Several readers have asked for the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale scores for the three MSNBC creeps who decided to use a loving, non-political family photo featuring Mitt Romney’s newly adopted grandchild as an opportunity to sneer at the family, Mitt and the GOP, and engage in some unprovoked race-baiting. It was such an ugly display that decent human beings a) would never have engaged in it at all and b) wouldn’t have required a wave of criticism to wash over them to realize apologies were in order, but they did. Why? Because they are hateful people, unsavory and loathsome. As such, I really had decided that mucking around in MSNBC swill wasn’t worth a second post, but since you asked, here are the scores. The best apologies are in category #1…no danger of that with this sorry trio.
Apology 1: Dean Obeidallah
- What he said:
“I think this picture is great. It really sums up the diversity of the Republican party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person.”
- What’s wrong with it:
The Romney family does not deserve to be made a surrogate for the Republican party’s demographics. Obeidallah turned an unequivocally loving and generous act into some kind of warped hypocrisy. It was unfair, and a cheap shot, aimed at an innocent target.
- His apology:
“And, of course, my Twitter feed exploded with right-wing trolls attacking me. Leading the charge was conservative Dana Loesch who tweeted various comments to me such as: “You’re a baby-bullying bigot.” (Amazing use of alliteration, I must say.) She then apparently confused me with someone who in leadership in the Democratic Party: “Continue to show everyone you’re the party of bullying black babies and suppressing minority involvement in other parties.”…As the attacks on my joke were building, I kept waiting for Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal to defend me like they recently stood up for Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. I thought at least Jindal would call out the “politically correct crowd” as he did for good ol’ Phil. But still not a peep from them about my freedom of expression. I guess to those two, freedom of expression only applies when you are making derogatory comments about gays or saying blacks were happy during segregation….With that said, let me be clear: I want to sincerely apologize to the Romney family if anyone was offended by my joke. I did not in any way mean to attack the Romney family for adopting a child, which is truly commendable. Nor did I intend to mock baby Kieran in any way. I would never intentionally demonize people in that manner.”
- Apology rank:
It’s an easy 10, or worse: “An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.“
It’s really a 12 or 13 on a 10 point scale. Obeidallah begins by insulting the critics of the statement, then rationalizing his comments on the grounds that they deserve the same defense that Phil Robertson received (which they don’t, because Robertson is not an MSNBC employee supposedly duty-bound to conduct himself fairly and professionally on the air as part of a news broadcast). Then he argues for “freedom of expression,” which nobody is challenging. They are challenging his use of it to attack families for adopting black babies, because it marks him as, to be blunt, a vicious asshole. Then he evokes my least favorite rationalization, Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the worst thing”: Hey, it’s not like I insulted gays or blacks, just the Romneys, adoptive parents and Republicans. Finally, Dean’s “apology” is not “I’m sorry I cruelly mocked the Romneys for the loving adoption of a black child,” but rather “I’m sorry if the statement I don’t regret upset you for some reason, since I did nothing wrong. He exploited the adoption of a child to demonize Republicans as racists, but doesn’t demonize people.
Yechhh. He’s awful. I’m sure he’ll be working on MSNBC for a long, long time.
Apology 2: Pia Glenn
- What she said:
Pia mockingly sang the Sesame song classic, “One of these things is not like the others,’ referring to the black infant, substituting “…one of these things just isn’t the same,” where the original lyrics read “one of these things doesn’t belong.” “And that little baby, front and center, would be the one,” she added
- What’s wrong with it:
1) She made fun of the fact that a white family adopted a black child, something that would be regarded as a slam-dunk example of racism in any setting.
2) She referred to infant Kieran Romney as a “thing,” and suggested by her use of the song that this “thing” didn’t belong in the family because of his race.
3) The net effect was ridiculing the photo and the family on the basis of an interracial adoption.
- Her apology: (from collected tweet exchanges…)
Yes,I sang the song. There are many children in the pic & only 1 black child. I don’t see that as mocking or attacking the baby… I don’t support Mitt Romney but I didn’t personally call THE BABY names or mock/attack the baby. If I point out the 1 black person&you translate that as an attack ON HIM,who’s racist?I don’t personally see anything wrong with being black. Adoptive parents giving a child of ANY ethnicity a loving home,I apologize.I absolutely did not intend to harm you but it seems that I have. I know what I saw and what I said. Your opinion is different? Cool. But I’m not down with harming children, you know that. I promise you that I hold no such belief & never have. I have clearly upset you and I offer a sincere apology to you. I apologize again.My disdain for the Romney campaign as a whole was foremost & separate (to me from the baby BUT+ I see how my comment in the moment looks like an attack on the baby & interracial adoption as a whole. It WASN’T + but my intentions & what’s in my heart don’t negate the very real hurt I see I have caused.
- Apology rank:
No credit. This isn’t an apology for what she said; it isn’t an apology at all. Glenn states that what she said was just fine because 1) only one black child was in the photo 2) she doesn’t like Romney 3) she said nothing derogatory about the baby. But she’s sorry that anyone appears to be “hurt” by misunderstanding her meaning. She pointedly doesn’t apologize to the Romneys, and admits to doing nothing inappropriate, just that it had unfortunate consequences.
She’s not very bright, is she? And arguably more despicable than Dean Obeidallah. How do people like this get on television?
Apology 3: Melissa Harris Perry
- What she did and
She set up the Mock-The-Romneys-For Adopting- A-Black-Baby-Thon, laughed along with her guests, and was responsible for the entire ugly segment.
- What’s wrong with it:
She deliberately used a non-political photo memorializing a kind, loving, generous and admirable act of love as a springboard for hate and ridicule based on race.
- Her apology:
“I am sorry. Without reservation or qualification. I apologize to the Romney family. I work by guiding principle that those who offend do not have the right to tell those they hurt that they [are] wrong for hurting. Therefore, while I meant no offense, I want to immediately apologize to the Romney family for hurting them. As black child born into large white Mormon family I feel familiarity w/ Romney family pic & never meant to suggest otherwise. I apologize to all families built on loving transracial adoptions who feel I degraded their lives or choices.”
- Apology rank:
#9. “Deceitful apologies, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”). Another variation: apologizing for a tangential matter other than the act or words that warranted an apology.” She says the apology is without qualification, then immediately qualifies it. Why tell us that “guiding principle” (PC garbage, by the way; it’s the motto of those who believe that the conveniently offended should have the power to censor expression) if she believes that she did something wrong? Essentially she is saying, “I think the complaints are hooey, but it doesn’t matter: in my world, those who claim to be offended must be obeyed, and we on the Left get so much mileage out of that rule that I’m not going to jeopardize it now.” What does she mean, she meant no offense? She showed a photo of the Romneys specifically to have her guests make fun of the fact that there was a black child among the uber-white Romneys. It isn’t that she didn’t intend to offend the Romneys–she just didn’t give a damn whether she did or not, because she hates everything about them–Mitt, Republicans, the whole culture. The complaints aren’t about who this stunt “hurts”—why would any Romney care what a biased, race-obsessed buffoon like Melissa Harris-Perry thinks? The complaints are properly about hateful, inappropriate, mean-spirited, unprofessional broadcasting, and she never apologizes for that.
Nor is it credible that Harris-Perry was motivated by anything other than the criticism, and the professional choice to mitigate the harm to her and the network. If she understood what was wrong with mocking the Romneys for embracing a black orphan, if she genuinely felt “familiarity” with the family, would she have launched such a segment in the first place? Of course not.