Tag Archives: apologies

Hero of the Week Award: June 8, Jason Alexander

8 Jun

Hero of the Week

Actor and comedian Jason Alexander made a spectacular transition from Bigot of the Week nominee to HWA winner. The former Seinfeld star appeared on Craig Ferguson’s The Late Late Show on CBS last week. During a conversation about British and American sports, Alexander made a number of disparaging comments about the sport of cricket. The bulk of his jokes had to do with cricket being “gay” and “queer” with an emphasis on things he found effeminate.

After many in the gay community took offense at his comments, Alexander resisted making a knee-jerk response, instead taking the time to consider what he had said and why he said it.

…a few of my Twitter followers made me aware that they were both gay and offended by the joke. And truthfully, I could not understand why. I do know that humor always points to the peccadillos or absurdities or glaring generalities of some kind of group or another – short, fat, bald, blonde, ethnic, smart, dumb, rich, poor, etc. It is hard to tell any kind of joke that couldn’t be seen as offensive to someone. But I truly did not understand why a gay person would be particularly offended by this routine. However, troubled by the reaction of some, I asked a few of my gay friends about it…As we explored it, we began to realize what was implied under the humor.

Based on this reflection, Alexander offered a sincere, complex, and thoughtful apology via Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAAD). The entire apology is worth reading, but two parts are especially powerful.

It is not that we can’t laugh at and with each other. It is not a question of oversensitivity. The problem is that today, as I write this, young men and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man enough” or “normal” are being subjected to all kinds of abuse from verbal to physical to societal. They are being demeaned and threatened because they don’t fit the group’s idea of what a “real man” or a “real woman” are supposed to look like, act like and feel like. For these people, my building a joke upon the premise I did added to the pejorative stereotype that they are forced to deal with everyday. It is at the very heart of this whole ugly world of bullying that has been getting rightful and overdue attention in the media. And with my well-intentioned comedy bit, I played right into those hurtful assumptions and diminishments.

So, I would like to say – I now get it. And to the extent that these jokes made anyone feel even more isolated or misunderstood or just plain hurt – please know that was not my intention, at all or ever. I hope we will someday live in a society where we are so accepting of each other that we can all laugh at jokes like these and know that there is no malice or diminishment intended. But we are not there yet. So, I can only apologize and I do. In comedy, timing is everything. And when a group of people are still fighting so hard for understanding, acceptance, dignity and essential rights – the time for some kinds of laughs has not yet come.

Given how many celebrity missteps go viral, it is heartening to see Alexander acknowledge that he should have known better from the outset. Even more significantly, he refuses to rely on the standard non-apologies offered by many (like Tracy Morgan) that consist of a feeble “I’m sorry you were offended.” Instead, he took the time to reflect on his words and actions, realize his mistake, and offer a sincere apology. Let’s hope both the realization and the apology can serve as models for other celebrities.

Honorable mention this week goes to Democrats in Wisconsin. Although they lost the effort to recall their loathsome governor, Scott Walker, their efforts should be applauded. Despite spending barely 10% of what Walker did, they managed to come close to victory. Given how many voters indicated that they oppose recalls on principle, this is impressive. Even more impressive was the turnout, with Madison having 119% of registered voters appear at the polls. (Wisconsin allows same-day registration.) The loss is bitter, but the effort was valiant.

Bigot of the Week Award: June 8, Dr. Drew

8 Jun

Bigot of the Week

I need to thank my good friend Jay, a social rights advocate and LGBT ally, for inspiring me to write this article. This week’s bigot is a complicated celebrity doctor. Drew Pinsky, known to millions as Dr. Drew for his many regular media appearances and his shows about battling addiction, is a bit of a conundrum. He spoke out strongly against Prop 8 and allowing people to vote on civil rights. However he also served as an apologist for Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant, accepting the lame apology while minimizing (although not accepting) the hate speech. He’s also had crazed homophobe Adam Carolla as a guest on his show for no apparent reason.

While he offers good advice about addiction, he is not particularly sex-positive, railing against anal sex and helping build the myth that it is medically harmful. He has also stated that gay men are either tops or bottoms and can’t change.

This week he went off the rails with “ex-lesbian” guest Janet Boynes. A proponent of ex-gay “reparative” therapy based on religion, Boynes is closely associated with the clinic of Marcus Bachmann. She also works with the Anoka-Hennepin school district which has had numerous LGBT suicides resulting from bullying. It’s curious why he had her on the show at all, given that she preaches change in a way that goes against all medical advice. Even worse, he was scheduled to include Jallen Rix, a survivor of ex-gay therapy and sexologist as a balance guest on the show. Instead, Rix was demoted to faceless call-in; Pinsky cut him off and gave Boynes the opportunity to play the religious oppression card as the last word.

REALLY? This is the kind of person that a doctor wants on his show? This is exactly like mainstream media giving hate group mouthpiece Tony Perkins airtime to spew his bile in the name of “balance.” What’s particularly confusing is that Dr. Drew himself made a case AGAINST ex-gay therapy in an interview with Anderson Cooper a year ago. While he was far too apologetic about the “legitimate treatments” that are used for false ends, he sounded opposed to this harmful practice. So now a practitioner of this damaging myth is worthy of airtime? What’s up, Doc?

Dishonorable mention this week goes to the majority voters in Wisconsin who refused to recall their loathsome governor, Scott Walker. His success seems to have hinged on two things. First, of course, is money. Thanks to the Fecal Five and Citizens United, Walker had ten times the war chest that his opponent had. Second, however, was the sense of many voters that a recall isn’t justifiable. If that’s the case, why is it allowed by state law? Badly done, Wisconsin, the state that gave us Sen. McCarthy and Rep. Paul Ryan…

Of Actions and Accountability: A Tale of Two Apologies

1 May

Isn't it ironic which one we say is on the "right"?

