I don’t know about you but I can barely keep up with the public statements made by men who can’t seem to keep it in their pants. As a public service, I’ve gathered four statements from four men, all issued after their indiscretions were made known to the world and they were forced to acknowledge them. I guess I could have gathered a few more – God knows the list of indiscreet men is lengthy and tiresome - but reading the sentiments of these four slimy liars just about made me sick. I don’t think I could have taken even one more.
But after reading them, it became obvious that a number of common themes run through them. Perhaps they all hired the same PR firm, one that specializes in repairing the damage to high-profile individuals once their cheating is discovered. Sure, each statement has its own flavor and personality, but they are more alike than different. I’ve deconstructed the comments and noted several themes that appear in each “apology.”
Let’s go back more than a year and hear from Elliott Spitzer, former Governor of New York, once his sexual escapades were discovered:
Themes: Gratitude for the love of his wife, love of his family, regrets about letting so many people down, including every resident of his state, abusing their trust, atoning for this in private, appreciating the support, yadda, yadda, yadda:
“In the past few days I have begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children, and my entire family. The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me. From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much: the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.”
Themes: I’m not a total scumbag and my track record proves it; plus, the people I worked with here are pretty cool:
“I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been, but I also know that as a public servant I, and the remarkable people with whom I worked, have accomplished a great deal. There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work. Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor. At Lt. Gov. Paterson’s request, the resignation will be effective Monday, March 17, a date that he believes will permit an orderly transition.”
Themes: I can do better; really I can, plus a reference to a hackneyed aphorism about falling down and getting up again. More healing, more hoping for better days, good luck and thanks for the memories.
“I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings, our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family. Then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children. I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend, David Paterson, as he embarks on his new mission, and I thank the public once again for the privilege of service.”
Thanks, Elliott. And what’s this I read about you mulling a new candidacy? I’m glad you’re trying to serve the common good outside of politics.
From one politician to the next, we hear from South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who told quite a whopper to try to distract us from the truth of his situation. The Appalachian Trail is a far walk from Argentina. But once he began confessing, he couldn’t seem to stop:
Themes: letting down wife and family, repairing this will take a while, and isn’t my wife wonderful for sticking by me and raising our family while I pursued my dream. Note: first time we’ve come across the word “profound” in an apology. We’ll see it again later.
“… let me first of all apologize to my wife Jenny and our four great boys, Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake, for letting them down. One of the primary roles, well before being a governor, is being a father to those four boys, who are absolute jewels and blessings, that I've let down in a profound way. And I apologize to them.”
“ And I don't like apologizing in this realm, but given the immediacy of y'all's wanting to visit and my proximity to them, this is the first step in what will be a very long process on that front.”
“I would secondly say to Jenny, anybody who has observed her over the last 20 years of my life knows how closely she has stood by my side in campaign after campaign after campaign, in literally being my campaign manager and in the raising of those four boys and in a whole host of other things throughout the lives that we've built together.”
Theme: My staff has been great; I’m really sorry about lying to them, too. And to everyone in South Carolina, too. I like his use of the phrase “creating a fiction.” I think that means “a lie.”
“I would also apologize to my staff, because as much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail, that was one of the original scenarios that I'd thrown out to Mary Neil (sp), that isn't what -- where I ended up. And so I let them down by creating a fiction with regard to where I was going, which means that I had then, in turn, given as much as they relied on that information, let down people that I represent across this state.”
“And so I want to apologize to my staff and I want to apologize to anybody who lives in South Carolina for the way that I let them down on that front.”
Theme: another “profound” apology, this time to a good friend: Tom Davis. But not only to him, to all the Tom Davises of the world, whoever they are.
“I want to apologize to good friends. Tom Davis came over to the house. He drove up from Beaufort. And he has been an incredibly dear friend for a very long time. In my first race for governor, he moved up and he lived in the basement of our house for six months….”
“And he gave of his time and his talent and his effort for ideas that he believed in, to try and make a difference in those ideas. And so I, in a very profound way, have let down the Tom Davises of the world.”
Theme: more apologies, this time to the in-laws, who must hate his guts at this point, and how he “let them down.” And something inexplicable about a conversation he and his father-in-law had about where his heart was. (?)
“On the ride over here, I called the house, and in the background I could hear my parents-in-laws, who'd come up to be with Jenny, and I've let them down. I had the most, you know, surreal of conversations a number of weeks ago with my father-in-law, laying some of the cards on the table.”
“And he was incredibly gentlemanly, as you cannot imagine, in saying here were some things that I was struggling with -- in regard to where my heart was, where I was in life, those different kinds of things. And I let him down. I've let down a lot of people. That's the bottom line. And I let them down -- and in every instance, I would ask their forgiveness.”
Theme: Time. This will take some time. Other than that, I can’t quite make out what he’s trying to say here. How God’s laws will protect him from himself; that the biggest self of self is, indeed, self. What?
“Forgiveness is not an immediate process; it is, in fact, a process that takes time. And I'll be in that process for quite some weeks and months and, I suspect, years ahead.”
