By Karen J. Kessler
Google “how to apologize,” and you will find close to half a billion sites all looking to give guidance. This makes us wonder: If there are that many ways to properly apologize and that many experts to offer advice, why do so many high-profile people and organizations get it oh so wrong? Some of the most offensive public apologies of 2022 have us shaking our heads.
As a crisis communications firm, our expert team has written and edited more apologies than we can count. And that means we have also seen more fauxpologies, semi-pologies and I-wont-take-it-back-pologies than most. As we end the calendar year, here is our hand-picked list of some public apologies that fell short. Consider these “winners” the …
Top Five Most Offensive Public Apologies of 2022
1. Time Flies Award
Will Smith is the clear winner. His decision to take six months before coming forward and publicly apologizing for “the slap” heard ‘round the world left the Academy and Chris Rock stinging. If Smith somehow thought we would forget, he was wrong there, too.
2. Adding Insult to Injury Award
Kyrie Irving made us sit through a press conference only to not apologize three times. Even Irving’s team of PR pros couldn’t get this guy to play ball.
3. “Who, Me?” Award
Balenciaga’s immediate response to the debacle over ads using children holding teddy bears in bondage harnesses was to suggest they would sue their branding firm. When they had to retract and change direction, it was a real fashion fail. Beauty was not in the eye of this beholder.
4. Isn’t All Publicity Good? Award
When actor Matthew Perry was on his book tour and asked about his comment wondering why Keanu Reeves was still alive, he tried to explain it saying, “I just chose a random name. My mistake. I apologize. I should have used my own name instead.” Matthew, that hardly qualifies as an apology – even if you’re in The Matrix.
5. You Could Do Better Award
When Better.com CEO Vishal Garg decided to fire 900 staffers by Zoom, he apologized by saying, “I embarrassed you.” Not Better, Vishal. Not even good. Hey, why not admit who really was embarrassed?
Bonus – Most Unapologetic Apology
6. Running Back is My New Position Award
Faced with more than 20 sexual misconduct accusations, Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShaun Watson publicly apologized to all the women “who were affected by this situation.” Moments later, he reversed course and insisted had done nothing wrong. “I’ll continue to stand on my innocence, just because you know settlements, and things like that happen doesn’t mean that a person is guilty for anything.”
And those are just the top 6 most offensive public apologies of 2022. There were hundreds of others we couldn’t include. What a year! Can’t wait to see what 2023 brings.
Karen J. Kessler is Founder and CEO of Kessler PR Group, a national public relations firm specializing in strategic and crisis communications. Karen regularly counsels clients on sensitive issues including personnel matters, business practices, and criminal and civil litigation. She represents high profile celebrities and entities in the USA, Europe, and the Middle East, including Fortune 500 companies, athletes and sports teams, clergy and religious institutions, public and private schools, colleges and universities, attorneys and law firms, politicians, and municipal, county, and state governments.