Cast your mind back two months. Remember when right-wing millionaire bloviator Rush Limbaugh attacked a law student for speaking facts when invited to a Congressional hearing? Limbaugh grossly misrepresented the situation and avoided any factual information in his character assassination of Sandra Fluke: he called her a slut, said she wanted Federal money so she could be promiscuous, and demanded that she post sex videos online so he could see what he was paying for. When reasonable people expressed concern, rising to outrage, at his behavior, he doubled down, spending three days of broadcasts generating further lies and more hysterical behavior. Fortunately, Fluke stood her ground, public pressure cost Rush advertisers, and his eventual non-apology was too little too late. What’s telling, however, is that he thought he could use his bully platform to say whatever he wanted, shaping reality to his own ends, and suffer no consequences.

Fast forward to last week. Gay rights advocate, writer, and It Gets Better founder Dan Savage appeared at a high school journalism conference to discuss the issue of bullying. Reasonably pointing to the all-too-frequent use of religious faith to defend homophobic bullying, he pointed out the many inconsistencies between biblical teaching and modern “Christian” practice, using the robust defense of slavery in the Bible as a repeated example. His references to outmoded biblical requirements as “bullshit” outraged some attendees, who walked out of his presentation. As he transitioned from this part of his presentation to his broader theme of bullying, he commented on the walk out.

You can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back now, because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.

Cue the right-wing outrage machine. Savage was attacked for his use of language and for belittling the faith of his audience. Now for the real point of contrast between his story and Limbaugh’s. Rather than react immediately to the furor, Savage took the time to reflect on the situation. He then crafted a smart, careful response, addressing all the nuances of the situation. He accepted responsibility for the name-calling use of the term “pansy-assed” and apologized to the students who had walked out while making an excellent point

I wasn’t calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself. But that’s a distinction without a difference—kinda like when religious conservatives tells their gay friends that they “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Nicely done, Mr. Savage. He then wittily stood by his thesis

I didn’t call anyone’s religion bullshit. I did say that there is bullshit—”untrue words or ideas”—in the Bible. That is being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue.

It’s an interesting study in contrasts isn’t it? On one side: lies, hyperbole, and false outrage defended and compounded for days on end; on the other: a careful analysis of the situation, a reasonable (if somewhat unnecessary) apology and a careful restating of the thesis.

Sadly, this contrast plays out all too often. Calling out bigoted actions and unreasonable behavior by people ranging from right-wing pundit Juan Williams to narrow-minded “celebrities” results in their digging in their heels, counter-calling for apologies, and refusing to take responsibility for their actions. Vice President Biden reminds Americans that Mitt Romney said going into Pakistan after Bin Laden would be a horrible mistake and Romney adopts a “how dare you repeat exactly the words I said!” attitude. Yet Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who caught hell for merely repeating Ann Romney‘s own claim that she did not work, looked carefully at what she said and how she said it, then responded to the criticism directly and honestly.

I apologize. Working moms, stay at home moms, they’re both extremely hard jobs… I’ve fought my whole life for women to have the choices that Ann Romney talked about. What I meant was that Mitt Romney is using his wife as an economic surrogate. He himself said it. And I just thought that that was off-base.

Denial, finger-pointing, lying, and dodging responsibility for one’s own actions or thoughtful responses and personal accountability — it shouldn’t be hard to determine which of these is the more desirable approach from our leaders, role models, and commentators. Looking at the examples sure makes the gridlock in Congress snap into focus, doesn’t it?

Bigot of the Week Award: March 9, Judge Richard Cebull

9 Mar

Bigot of the Week

Sometimes an apology, however sincere on the surface, simply isn’t enough. This weeks’s BWA winner is a perfect example. Richard Cebull, the chief Federal District Court judge in Montana, acknowledged last week that he had sent some of his friends an e-mail containing a joke based on sexual and racist slurs against President Obama. The “joke” is in fact a grotesque racist, misogynist, anti-Obama slur directed at his mother; it’s so loathsome that TSM will not repeat it. You can see the text (and sign a petition about the judge) here if you wish. (Yes, blatant racism and misogyny from a Federal Judge–who is supposed to protect the citizens, not discriminate against them).

Unlike Rush Limbaugh’s no-pology (issued only after he started bleeding sponsors), Cebull had the class to offer an apparently sincere apology directly to President Obama.

I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family for the email I forwarded. I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself. I can assure you that such action on my part will never happen again. Honestly, I don’t know what else I can do. Please forgive me and, again, my most sincere apology.

Actually, Judge Cebull, it’s pretty clear what else you can do: resign. Not only does this message violate judicial ethics and indicate a clear racial and political prejudice, the judge was foolish enough to send it from his federal government email. He has clearly violated policy, practice, and his oath.  Although he has submitted himself for review, he should save the courts and taxpayers the time and money this will take and prove his sincere regret by stepping down from a position of trust he no longer deserves.

Thank you to my friend Jennifer Carey for this week’s Dishonorable mention which goes to washed-up teen star Kirk Cameron. It’s no surprise that he’s virulently homophobic given his past behavior, but he seems determined to remind people of this fact every time he gets a platform. Thinly disguising his bigotry with “Christian” love, he demanded that any LGBT person (even if it were his own child) must be celibate. Sorry, Kirk, you know you’re on the wrong end of history when Michele Bachmann steps up to defend you…

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