Did Kevin Spacey just post the worst apology ever?

Photos: AFP/Getty Images via Boston Globe

Anthony Rapp, the actor now appearing on “Star Trek: Discovery,” says Kevin Spacey sexually assaulted him when he was 14. Kevin Spacey apologized by saying he was gay. This is wrong on so many levels.

Rapp was a child actor appearing on Broadway in 1986. As he told BuzzFeed News, he remembers going to Spacey’s apartment for a party when he was 14, and how Spacey “climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance” after everyone else had left. Since then, as Spacey has become an acclaimed actor, Rapp has watched his rise with anger and frustration.

Molesting a 14-year-old is a serious charge. Spacey responded with this apology on Twitter:

I have a lot of respect and admiration for Anthony Rapp as an actor.  I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember  the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.

This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my privacy. As  those closest to me know, in my life I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior.

– Kevin Spacey

Compared to my other critiques of apologies — from Equifax to Harvey Weinstein — this would seem to be a model of correctness. Spacey apologizes directly to the person he harmed, his apology seems sincere, and he does not justify his own actions. So what’s the problem?

Why this apology is so terrible

Here’s what’s wrong with this apology:

  • It admits nothing. Spacey says he doesn’t remember — he says “If I did behave then as he describes.” This is neither a denial nor an apology.
  • It trivializes the problem. If you’re getting drunk and assaulting 14-year-olds — and don’t even remember — you’re a serious menace. But Spacey basically says “I must have been really drunk.” The implication is that he may have gotten drunk and done this other times, which would have been reprehensible. But hey, he doesn’t remember so it couldn’t have been that bad.
  • It conflates being gay with being a child molester. As recently as 1999, 19% of straight men in the U.S. believed that gay people are more likely to be child molesters, even though there is no evidence to support this belief. Spacey’s desire for privacy may be connected to his sexual orientation, but that has nothing to do with his “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior” in 1986. As The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr points out, most of the headlines about Spacey focus on his “coming out” rather than what he did to Anthony Rapp.

Put simply, “I was drunk and I’m gay” is about the worst possible way to sort-of admit you messed up someone’s psyche by assaulting them — maybe — when they were 14 years old. The gender and sexual orientation of the people involved are irrelevant, as is the acting skill of the person accused.

Kevin Spacey’s apology admits nothing, trivializes the offense, reinforce prejudices against gay men, and turns the spotlight back on himself. Denying, trivializing, inflaming prejudice, and hogging the spotlight comes right from the Donald Trump playbook. Apparently, after playing a weaselly president on “House of Cards,” Kevin Spacey thinks it will work for him, too.

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    1. My comment was deleted… O Great BS

      Now Seems that is Political when we call it Hollywood pedophiles by their names.

      Unfortunately, no my 1st choice for the language but also my English is not so good to place comments here.

      Call it all as it is and my comments are deleted. I thought that this was a great place to make the point, but the BS is only for “The Few”.

      1. As I described in my email to you, since this blog is dedicated to clear communication, I delete posts made up of random sentence fragments and off-topic arguments.

        I’m happy to have people disagree with me in the comments, but nobody benefits from incoherent babbling.

        1. Off topic, but …

          Understand! ..My English is not good for you or for the well spoken.
          As I said before, I thought wrong about your post.
          I thought this was a place to stop the Bullshitters and express opinions no matter what thick the skin is without a lesson about how clear or grammatically correct the sentences are.
          Sorry, I thought wrong about your post.
          It is the same BS like everywhere else.

  1. Thanks for the analysis. This concept that gay men are child molesters just will not die despite the statistics to the contrary. For him to fuel the fire makes it more difficult for all gay men. I can accept people, especially those in the spotlight, wanting to remain private about their lives. But using this as his “coming out” is deplorable.

    I also agree that there was something odd about a 14 year old remaining after everyone else left.

    1. Dave and Carro: I can only offer this from the BuzzFeed article:

      He went, gladly, and alone. Rapp said he honestly cannot recall what he told his mother — who died from cancer in 1997 — about the party, but he stressed that the idea of him attending a party held by an adult Broadway actor did not seem like a cause for concern. “I imagine that I might be opening my poor late mother up to some criticisms for how she parented, but, you know, it was a different era,” he said. “I went to work by myself. I would walk to the subway, and go to the theater by myself.”

