Roseanne Barr Acknowledges God in Apology

A month ago, Roseanne Barr tweeted a very derisive comment about former President Obama’s close advisor Valerie Jarrett. When Ms. Barr was criticized for her tweet, she blamed it on the fact that she had taken the sleep-inducing drug Ambien. One consequence of her tweets is that ABC removed her from the new hit show that bore her name.

Ms. Barr quickly issued a brief apology: “I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.” Yesterday her friend Rabbi Schmuley Boteach posted an apology he recorded in a recent interview with Ms. Barr. It included these comments:

“I said to God, ‘I am willing to accept whatever consequences this brings because I know I’ve done wrong. I’m going to accept what the consequences are,’ and I do, and I have. But they don’t ever stop. They don’t accept my apology, or explanation. And I’ve made myself a hate magnet. And as a Jew, it’s just horrible. It’s horrible.”

Barr said of her tweet that she “didn’t mean what they think I meant.” She noted that she has black children in her family. “I never would wittingly say that a black person is a monkey. I just wouldn’t do that.” She is presumably trying to refute the assumption that her comment was racist, which she insists she is not.

“But I have to face that it hurt people. When you hurt people even unwillingly there’s no excuse. I don’t want to run off and blather on with excuses. But I apologize to anyone who thought, or felt offended and who thought that I meant something that I, in fact, did not mean. It was my own ignorance, and there’s no excuse for that ignorance.”

She also addressed the Ambien tweet: “That’s no excuse, but that’s what was real.”

“I’ve lost everything. And I regretted it before I lost everything.” She said this presumably to curb the suspicion that she was apologizing only because she’d lost her TV show.

Ms. Barr was weeping through much of the interview. From the perspective of analyzing an apology, “tears” are an interesting factor. If the words and tone are right, tears can amp up the “sincerity” quotient. But many listeners – especially, in my humble experience, men – tend to deem a tearful apology less credible than a non-tearful one.

Roseanne Barr’s apology is pretty good, for a public apology. She specifically addresses the offense, takes full responsibility for it, and acknowledges the consequences–sort of. If her comment about God truly is a prayer for help to accept the consequences, she’s on the right track. Many of her words sound like an explanation, which isn’t always helpful in an apology. She does not offer what she’s going to do to prevent such offenses in the future — for example, forswear Twitter. And one wonders if she apologized privately to Ms. Jarrett.

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