Taking responsibility, owning up to one's shortcomings, and expressing remorse — no matter how you look at it, apologizing is never easy. Nonetheless, an "I'm sorry" has to be handled with some finesse, or it can come off badly — very badly — and these absolute worst apologies of all time are proof of that. Part of the reason these apologies that went wrong are so, well, wrong, is that instead of offering a simple, contrite statement of regret and ownership, the remorseful parties have tried to explain away their awful behavior. And awfulness tends to defy logic, so in trying to apply logic to awfulness, the contrite have instead been left flailing by their own inability to a say a simple "I'm sorry" and to then shut up.
From sexual harassment to suicide and from human rights abuses to criminal infractions, the worst apologies ever involve some of the biggest scandals of modern time. And, unfortunately, the memory of these scandals and their lingering effects continue. When no one takes adequate responsibility, wounds remain open, and recrimination and backlash fester. Read on for some terrible celebrity apologies that don't cut it, no matter what way you slice it.
Few apologies have blown up social media like YouTube star Logan Paul's attempts to salvage his career and dignity after posting an appallingly tone-deaf video after an equally tone-deaf and completely harmful one. In early 2018, Paul documented his trip into a Japanese "suicide forest", an outdoor space known for being a hotspot for suicides. When he came upon a body dangling from a tree, he and his cohorts made jokes about the situation. The backlash was swift, and fierce. And Paul's initial apology didn't help matters in the least:
"I didn't do it for views. I get views. I did it because I thought I could make a positive ripple on the internet, not cause a monsoon of negativity. That's never the intention. I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention and while I thought 'if this video saves just ONE life, it'll be worth it,' I was misguided by shock and awe, as portrayed in the video. I still am."
So, you didn't do this for views? You did this "to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention"? If that's the case, then the world is waiting to hear how much money you made off that video and the subsequent apology so that you can can donate it to a suicide prevention organization.
Kevin Spacey's apology for allegations that he sexually molested actor Anthony Rapp when Rapp was a teenager could very well be considered The Worst Apology of All Time. Not only was it insulting to Rapp, but it was insulting to LGBTQ people the world over, the struggles they've faced, and the progress society has (slowly) made.
"I owe [Rapp] the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,"
Spacey's statement read.
This displays a galling lack of insight or ownership; molestation is not just "inappropriate drunken behavior" — it goes far beyond that. But Spacey wasn't done screwing up his "I'm-sorry." He continued: "I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man."
Lumping your coming-out into a sexual assault apology is the height of deflection, and it's also dangerous. Enemies of the LGBTQ community have long tried to paint them all as child molesters, and Spacey fed directly into that damaging narrative. Way to fail spectacularly at Apologizing 101, Spacey.
When it comes to human rights abuses, one of the most egregious in American history was the treatment of Native Americans during the early years of the United States. Recognizing that genocide wasn't exactly good PR, the government "apologized" to the native community by giving them pox-infested blankets and tiny slivers of land known as reservations.
In 2010, a more official apology was included in an unlikely source: tucked into a massive spending bill that few people ever even saw. And while that apology sounded nice, it included this: nothing in the apology "authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States." So…it was an apology without an acknowledgement of wrongdoing? That's not an apology at all. America, do better
As the gates opened and more and more sexual assault and harassment victims felt safe to come forward, many men with questionable past behavior were thrust into the spotlight in ways they've never been. One of the first to be accused was the Croc-wearing, man-bunned celebrity chef Mario Batali. This wasn't Batali's first time at the "gross & unethical" rodeo; he's been accused of icky things in the past, like stealing tips from his own employees. But the sexual harassment allegations were among the most serious claims he'd had to address.
Unfortunately, he didn't really address them in any meaningful way. Batali sent out a newsletter to his subscribers, offering a half-assed apology along with a — wait for it — recipe for cinnamon rolls. Delicious cinnamon rolls can probably right a lot of wrongs, but sexual harassment definitely isn't one of them. One enraged baker/writer decided to take it on herself to make the cinnamon rolls just to see if she could make them count for something, but in the end she concluded that sweet sugar and cinnamon can't erase the taste of abuse. Batali owed his purported victims — and the world — a real, thoughtful apology.