Clarifications, Retractions, Excuses and Lies: The Low Art of Pretending You Didn’t Mean What You Said

A figure in the public eye says something that appears sincere but that leads to negative conclusions about the speaker? Well. there are many options:

1. The speaker can stand by his or her words, and take the consequences.

2. The speaker can regret the words, express remorse, apologize, and ask forgiveness.

3. The speaker can accept the criticism and agree that he or she meant what he said, but state that, upon listening to the criticism, state that he or she no longer feels that way, and would not say the same thing today.

4. The speaker can try to say that the original statement wasn’t intended to mean what anyone hearing the words would naturally think they meant, making a plausible claim that the original statement was mis-worded.

5. The speaker can deny that he or she said the words, even, in some cases, though it was on tape.

6. The speaker can say that the words were taken “out of context,” as they sometimes are, as in Shirley Sherrod’s case, when subsequent comments at the same event changed the meaning of the quote, but were edited out.

7. The speaker can say he was joking, as Senator John Kerry tried to do after he suggested that if you don’t study hard and end up ignorant, you’ll be in the military fighting with all the other dummies, or as Professor Charles Ogletree has claimed regarding his statement that a video of President Obama hugging a radical law school professor when he was a student was hidden during the 2008 campaign.

8.The speaker can say that the statement is “no longer operative”, as Newt Gingrich did after a televised interview earlier this year. Continue reading