“But I'm here because if you were to look at God's laws, they're in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. I think that that is the bottom line of God's law, that it's not a moral, rigid list of do's and don'ts just for the heck of do's and don'ts. It is indeed to protect us from ourselves. And the biggest self of self is, indeed, self; that sin is, in fact, grounded in this notion of what is it that I want as opposed to somebody else?”
Theme: one more time, apologies to the people of South Carolina; well, actually just to people of faith in South Carolina.
“ And in this regard, let me throw one more apology out there, and that is to people of faith across South Carolina, or for that matter, across the nation, because I think that one of the big disappointments when -- believe it or not, I've been a person of faith all my life.”
Theme: but hey, you should know more about the woman who stole my heart and why. And how he hurt her, too. Ummmm, Mark? Shut up. No one cares if you hurt her. This theme is not found in any of the other apologies, thank God. This guy is nuts.
“And so the bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a -- what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one's life there and advice here.”
“But here recently over this last year, it developed into something much more than that. And as a consequence, I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. I hurt friends like Tom Davis. I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize.”
Theme: Privacy. Finally we come to it: his request that the media please leave his family alone. We need our privacy to heal and work through this. We love the cameras until we don’t.
“I -- I -- I would ask for y'all's -- I guess I'm not deserving of indulgence, but indulgence not for me, but for Jenny and the boys. You know, there are a team of cameras and crews and all those sorts of things camped out down at Sullivan's Island.”
“And I would just ask for a zone of privacy, if not for me, for her and the boys. As we go through this process of working through this, there are going to be some hard decisions to be made, to be dealt with, and those are probably not best dealt with through the prism of television cameras and media headlines.”
In a much more succinct fashion, we move onto David Letterman. He took a bit of different approach, and addressed his “work family” before he mentioned how horribly he behaved toward his wife. Interesting choice.
Themes: I’m not a total scumbag, just a dummy numbskull who can’t think beyond the moment, and the people I work with here are pretty cool:
“I’m terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position. Inadvertently, I just wasn’t thinking ahead. And, moreover, the staff here has been wonderfully supportive to me, not just through this furor, but through all the years that we’ve been on television and especially all the years here at CBS, so, again, my thanks to the staff for, once again, putting up with something stupid I’ve gotten myself involved in.”
Themes: acknowledging that his wife has been hurt; atoning for it, yadda, yadda, yadda. Note there is no mention of love or support; nor expressions of compassion and trust. No, it feels like this whole episode is much more pragmatic for Dave: we’ll fix it or we won’t.
“Now the other thing is my wife, Regina. She has been horribly hurt by my behavior, and when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it. And at that point, there’s only two things that can happen: either you’re going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you’re going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed, so let me tell you folks, I got my work cut out for me.”
Which brings us to Tiger Woods, clearly the biggest narcissist of the bunch. This guy is unbelievable. Lied to cover everything up, and now that he’s been found out, he kind of has an attitude about it.
Themes in this paragraph: Like Mark Sanford, Woods “let his family down,” kind of like he might if he couldn’t come up with enough tickets for the Masters, his enormous regret, a self-deprecating “I’m not perfect” line, followed by a big ‘get lost’ to the press that helped build his career.
“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.”
Theme in this paragraph: More on how much he despises the press for what they are doing to him in his hour of shame. Plus a nod to his wife for her “grace.” Damn straight.
"Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect."
Theme: Hate the coverage. Hate it. I’m not going to share one more thing about this. And how what’s at stake is not fidelity and honor and taking marital vows seriously; what’s at stake is his privacy. Oh, and he “let them down” again.
"But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions."
Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it's difficult."
Theme: I can do better; sorry to everyone; and another “profound” apology.
"I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology."
Notice that not one of them mentioned learning a lesson in hubris and entitlement and over-playing power. No one promised to never do it again, not that their promises are worth much.
These men all have power, influence, and millions of dollars. Some of them have millions of fans, too. And what do they need to be happy? An adoring woman (or two) on the side who will remind him over and over again how amazing he is, how alluring, how sexy and intoxicating, all without the realities of everyday life intruding on their bliss.
I wish I had millions, too. I’d make it my job to show up wherever these guys were on a regular basis, and hold up signs that read ‘lying scumbag cheater’ right in front of them.
Okay, that’s not realistic. Maybe we should just make it a rule that for the year following a transgression, each one of them gets his name prefaced with “Lying, scumbag cheater” every time anyone writes it in an article or announces it on TV. I’d enjoy that.
“And now, approaching the 18th, sitting at three under par, lying, scumbag cheater Tiger Woods has this championship all but wrapped up.”
“Tonight, lying, scumbag cheater Dave’s guests include …”
“Joining us on the panel, lying, scumbag cheater Governor Mark Sanford…”
“According to lying, scumbag cheater former Governor Elliott Spitzer…”
Hey, it’s just for a year. If they’re all so darn sorry, seeing this in writing or hearing it on the air would be far less painful than anything their families have already endured. It’s the least they can do.