A well-orchestrated apology can go a long way toward winning forgiveness, but a poorly executed one will make a bad situation worse. Such was the case this month when Donald Sterling tried to apologize for the racist remarks he was heard expressing on a leaked recording of a conversation he had with his ex-girlfriend, V. Stiviano.
Critics said the LA Clippers owner — who tried to distance himself from the comments with the apology, but used racial terms in an attack on Magic Johnson that further offended some African-Americans — shouldn’t have gone on television to attempt reconciliation with the public. If Sterling thought his interview would assure the world he wasn’t a racist, he was sadly mistaken.
CBS News contributor Frank Luntz, a communications strategist, said Sterling’s attempt at an apology was the worst he had ever seen.
But Sterling isn’t the only person whose high-profile racial offense was capped off by a failed apology. Here are seven other apologies that appeared insincere because they were poorly executed.
In 2013 celebrity chef Paula Deen, facing a racial discrimination lawsuit, admitted in a court deposition that she used the N-word and held other racially offensive views. Deen quickly found herself losing TV shows and endorsements, and scrambled to orchestrate a failed damage control campaign.
First she stood up television journalist Matt Lauer for a scheduled “Today” show appearance, then to combat the fallout from that decision, she released three ill-conceived videos on Youtube.com to serve as her apology.
Vice chairman of Reputation.com, Robert Bragman wrote in a Linkedin article that the first video was “odd, overly edited, poorly written and [reeked] of inauthenticity.” The video was pulled, but the two that replaced it and the subsequent interview Deen had with Laura only made matters worst.
The food mogul eventually got the discrimination case thrown out of court, a legal victory, but she lost big-time in the court of public opinion.