations, as if someone else's negligence removes the guilt of your own failure. Stephan Somogyi of ZDNet News calls this The lemming defense. This is a common ploy of those who cannot apologize because a true apology would require an admission of wrongdoing.

[Source: ZDNet News]
5 February 2001


Former Senator John Ashcroft (R, Missouri) criticized political moderates by likening them to road-killed skunks. "The only thing you find in the middle of the road is moderates and dead skunks." That comment returned to haunt Ashcroft (who was defeated by a dead man for re-election to the U.S. Senate) after President-elect George W. Bush nominated him for Attorney-General.

When quizzed about his quip by moderate Senator Herbert Kohl (D, Wisconsin) during his nomination hearing, Ashcroft "apologized" very much as did President-elect Bush over his 1993 comments about Jews not being allowed in heaven. Ashcroft said: "I really regret it if anyone is offended by it." How could any intelligent person not expect political moderates not to be offended? While Ashcroft said "I mean no injury or disrespect to those individuals who don't have my views", he refuses to admit that his very disrespectful slur is wrong.

Notice how he shifts the burden onto the targets of his quip — those who are (and should be) offended — and accepts no blame for firing the quip. That is, he regrets if others are offended; but he is not sorry for being offensive.

[Quotes from Reuters/Yahoo]
17 January 2001


Linda Chavez, President-elect George W. Bush's first choice for Secretary of Labor, withdrew from consideration because of an uproar over her housing an illegal alien. She claimed that Marta Mercado (a native of Guatemala) was not an employee. However, Mercado occasionally worked for a neighbor of Chavez, and the neighbor apparently failed to pay Social Security taxes on Mercado's earnings. Mercado also did some housework within Chavez's own home, but Chavez denies ever paying Mercado wages. (The Los Angeles Times editorialized (10 January 2001): "As one online political wag put it, is this the definition of compassionate conservatism, to bring illegal immigrants into your house, put them to work and then not pay them?") Given that Chavez was nominated for an office that enforces the Social Security laws and also the laws prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens, the uproar is easily understood.

What is not understood is Chavez's attitude. Eight years ago, Republicans in and out of Congress hounded some of Clinton's nominees for a similar reason. Linda Chavez was quite vocal among those Republican functionaries who helped quash the nominations of Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, Clinton's first two attempts to select an Attorney General. Later, Chavez denounced Clinton himself as the nation's "liar in chief". Now, instead of apologizing for hiding from the FBI her involvement with an illegal alien (a criminal act) or at least disappearing quietly, Linda Chavez announced her withdrawal by saying that "search and destroy" tactics had driven her out. Ms. Chavez, do you know how to spell hypocrisy?

10 January 2001


For transgressions against God, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.

Gates of Repentance, the Reform Jewish prayer
book for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Laura Schlessinger (the pop psychologist on radio and TV) has a long history of verbal "gay bashing". She has described homosexuality as "deviant" and "a biological error." The result has been to keep some significant sponsors away from Schlessinger's new TV show.

But this past Yom Kippur, Schlessinger (an Orthodox Jew who is definitely not aligned with Senator Joseph Lieberman) offered an "apology". In an open letter published in Variety, she said " … some of my words were poorly chosen … " but gave no apology for the thoughts behind those words. Schessinger also said, "I deeply regret the hurt this situation has caused the gay and lesbian community." However, she still refuses to say, "I was wrong." [Data Lounge, 11 October 00]

What is missing from Schessinger's Yom Kippur statement is any recognition that she sinned (transgressed) against those offended by her remarks. I doubt whether she has really atoned.

In the meantime, four Canadian TV stations have already dropped the Dr. Laura Show. Rumors circulating in the broadcast industry indicate the entire show might be cancelled next month. To some, Schessinger's Yom Kippur statement appears more an attempt to rescue her show than a real act of atonement before God.

15 October 2000


One of the holiest places to Jews and Moslems is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. A constant flow of Jews comes to pray at the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall, because of the tears shed over its history), a remnant of Solomon's great temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians, rebuilt after a long exile, and then destroyed again by the Romans. Moslems believe the rock in the Dome of the Rock mosque at the top of the Temple Mount was where Mohammed ascended to heaven; a small depression in the rock is supposed to be the final hoof print of the horse that carried the Prophet to be with Allah. Obviously, these sites generate strong emotions among religious Jews and Moslems.

Ariel Sharon is not ignorant. As an important political leader in Israel for many years, he knows how Moslems feel about non-believers entering the area at the top of the Temple Mount. But he insisted on visiting there anyway, with a very public entourage. He committed a provocative act. And then he blamed those whom he provoked for the resulting turmoil.

Yes, Sharon said he was "sorry about every casualty" (over 60 deaths) resulting from the violence engendered by his actions. But he is not sorry for triggering that violence. He is sorry for the wrong thing! He should be sorry for being both foolish and arrogant. [Casualty numbers from Reuters/Yahoo, 5 October 00]

6 October 2000

As I said last year, Sharon is definitely not ignorant. Instead, he is very astute. It is now obvious that his trip to the Temple Mount was coldly calculated to bring him into power. He knew that Prime Minister Ehud Barak would be weak and ineffective in dealing with the violence generated by Sharon's actions. By now, over 380 persons have died (not counting those who died several years ago in Lebanon) to make Ariel Sharon the next Prime Minister of Israel. His being "sorry about every casualty" now appears quite empty as an apology. [Reuters/Yahoo, 11 February 01]

11 February 2001


Last week, former Coach Hank Stram of the NLF's Kansas City Chiefs told an audience on ESPN radio how he spent a large sum to obtain Joe Theismann for his team in 1974. Stram said, "Yeah, I was ready to play that Jewish organ. … Hit the cash register." [Associated Press, 29 September 00]

Later, Stram claimed it was only a joke. But anti-Semitism is no joke. And claiming it was a joke is a lame excuse and definitely not an apology. Right after the broadcast, Stram must have recognized that what he said was wrong; he said that he immediately thought, "I hope nobody misconstrues what I said." No, I did not misconstrue his comment; the bigotry was quite clear.

29 September 2000


In front of a live microphone, Texas Governor George W. Bush described a newspaper reporter: "There's Adam Clymer, major league asshole from the New York Times." Bush's sole "apology" has been to state: "I regret that everybody heard what I said." He is not at all sorry he said it or that he offended his target. [Los Angeles Times, 5 September 00]

This is in character for Bush. In 1993, he effectively said that Jews could not get into heaven because they do not believe in Christ. Then, he apologized for offending anyone. No, he was not sorry for saying something very stupid and bigoted. He was also unable to explain how he originally could believe that no one would be offended.

None of this seems very presidential. It is certainly not in alignment with Bush's presidential campaign to return dignity and propriety to the White House.

5 September 2000


apology
An acknowledgment intended as an atonement for some improper or injurious remark or act; an admission to another of a wrong or discourtesy done him, accompanied by an expression of regret.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

Last updated 4 March 2012


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