The Don Imus Apology
Imussed Up: Anatomy of a Failed Apology
Of all the recent celebrity mistakes and apologies that might provide some
useful insights into the Don Imus collapse, the closest parallel is the
Michael Richards' (Kramer) casehis repeated use of the 'n' word in a
screaming match with audience members during a very bad comedy routine
produced a similar backlash.
Unlike Imus, who will no doubt bounce back on
satellite radio, Richards' career is not likely to survive despite repeated
efforts to apologize to the African American community through two of its
leadersJessie Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Successful apologies often depend on the recipientsome mistakes deserve
a little more time and effort to correct, and some recipients demand a
little more attention and sympathy.
Don Imus kicked off his apology tour by
appearing on Al Sharpton's radio program (a move considered by many to be a
huge mistake that compounded the problem). Like Richards, the Imus apology
strategy failed to turn the tied, because apologies work best when delivered
to recipients who are prepared to forgive. In both cases, however, some
members of the aggrieved community weren't ready to let things go and used
the mistake to exploit political agendas.
Ironically, the one group directly affected and offended by the Imus insult,
the Rutgers University Women's Basketball team, did accept Imus' apology.
When the perfect apology guidelines are followed personal apologies almost
always succeed, because you're dealing with one person or a small group.
Unfortunately for Imus the fact he was forgiven by the Basketball team
become a secondary issue, it was essentially beside the pointthe
momentum caused by the insult affected far too many other people on a
personal level. This was an almost impossible mistake to correct completely.
The statement by NBC's Hal Rocker calling for standards to be maintained at
MSNBC, Gwen Ifill's (a highly respected African American anchor at PBS) New
York Times article commenting on previous racial slurs by Imus directed at
her, and the press conference by the Rutgers Basketball team sealed his
fate. There was no coming back.
Fortunately, most errors for which our readers will have to apologize will
never come close to Don Imus' reprehensible insult.
Return from The Don Imus Apology to Famous Apologies.