The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

May 17, 2014

Sorry I'm not sorry: Classic non-apologies

NEW YORK (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling only dug himself in deeper after slamming Magic Johnson when he was supposed to be atoning for his own racist remarks. But he’s not the first celebrity to learn the perils of making a non-apology apology.

Sterling is facing fresh rebukes for repeatedly bringing up the former NBA star’s HIV status and calling him an unfit role model during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Communications experts say this was among the worst apologies ever.

“People should be watching this for a long time and understand what not to do in a television interview,” says Steve Adubato, who teaches crisis communications at New York University.

Sterling made the classic mistake of dragging other people into a conversation that should have only been about him. An apology should be straightforward and sincere, not about what others may have done.

“The apology has to be absolutely genuine,” says Amiso George, who teaches strategic communication at Texas Christian University Texas.

Here’s a look at other public figures who failed to simply say “I’m sorry” and why it didn’t work.

LANCE ARMSTRONG: Disgraced Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong admitted last year to Oprah Winfrey that he led a doping scheme but peppered his apology with excuses rather than contrition.

“I went and looked up the definition of cheat,” he said. “And the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”

PAULA DEEN: In a clumsily edited video on YouTube last year, Paula Deen tried to apologize after court documents revealed she had admitted using racial slurs. But her apology was defensive, and it looked like a hostage video.

That video was quickly scrapped and replaced with a second video and more defensiveness. “I want people to understand that my family and I are not the kind of people that the press is wanting to say we are,” the celebrity chef said.

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