While a well orchestrated "I'm sorry" can go a long way to winning forgiveness, a poorly executed one will make a bad situation only worse. After Donald Sterling tried to apologize for his controversial racist remarks, critics said the L.A. Clippers owner should never have gone on television to make amends, reports CBS News' Chip Reid.
"I made a terrible, terrible mistake," Sterling said on a CNN interview with Anderson Cooper.
If Sterling thought his interview would assure the world he wasn't a racist, he may have been mistaken.
"Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people -- and some of the African-Americans, maybe I'll get in trouble again, they don't want to help anybody," Sterling said in the same interview.
CBS News contributor Frank Luntz, a communications strategist, said Sterling's attempt at an apology was the worst he had ever seen.
"He tries to explain he's not a racist, but uses racial language. It doesn't make sense," Luntz said.
Broadcasting their "mea culpas" is a time-honored tradition among public figures who find themselves in the middle of controversy.
Public figures seeking forgiveness, according to Luntz, are best served by apologies delivered straight to the camera so that viewers can see the sincerity in their eyes.
"I am responsible. And if I want to find the person who should be held accountable for my sins, honestly, I don't have to go any further than the mirror. It's me. It is me and me alone," former presidential candidate John Edwards said in 2012 after he was acquitted on a campaign finance charge.
Paula Deen tried that tactic last year after a former employee accused her of using the n-word, but the videos she released were cringe-worthy and awkwardly edited.
"Uh...I want to learn and grow from this," Deen said in her apology video. It then suddenly cuts to, "Inappropriate, hateful language is totally, totally unacceptable."
Anthony Weiner also knows a thing or two about apologies.
"It was something that I did that was just wrong and I regret it," Weiner said in a press conference in June 2011, after he admitted sending lewd photos of himself to women online.
Two years later, caught in another sexting scandal, he apologized yet again.
"This behavior is behind me. I've apologized to my wife Huma," Weiner said in July 2013.
It's one thing to say you're sorry for lying or infidelity, but is racism as easily forgivable?
In 2006 Michael Richards of Seinfeld fame went on a hate-filled rant during his stand-up act. His friend Jerry Seinfeld brought him on the Late Show to apologize.
"Michael Richards didn't do his apology that well, but over time he was forgiven," Luntz said. "Consequences of getting it wrong is the destruction of a career. The consequences of doing it right, you get permission to continue."
Luntz said that for an apology to be effective, it's not enough to admit mistakes and take ownership of the offense. The person apologizing must also make some sort of personal sacrifice to earn forgiveness, an element that was clearly lacking in Sterling's interview Monday night.
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