How not to apologize, by Donald Trump

Image: CNN Money

Donald Trump made piggish comments about women to Billy Bush, the cohost of Access Hollywood, in 2005. NBC released the video yesterday. The video makes clear that, at least in 2005, Trump considered bedding women as sort of a video game, one he plays to win with wealth and power. As Republicans began to distance themselves from the comments — and some from Trump — Trump apologized. His apology is a case study in how not to apologize.

Here are some qualities of sincere apologies.

  • You take responsibility for what you did.
  • You are specific.
  • You don’t talk about how you got caught and whether that is fair.
  • You apologize directly to the people you hurt.
  • You find or offer ways to make amends.
  • You don’t justify why what you did is ok.
  • You don’t go off topic to avoid talking about what happened.

Trump’s apology fails on every single element.

What is Trump actually saying?

After the tape came out, Trump’s original response was “Bill Clinton has said worse.” But then he decided to make a more extensive apology. Here’s the text of Trump’s apology, with my translation afterwards.

I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them.

Translation: It was a long time ago. And I’m not going to be specific.

Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.

Translation: I was wrong, but it wasn’t really me.

I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me. I’ve spent time with grieving mothers who’ve lost their children, laid-off workers whose jobs have gone to other countries, and people from all walks of life who just want a better future. I have gotten to know the great people of our country, and I’ve been humbled by the faith they’ve placed in me. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.

Translation: I like to talk about myself and my experiences. I’ve learned that I can’t say these things out loud. And I’m not the pig I used to be. Trust me.

Let’s be honest — we’re living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today. We are losing our jobs, we’re less safe than we were eight years ago, and Washington is totally broken.

Translation: I’m not enjoying this. Can we talk about something else.

Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground.

Translation: I cannot be contrite for a whole minute without attacking somebody else to shift your attention.

I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.

Translation: I’m not that bad. It’s the other side that’s bad. They’re the ones women should worry about. Honest!

We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.

Translation: OK, I’m done with this.

Frankly, it pains me that the campaign has come to this. I’ve analyzed some lame apologies in this space, but this one is the first one that ends with an attack.

It’s pretty simple. Don’t treat women (or Mexicans, or Muslims) as objects to be exploited.  And when you write an apology, don’t include the word “but.” If you do, we know you’re not really sorry at all.

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  1. re: “Donald Trump made piggish comments about women to Billy Bush”
    What do you have against pigs? An apology to pigs might be appropriate.