Another Bungled Apology

December 1, 2014
Posted by Jay Livingston

Ever since Karen Cerulo’s talk at our AKD honors society event last spring, I’ve become more aware of apologies. The take-away from her research (with Janet Ruane) seems to be this: Don’t explain, don’t elaborate, and for God’s sake, don’t try to justify or get people to understand. Say that you made a mistake, you did something wrong, you’re sorry, and shut up.

It seems obvious, but today brings us Elizabeth Lauten’s fifteen minutes of unfortunate fame.

Lauten a staffer for a Republican congressman, posted something on Facebook criticizing the demeanor of the Obama daughters at the White House turkey pardoning. Soon, that post was tweeted and retweeted around social media sites, and within a few hours, Lauten posted an apology. It didn’t help. Today she resigned.

Here is Lauten’s Facebook post.

Telling the First Daughters to show a little class and then telling them that their parents don’t respect their positions or the US – you can see how this might not play well with the general public.  So Lauten apologized:

After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart.

This is wrong in so many ways. First, it’s not believable. Did it really take “hours of prayer” and the rest for her to figure out that what she had written was really nasty? Do we believe that she did not see that when she wrote the post?

Second, she’s saying that she didn’t mean those judgments that she put in the post. Her heart wasn’t in it. But if not, then why post it?

Third, she tries to call attention to her own virtue: Look at me – I pray, I turn to my parents (who by implication are better role models and more respectful of the US than are your parents, Sasha and Malia).

Fourth, the prayer-and-parents line wasn’t directed at the Obama girls at all. It was intended for the “family values” audience that Lauten sees as the constituency for her boss (Stephen Fincher, R-TN) and herself.  But that’s the problem in the first place. My guess is that Lauten has been living in a reddest-state world where everyone takes for granted that Obama is the anti-American tyrant, the destroyer of the Constitution, and probably Muslim, foreign-born, and gay.  So no slur is too outrageous.

Outside of that hard core, using the children as a vehicle for vilifying the parents seems too much like a divorced parent saying nasty things to the kids about her ex. Even within the hard-core right, and even when the target is Obama, there might not be much support for trying to poison a daughter’s relation with her father.

No comments: