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?

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