Public Apologies

Public apologies are a consequence of being in the public eye and making mistakes is a part of being human. So when that mistake is broadcast across the media, so must be the apology. The last decade is a testament to being human and apologizing. Just ask the Pope, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Mark Foley, Michael Richards, Miss America... and the list goes on and on.

sky and microphone

There have been so many masterfully crafted public apologies by various personalities that before we even finished discussing Tom Cruise's apology to Brooke Shields over her use of anti-depressants to control post-partum depression, Mark Foley comes along with an 'apology' delivered by his lawyers for his sexual antics over email.

The statement claimed that he was gay, abused by a clergyman as a teenager, and had problems with alcohol—it remains a mystery to most intelligent observers how any of this is even remotely relevant to engaging under age congressional pages in sexually explicit computer messages.

Some major mistakes, such as Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks to California police officers, are apparently not that difficult to correct—his movie Apocalypto (released after the incident in 2006) did very well despite the public backlash against his remarks. But karma has a way of getting back at you and since then, Gibson's been divorced twice and dropped by his talent agency as patterns of racism, sexism and anti-semetism emerged over the following years.

By 2015 Gibson was said to be delighted to be potentially nominated for the spoof Golden Raspberry Awards—an award that most dread winning. But then again, he just may be delighted that people are talking about him at all.

Some public mistakes can be extremely difficult to correct—such as Pope Benedict XVI's obscure quotation from a 14th-Century Christian emperor in a speech at a German university in September, 2006.

Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The Pope was accused of insulting followers of the Islamic faith and, more importantly, the Prophet Mohammed himself for violent elements within Islam. He resigned in 2013 and given the wisdom of his successor Pope Francis, we can't envision the current Pope having to apologize any time soon.

Keep in mind that almost all celebrities and public figures have spin doctors and well-paid publicists backed by huge public relations firms. That's why their public apologies are so fascinating to witness. If these people and their experts miss the mark sometimes then what hope is there for us?

Even the largest public relations firms will mess up occasionally and overlook the straightforward strategies outlined in this web site.

Not all of the public apologies we've witnessed have been ineffective, some did seem sincere and genuinely heartfelt, David Letterman's two apologies come to mind. But most illustrated the fine art of avoiding an apology and failed to include many of the critical ingredients of a successful apology.

One the most notable 'non-apology' apologies dates back to 2006 and goes to Rush Limbaugh and his efforts to backtrack after confronting Michael J. Fox for "exaggerating the effects of Parkinson's disease."

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.

In other words, IF I am wrong I will apologize. Of course, there is really no obvious and easy way to confirm or refute the thesis, so the issue died. Rush Limbaugh lost very few supporters as a result of this mistake, and even less sleep. But even for you...really, Rush?

As far as we're concerned, we couldn't ask for better times as far as public apologies go. We're able to learn so much from how these public figures handle their situations and are constantly reminded that to err is human AND frequent.

What's so fascinating, is that many of these public apologies whether mistakenly or purposely, aren't crafted or delivered very well.