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Felicity Huffman shows how to apologize properly

The actress Felicity Huffman just pleaded guilty to bribing college authorities to get her daughter into college Oliva Jade into USC. Then she apologized briefly and effectively.

A true apology admits guilt and addresses the harm the apologizer caused to specific people. It isn’t “I’m sorry you were hurt,” it is “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

With that in mind, have a look at Felicity Huffman’s statement after pleading guilty.

I am pleading guilty to the charge brought against me by the United States Attorney’s Office.

I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.

I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.

My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty.

The only thing missing is what Huffman did

When it comes to admitting guilt and identifying who you hurt, Huffman did pretty well. She hurt the other students who didn’t cheat. And she hurt her daughter. She ruined her reputation in the process. There is nothing in this statement that attempts to evade responsibility or justify her actions.

After reading it, though, I had to ask “What exactly did you do?”

According to this article, “She is accused of paying $15,000 — significantly less than most of the other parents charged in the case — in 2017 to have someone proctor her daughter’s SAT exam and correct her answers afterward. . . . Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, who is not charged, allegedly made the $15,000 payment to a charity run by admitted ringleader William ‘Rick’ Singer, according to court filings. Singer allegedly arranged for an accomplice to proctor their daughter’s SAT in December 2017 and correct her answers so she scored 1420 — a 400 point increase over her PSAT score.”

There may be legal reasons that Huffman couldn’t admit cheating on her daughter’s SATs, or perhaps she felt that admitting this would just further injure her daughter’s reputation.

If you have to apologize, though, crib a few phrases here, like “I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,” and “I am ashamed of the pain I have caused,” followed by the actual people you hurt.

That’s hard. But it’s what you ought to do. Anything less isn’t really an apology.

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    1. OK, it’s now my turn to apologize. I did this too quickly and made a mistake. I apologize to Olivia Jade and to Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy’s daughter, Sofia, for getting them confused.

  1. Hmmm. I read and reread this and could not figure out exactly what you thought was missing from Huffman’s apology. I thought her apology was heartfelt and genuine. She helped turn back the perception that’s she’s a complete jerk. What’s missing or I should say who’s missing is hubby William Macy. Did he know what was going on? Why has he not been charged? Why didn’t he accompany his wife to court? Is he at all complicit? Why didn’t his wife mention him in her apology?

    1. She didn’t say what she did. Just that she did something bad. She didn’t admit to the SAT cheating.

      Regarding Macy, I don’t think it’s her job to apologize for him. If he was complicit she shouldn’t apologize TO him, either.

  2. Thank you for bringing to light the opposite of the daily “apologies” of the “I am sorry that offended you” variety. We have Justin Trudeau here in Canada to show us how THAT works =;->