      When he arrived at Spacey’s apartment, Rapp quickly realized that he was the only nonadult there — which, again, did not worry him, since he so often had found himself in similar situations as a child actor. The bigger issue: “I didn’t know anyone,” he said. “And I was quickly kind of bored.”

      1. As a 14yo in Hollywood or Broadway, where WERE his parental control units? It is not out of the realm of possibility that they encouraged or at the very least allowed his attendance as a means of advancing a promising career. I hate this cynical bent but this is the world we are living with. But Josh is correct, this is the worst possible defense and as a gay man who has for YEARS watched and waited for Spacey to “come” clean, THIS is not the way to do it. He smears the rest of us on his way to the gutter.

    2. I agree. Why did a 14 year old boy stay behind?
      Gay men are gay men. Pedophiles are pedophiles. They are not the same thing. Not all gay men are pedophiles nor are all pedophiles gay (men).

  2. Nine times out of ten I agree with your assessments but this is one time I don’t. I have immense admiration for Kevin Spacey as an actor, mentor and coach but that’s not the point. He’s clearly not a serial offender like Harvey Weinstein and, in my view, his apology shows sufficient contrition for an alleged incident that happened more than thirty years ago. Mr Rapp has been hanging around Hollywood long enough to know that alcohol and drugs on an industrial scale are available at parties. He would also know that many of his fellow actors are gay. At 14 years old, ask yourself what Mr Rapp thought he was doing in a hotel room with a man he presumably didn’t know well and who was apparently drunk. Why wasn’t he at home watching the Disney Channel? Scumbags like Weinstein are one thing and he deserves everything he gets, but to vilify a respected and talented star for an inappropriate pass he may have made thirty years ago strikes me as hypocrisy on a grand scale. I’ve read Kevin Spacey’s media release several times and, unless I’m blinded by my admiration, I cannot see where he blames his sexual orientation for his misstep. Early media reports of the incident describe him attempting to lie down on top of Mr Rapp. Not his finest hour but not worthy of all the luvvies in Hollywood and beyond gnashing their teeth and tearing out their hair.

    1. It doesn’t say “I assaulted Rapp because I’m gay.” But it does say “If I assaulted him, it was because I was drunk, and by the way I’m gay.” Which is too close for my sensibilities.

      Also, once you start with the “14-year-olds should know better” where do you stop? Which victims are appropriate to blame?

      I think Spacey’s an incredible actor, too. That’s why this is such a shame.

    2. Chris Marrington – this is classic victim blaming. Really? “At 14 years old, ask yourself what Mr Rapp thought he was doing in a hotel room ….” He was 14 years old! And, if Spacey had actually owned it and said “I screwed up badly. I clearly had an alcohol problem and used my position as an adult to abuse a child”, maybe he’d still be worthy of a tiny bit of respect. But he didn’t, so he’s not.

  3. I didn’t blame the victim. I asked how and why he ended up at an adults only party. Even he admits he can’t remember discussing the alleged encounter with his parents and he offers no cogent reason why he was there at all, never mind unsupervised. Kevin Spacey’s apology may fall short of what you expect but, if he genuinely doesn’t recall the incident perhaps your expectations are unrealistic. Also consider that his lawyers have strongly counselled him not to admit liability which would, of course, open him up to all kinds of vexatious litigation. While genuine predators belong in jail, the current climate of wannabe victims complaining because someone touched their ass at an office party thirty years ago is absurd.

    1. I’m sorry but ..lol. This #me too thing has gotten way out of hand. Some of these women did the flirting and touching too. No one held a gun to their heads when they exchanged sex for a climb up the entertainment success ladder. Everyone needs to open up to what they’ve done and stop blaming others.

  4. The only clear thing about this situation is that Mr. Rapp needs help. This episode has clearly caused distress for over thirty years and continues to distress him to this day. Therapy might help him cope before it impacts the rest of his life. I hope he gets the help he needs.

    I am not sure what we do with the actual situation given the time since it allegedly happened and the horrific allegations. Everyone at the party needs a mirror.