Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"I'M SO, SO SORRY"...Sort of

Have you noticed all of the public apologies flying through the air the last couple of weeks? The latest comes from a guy most of us never heard of until he made a truly stupid comment on live television. His name is Todd Akin, and he is a GOP Congressman from Missouri running for the Senate in an attempt to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill. When asked his views on abortion in cases of rape, Akin (who once said of NBC, “Well, I think NBC has a long record of being very liberal, and at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God”), had this to say: After the predictable firestorm of criticism from the general public, as well as lawmakers both Democratic and Republican (including Mitt Romney, who inexplicably took three days to react to Akin’s ignorance) Akin issued his mea culpa: "In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year."

 First, there was nothing “off the cuff” about his remarks. He responded in a measured, thought-out way to the interviewer’s question. But more importantly, here in the 21st century, shouldn’t a man who has been a public figure a good portion of his adult life be smarter than to say something so incendiary while he is running for the Senate? And it gets worse: Later he said that he did not mean to say “legitimate rape.” He really meant to say “forcible rape.” That leaves many of us scratching our heads – isn’t rape by its very nature an act of force? Further, notice in the video that Akin refers to “doctors” who told him this interesting phenomenon of the body not allowing itself to get pregnant when raped. Clearly no medical doctor really told him that. Akin simply lied. And there really is not a credible apology for that.

Akin’s apology may be the most high profile at the moment, but a less-publicized apology came about the same time from San Francisco’s All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera (right). Cabrera was recently suspended for 50 games after his misguided attempt to hide his use of performance enhancing drugs. Get this: After being accused, Cabrera went so far as to create a fake website that ostensibly sold a fake cream that contained the banned substance he was accused of using. He claimed he did not know the cream (which never existed) contained the substance. Oy. Backed into a corner, Cabrera issued an admission of guilt and an apology to his teammates, yada, yada, yada.

From the outside looking in, we’re left to wonder: Did Cabrera truly believe he would beat this rap? Did he so underestimate the league’s ability to investigate such elevated levels of testosterone in his body? Since he obviously did not act alone in concocting this ridiculous scheme, what about the others who aided and abetted? Do they just walk scot free?

Hey, there really is no such thing as walking away scot free when you’re a professional athlete who screws up in the worst way possible. Just ask NFL’r Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson (below, left), who is accused of head butting Evelyn Lozada, his wife of 41 days after she confronted him about an unexplainable condom receipt in the trunk of his car. Johnson,
always the gentleman (?) tried to convince authorities it was she who did the head butting. However, it was she who ended up in the emergency room with a three-inch laceration to her head. Johnson ended up losing his NFL contract with the Miami Dolphins, as well as his VHI reality show, “Chad and Ev.”

And Ev? Well, she filed for divorce. One might say Johnson is the Michael Vick of 2012. So, of course comes the predictable apology: "I wish Evelyn nothing but the best, I have no negative words to say about her, [and] the only thing I can say is I love her very much.” It went on – you can recite the rest --- “staying positive,” “appreciate all my fans,” yada, yada, yada. He did not, however, apologize to Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin, (who fired him), to whom he said he had never been in trouble before. That was a lie. Johnson has past domestic violence troubles. Johnson’s real distinction is that his marriage lasted even less time than that of Kim and Kris.

 The current cavalcade of public apologies, hollow as they may be, got a real shot in the arm this week with one from a naked Congressman. Come on, you can’t make this stuff up, right? This one comes from GOP’r Kevin Yoder from Kansas (right),
who went on a “fact-finding” mission to Israel with about 20 lawmakers one year ago. It seems that one night after dinner the group decided to go skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee – if that sounds familiar, it so happens that Jesus allegedly walked on water there. You have to love Yoder’s apology, in which he said he "followed some members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit." Oy. "It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress,” Yoder added, “and (for) any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize."

If you’re wondering why Yoder even mentioned any of this, it may have something to do with the fact that the FBI is reportedly investigating the trip, although no details have been released as to why a Federal agency cares if a Congressman skinny dips.

There were other apologies this week, but our public sympathy well is beginning to run a bit dry. Still, it bears mentioning that comedian Wayne Brady apologized for a bad joke he made about Sarah Palin’s son, Trig. During his set at the Comedy Central roast of Roseanne Barr, Brady said to fellow roaster Jeffrey Ross, "...a lot of people hate you, especially Sarah Palin because you remind her of what Trig is going to look like when he’s 40." Trig, you will recall, has Downs Syndrome. Brady later issued an apology to the Palin family, but since he actually had to plan his remarks, and write them down and they were on a teleprompter, one has to assume the apology is somewhat meaningless. He meant to say what he said, knowing full well how insensitive it was. And then, of course, there is insensitivity that goes without any apology. Consider Vice-President Joe Biden, whose recent slavery-reminiscent reference caused a media and public uproar. Watch:
Those waiting for a public apology from the vice-president will be roundly disappointed.

