Has Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz apologized for the emails (released by Wikileaks) that have embarrassed the Clinton campaign and the DNC? I don’t think so, and alas, I have no humungous team of interns to make sure. (Though if I did, it would be more diverse than Paul Ryan’s giant team of interns.)
All we’ve gotten so far, I believe, is this apology from DNC Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall:
I deeply regret that my insensitive, emotional emails would cause embarrassment to the DNC, the Chairwoman, and all of the staffers who worked hard to make the primary a fair and open process. The comments expressed do not reflect my beliefs nor do they reflect the beliefs of the DNC and its employees. I apologize to those I offended.
What Brad is presumably apologizing for — a guess, since he doesn’t specifically say what he did, which AS WE ALL KNOW BY NOW is a cardinal rule of good apologies: NAME THE SIN, BRAD — is a specific leaked email. This one:
So Brad could have — and certainly should have — apologized for suggesting using Bernie Sanders’s atheism as a political weapon. He could have apologized for using the word “peeps.” He could have apologized for the word “emotionally,” which implies that he was not in control when he wrote the email (which incidentally does not sound very emotional to me). He could have apologized for initially lying to The Intercept, which first published the email, emailing to say, “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.” (Come on, Brad; don’t lie. And if you do lie, don’t like so badly. Oh ya sure, Brad, your Southern Baptist peeps care deeply about the theological stance of a candidate’s surrogate. RIIIIIIIIGHT, you weren’t talking about Sanders himself. At all. Nope nope nope. WUT.
Furthermore: We JUST addressed (AGAIN) the common apology-excuse problem of noting, “what I said is not who I am,” or “what I did does not reflect what I believe.” This bit of idiocy is so common it’s on our bingo card, for heaven’s [SIC] sake! (Apologies to our atheist friends!)
You said it. You did it. It absolutely is a reflection of what you believe. This may be uncomfortable to face, which is why we distance ourselves from our own words and say they’re not a reflection of who we are. Part of authentically struggling with apologies, redemption and regret is understanding that yeah, this is precisely who we are, and accepting this truth does not feel good.
If what you mean was “I personally believe it does not matter if Bernie Sanders is an atheist,” say that. At least it’s marginally believable. (I don’t believe it’s true that you believe this, but it’s marginally believable?) What you seem to be saying instead is “I don’t believe that Southern Baptists won’t care that Bernie Sanders is an atheist,” which is simply dumbass, and would mean you’d not only be lying but also be really shitty at your job. Why would you say that in an email if it does NOT reflect your beliefs? Now you’re wasting DNC money, if your email suggestion is NOT ONLY dirty political pool BUT ALSO dirty political pool you don’t think WILL EVEN WORK! Gaaahhh.
Finally, as ever: Don’t apologize to those you offended. Apologize to everyone. It doesn’t matter whether or not we’re distressed; we should be distressed. You acted scummily. And therefore you should apologize to all and sundry.
To sum up, you see why we say people need to be very specific in their apology language? Lest we be confused about whether they’re, say, apologizing for saying Sanders is an atheist, or for saying a Sanders surrogate (???) is an atheist, or for saying that Southern Baptists make distinctions between Jews and atheists and hate the latter more? Precision is a virtue! Regardless, Brad, your apology fails on multiple levels, so mazel tov from this Jewish agnostic.
Apology Cliffs Notes™: Be specific. State what you did wrong. Show that you know why you screwed up. Indicate that you understand precisely how your actions had a negative impact on others. Name what that impact was. Apologize to the person you wronged as well as to the public. Tell us how you intend to make things right. Make amends. Explain what safeguards will be put in place to insure that this doesn’t happen again.
ADDENDUM, 7/26/16: The DNC as an entity apologized after Brad did — and did it better. “On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email,” the official statement — from the desk of Donna Brazile, interim DNC chair — said. “These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not — and will not — tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates. Individual staffers have also rightfully apologized for their comments, and the DNC is taking appropriate action to ensure it never happens again.” This apology is better because, first of all, it opens with an apology to Sanders and his supporters, and it’s unequivocal; the word “inexcusable” is also good. However, the DNC did tolerate disrespectful language, until Wikileaks pointed it out to the public, so saying the DNC doesn’t tolerate such language is disingenuous. Saying you have a steadfast commitment to neutrality after emails indicate a lack of neutrality is…problematic. And saying that steps are being taken to ensure that nefarious email convos don’t happen again is great, but you have to tell us all what those steps are.
As for Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s personal apology as the leader of this august institution: Well, we’re still waiting.
PS. SHOUT OUT TO THE READER WHO WAS SURE WE WOULDN’T TACKLE THIS APOLOGY. HOW YOU LIKE US NOW? (For real: In parsing apologies, SorryWatch is politically neutral. We live for good apologies from across the spectrum.)