Matt Lauer Apology Gets a B+

Matt Lauer, the 20-year host of the Today show, issued an apology today after being fired from NBC News yesterday in response to allegations of sexual harassment. The apology isn’t too bad. It includes responsibility and regret, as well as some thoughtful phrases like, “I realize the depth of the damage and the disappointment I have left behind …” and the need for “time and soul-searching.”

But one part of it made me wince: “Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized.” An apology isn’t the place for defences or clarifications. The time for that is after the apology is accepted, not in the midst of the apology itself. Inserting it undercuts the sincerity of the apology; just how much of it are you sorry for?

I had already decided to rank this a “B+” when I read a post on Salon giving it that grade. Author Mary Elizabeth Williams contrasts the Lauer apology favourably with other flawed media apologies we’ve heard in the last month, but laments that no one apologizes until an accuser has the courage to come forward. The “Weinstein effect” has prompted many victims of sexual harassment to come forward, but wouldn’t it be nice if it prompted some perpetrators to go public before their victims do?

“Choose Your Own Public Apology”

For a light-hearted look at generic advice on how (not) to make a public apology, check this out from the New York Times.

Of Recent Public Apologies

The apologies have been flying off the shelves this month, as many public figures respond to accusations of sexual harassment. A Washington Post article today does a nice job of summarizing the good and the bad of the public apologies we’ve been witnessing. The author, Allison Klein, notes that many apologies miss the mark because they’re still all about the offender, rather than the victim.

This highlights the challenge of the public apology, which has two audiences: the victims themselves, and the offender’s “constituency,” be it their fans or the citizens they represent. In contrast, the private apology that most of us have occasion to make is simply between us and the person we’ve offended. Studying public apologies gives us clues to how we can make our own apologies better – or worse.

Another good piece on apologies appeared today on National Public Radio. Interestingly, the author, Harriet Lerner, discourages asking for forgiveness. Her advice may be sound for public apologies, but for inter-personal apologies, asking for forgiveness is an indication that the speaker really desires reconciliation. It’s also a reminder to Christians of our obligation to forgive–eventually. It might not be appropriate where the offense was life-changing for the victim, but for everyday apologies, it’s good practice.

Could an Apology Help Roy Moore’s Senate Campaign?

I usually write about public apologies, but this week I’m thinking about an apology that hasn’t happened: what if Roy Moore offered a public apology for his past transgressions? Could that save his Senate campaign?

Several women have come forward in the last week to accuse Roy Moore of sexual misconduct decades ago. Judge Moore has denied the allegations but many do not believe him, and some Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are calling on Moore to withdraw from the campaign.

Could a good apology turn this around? Or, could it have, had he apologized after the first accusation went public last week?

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat speculated in a tweet Monday that it could. He even proposed the outlines of the apology:

“‘Before I was married I was a sinner and a creep. I beg the young woman’s forgiveness. It was decades ago, and I ask you to judge me on the good husband and father and grandfather I’ve become.’ Etc”

I think Moore’s apology would need to go further. He would need to apologize also for his silence about this for decades, that allowed these women to suffer privately. Acknowledging the impact of his sins on their lives would be a sign that he “gets it.” We might also appreciate hearing something like, “I thank God every day for his forgiveness, and ask God every day for the grace to conform my behavior to His will.” If he’s doing anything else to hold himself accountable, it’d be good to mention that too.

He should apologize only if he did it, and if he’s sorry. Even so, an apology now might not salvage his campaign. But it still might be a good thing to do.

 

Michigan Court Orders Mediator to Answer Questions Regarding Mediation

A colleague mediated a litigated case this past summer, that did not result in an agreement. Last week my colleague received a court order in the case, as follows:

It is ordered that the mediator who conducted the parties’ mediation on July __, 2017, shall inform the court as to:

  • Whether opposing counsel was prepared in good faith;
  • whether opposing counsel was late or not;
  • whether opposing counsel submitted a mediation brief;
  • whether the lack of a mediation brief hindered his ability to do his job as mediator;
  • whether either attorney has contacted the mediator after the mediation.

 

Everyone is frustrated when an hours-long mediation fails to result in an agreement. It’s tempting to blame opposing counsel, and sometimes it’s appropriate. If opposing counsel was indeed late, was not prepared in good faith, and failed to submit the required mediation brief, it could have hindered the effectiveness of the mediation, and resulted in a waste of time for all concerned. The judge ought to know, so the offending attorney can be “punished,” right?

But is mediator “tattling” the way to address this?

Having the mediator answer the above questions gets dangerously close to having the mediator reveal confidential communications, which could undermine trust in the mediation process altogether. And mediators who testify even about non-confidential aspects of the mediation risk losing their reputation for neutrality.

It doesn’t seem like anything good can come from a mediator answering these questions for the court.

So how should a mediator respond to an order like this? My colleague plans to tell the court he will not answer the questions, in hopes everyone will drop it and focus on their real issue, the dispute at hand.

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