From Don Imus to Helen Thomas, public figures continue to cave to society’s often-irrational demands for contrition and remorse. Instead, they should stand by their words.
Are you in the public eye? Have you just told the Jews in Israel to go back to Germany? Or perhaps you have recounted an off-color joke or were caught using an ethnic slur.
Chances are your next step will be to offer a “heartfelt” apology, maintain your comments do not reflect your “true beliefs,” and that you will work toward “greater understanding” with whichever group it is that you have just offended.
Maybe there will even be a tearful press conference followed by a stint in rehab if the comments or actions were particularly egregious.
And that, frankly, is a shame.
It is sad that society has reached the point where we castigate those in the public eye for their opinions or lifestyle, and worse, expect them to apologize for their beliefs or how they choose to live their lives. Most galling, however, is how public figures continue to cave to society’s often-irrational demands for contrition and remorse.
The following is a more satisfying way in which public figures should confront controversy the next time they are caught saying or doing something stupid:
1. Don’t say “I’m sorry” – unless it is immediately followed by “that I got caught.” Whether you are a politician found taking bribes or cheating on his wife, or an athlete caught with a suitcase full of performance-enhancing drugs, you knew your actions were wrong, but at some point, made the decision that it did not matter. Your actions stemmed from self-entitlement and selfishness, without regard for those who would be hurt. So, rather than say you are “ashamed” of cheating on your wife of 31 years, perhaps it would be better to say “I’m sorry for the effect this will have on my next election campaign.”