So far this week, NBC anchor Matt Lauer and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons have become the latest to join the long list of high-profile men facing sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct allegations since the exposing of Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator. And, like those before them, their unceremonious welcome to joining that growing list of men in power has included facing actual repercussions for their actions—NBC fired Lauer, and Simmons has stepped away from his many companies—as well as adding their own inglorious contributions to the also-expanding canon of the terrible “public apology.”
It’s become predictable: Each has also issued the type of hollow, all-too-familiar mea culpa that’s recently become so formulaic there’s even a Celebrity Perv Apology Generator now. Sample line: “As a person who was born in an era before women were ‘people,’ I feel tremendously guilty now that the things I did have been made public.” It’s funny until you realize it’s true.
Fittingly, Weinstein paved the way in issuing exactly the type of “apology” so mindblowingly inadequate that it succeeds in what was thought impossible: making his already deplorable actions worse. It’s pretty hard to beat attempting to explain away decades of abuse with a made-up quote by Jay-Z but, unsurprisingly, some of these men have. Indeed, if there’s anything the past few weeks have proven besides the degree of disgusting conduct that men in power can get away with, it’s that they’re also capable of coming up with apologies and excuses that are almost equally disturbing.
Of course, there are men who haven’t even pretended to pay lip service to their alleged victims; among those who have issued terse, aggressive statements that patently deny any allegations and stay far clear from apology territory are Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick, whom three women have accused of assault; Bob Weinstein, who not only had his own accusers but admitted to helping his brother Harvey cover up his abuses and to keep his wife, Georgina Chapman, in the dark; and the director Brett Ratner, whom Ellen Page has said forcibly outed her, and whom multiple actresses have accused of sexual harassment and assault.
These are inexcusable nonapologies, but the alternate option—maddeningly self-righteous, misguided, entitled, and nonsensical words attempting to pass as apologies—is no better. But since abuse is all about power, here’s a power ranking of the most egregious, from “please just stop talking” to “basically a crime in and of itself.” You’ll find, however, in an unsurprising way, that they all suck equally.
10. Ben Affleck, the actor whom MTV documented groping the actress Hilarie Burton:
“I don’t remember it, but I absolutely apologized for it. I certainly don’t think she’s lying or making it up. It’s just the kind of thing that we have to as men, I think—as we become more aware of this—be really, really mindful of our behavior and hold ourselves accountable and say, ‘If I was ever part of the problem, I want to change. I want to be part of the solution,’ and to not shy away from these uncomfortable or awkward or strange encounters that we might’ve had where we were sort of navigating and not knowing. … I’m not a spokesman, I’m not a superhero, I can’t change it by myself. I can just be accountable for myself and for my actions.”
Translation: “I have become alerted to the concept of ‘male privilege,’ and now am acting accordingly and spreading the message to my bros. But in case they think I’m taking it a little too seriously, here’s another little joke from your boy Batman.” Full statement: Here, in an interview with Stephen Colbert.
“Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed … Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job. The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.
Translation: “Hopefully my extremely bland apology for things I may or may not have done and admission that I may have a flaw or two will distract you from the fact that even the chairman of the network that has employed me for the last twenty-plus years has acknowledged my habit of harassing female colleagues.” Full statement: Here.
8. Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul and Def Jam cofounder, was accused by a model of raping her while Brett Ratner stood by, plus, a screenwriter accused him of raping her when she was 24. He has since stepped down from his companies:
“While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades and I sincerely and humbly apologize. … As the corridors of power inevitably make way for a new generation, I don’t want to be a distraction so I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded. The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward. I will convert the studio for yogic science into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing.”
Translation: “While I’m not denying that I trapped Sydney Lumet in a car so that I could bring her home and rape her, I do promise I have never been violent in my life. But to get to the real point, don’t worry: This doesn’t mean the end of my new yoga studio.” Full statement: Here.
7. Roy Moore, the Alabama judge, politician, and Senate candidate whom multiple women have accused of sexual harassment at the time that they were as young as 14:
“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and The Washington Post on this campaign.”
Translation: “The fact that I had a girl I picked up at Sears summoned out of trig class over her high school’s intercom so I could ask her out on a date is simply a completely desperate attempt from the Democrats to sabotage the future of Alabama and the United States of America.” Full statement: Here. Special shout-out to: Donald Trump, who took care to point out that “women are very special” in his defense of Moore.
6. Charlie Rose, the talk show host whom eight women have accused of sexual harassment ranging from groping and exposing himself to them:
“I have learned a great deal as a result of these events, and I hope others will too. All of us, including me, are coming to a newer and deeper recognition of the pain caused by conduct in the past, and have come to a profound new respect for women and their lives.”
Translation: “Hey, did you hear: Women actually have feelings, too.” Full statement: Here.
“Lemme be really clear about this. I don’t want to get a pat on the back, but I’ve struggled seriously to make movies with very little money, that I write, that I direct, that mean my life to me. The idea that I would offer a part to anyone for any other reason than that he or she was gonna be the best of anyone I could find is so disgusting to me. And anyone who says it is a lying cocksucker or cunt or both. Can I be any clearer than that? … Anyone who says that, I just want to spit in his or her f—ing face.”
Translation: “I’m an artist! Isn’t sexual assault in the job description?!” Full statement: Here, in an interview with Rolling Stone in which he also says to the reporter, “This is just too stupid. … And it’s just not worth talking about. It’s idiotic. My question to you is, do you want to be a writer? Do you have any sense of yourself as a serious person? Because this stuff should be beneath anybody.”
4. George H.W. Bush, the former president whom six women have accused of groping:
“At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke—and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”
Translation: “My boss [the statement was issued by Bush’s spokesman] is just very, very old. Just let him have his fun with that dumb ‘David Cop-a-Feel’ joke, he’s almost dead.” Full statement: Here.
3. Harvey Weinstein, whom the New Yorker has declared a rapist and who went full-on villain to prevent the dozens of women, including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rose McGowan, who’ve said he assaulted them from speaking up:
“I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”
Translation: “Since I never expected my literal army of spies to fail me, I’m just going to go ahead and list enough things—like, a real mixed bag of things, from my date of birth to this Jay-Z lyric I just made up to this idea I just had to throw a retirement party for the NRA’s CEO at the same place I had my bar mitzvah—here to distract you while I assemble my lawyers together to sue.” Full statement: Here.
2. Louis C.K., the comedian who has admitted to targeting young women to masturbate in front of:
“These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was O.K. because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly. I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position. I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it.”
Translation: “Well, you know, I can’t help it that I’m so popular. My dick is only ‘a predicament’ for women because it is actually so powerful.” Full statement: Here.
1. Kevin Spacey, the since-fired House of Cards star whom at least 20 people have accused of “inappropriate behavior”:
“I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”
Translation: “My now assaulting the dignity of the entire LGBT community—and anyone with a brain, really—will distract you from my having assaulted teenage boys, right?” Full statement: Here.
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