Here’s the thing about public apologies: First, they are generally offered at the direction of a publicist or other public relations flack. That is why the language generally sounds so similar from disgraced athlete to ignorant politician to desperate comedian. Second, the damage is done, so the apology is really not useful. No one will remember Chad Johnson’s apology, but everyone will remember his 41-day marriage that ended in violence. Most importantly, the apologies are generally insincere and done only in the interest of image rehabilitation. I don’t know about you, but public figures who apologize just to do damage control really irk me. And when the above-mentioned insincerity rolls so easily off of their tongues, I, as a member of the public, feel…well…underestimated.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


In America, almost anything can become a symbol of social division. Exhibit A? Chick-fil-A. How many times have you walked through a mall in America – anywhere in America – and there was Chick-fil-A? The food is mediocre, cholesterol-laden, fried deeply and geared toward a culture that forgot the importance of eating from the earth. Still, a report issued this week by PrivCo, a New York- based research firm that specializes in private companies’ financial data, reveals the company is currently worth $4.5 billion. Further, the report tells us that the company has the biggest sales per unit in the fast food industry in America. So…the company is bigger than Macdonald’s, Wendy’s KFC, Sonic, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box and all the other companies whose focus is fat and salt. Who knew?

If you have been in a coma recently (because that is the only way you do not know this), here’s what happened. In June, COO and President of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, said this in a radio interview: "As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.' I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."

Then, last month Cathy (left) was interviewed again and when challenged on his opposition to marriage equality, he said this: "Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family - the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business . . . We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

And then all hell broke loose. Yesterday, I was in Metairie, LA, which for those of you not from New Orleans, is an area outside of New Orleans with a population of about 150,000. According to the 2010 census, the population is approximately 75 percent white. Driving up Veterans Boulevard, which is the main thoroughfare, suddenly the traffic was stopped, bumper-to-bumper. What I failed to remember is that just a few blocks ahead on the right was the local Chick-fil-A. Thousands of people were flooding the company’s restaurants yesterday to stand (or eat, if you will) in solidarity with Dan Cathy’s “biblical definition of the family unit.”

First, I’d like to say to all of the good Christian chicken-lovers who showed up yesterday at Chick-fil-A’s nationwide – wouldn’t you have demonstrated a greater sense of Christian values by donating the money you spent on fried chicken to organizations that work to alleviate hunger internationally? Just saying. Instead, you chose to make a socio-political statement by waiting for up to an hour to pass through a drive-through window for fried chicken on white bread with waffle fries. While doing so, your car was running, so that collectively all of you contributed mightily to Metairie’s carbon footprint. Amen, y’all.

Meanwhile, big city mayors (Chicago, Boston) have come out with public statements rejecting Chick-fil-A and stating the company is not welcome in their cities. At the time I am writing this there is reportedly
a nationwide plan to stage a "National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A" on Friday. Participants are encouraged to kiss each other, photograph it and post the pictures on the Web. Universities from North Carolina to NYU to Kansas to Notre Dame are reportedly considering dropping Chick-Fil-A from their on-campus food facilities.

Listen, I do not in any way agree with Dan Cathy’s views. I do not. However, I fully support his Constitutional right to express himself. Was it wise for him to mix commerce and religion? I think not.
But it is his choice whether he wants to give public props to Christ on the radio. While my brain does not compute the connection between a deep-fat-fried slab of chicken on a heavily buttered bun and the definition of marriage, Dan Cathy is an American with the right to freely spout off about his pride in being married to his “first wife.” If we try to silence Dan Cathy or put a significant dent in his corporate structure simply because we don’t like his views, what next? What about your views? What if a lot of people do not agree with your views? Should you be silenced? Should you be censored? Should your professional or corporate life be hampered because of your ideology? I think not. Dan Cathy clearly does not comprehend the seismic shift that is occurring in the makeup of the American family. He just doesn’t get it. Still, he has a right to make money. And you have a right not to spend yours on his greasy offerings.

 With that said, if evidence presents itself that Chick-fil-A is practicing discrimination in hiring or promotions, unfair labor practices or actionable bias against certain customers, then we have big trouble and Cathy needs to fess up and suffer the consequences. In fact, U.S. District Court records reveal that Chick-fil-A has been sued 12 times since 1988 for employment discrimination, according to a highly enlightening piece in Forbes Magazine about the company’s corporate culture.

The Chick-fil-A uproar currently underway across the nation is really not about two people with the same genitalia getting married. It is about freedom.
And every time we try to stifle someone’s Constitutional freedom in this country, we run the risk of losing our own freedoms. And in this country, when you lose even a degree of your freedoms, you rarely get them back. Does anybody remember what it was like when we actually had privacy? I challenge you to tell me how we’re going to ever get our privacy back. The same can be said for our freedom of speech. Let Dan Cathy talk. Let him pontificate and shout his exclusionary dogma from the rooftops of his chicken restaurants. And then shout back if you wish and spend all your fried chicken dollars at KFC or Popeye’s, (mmmm…Popeyes, num num num) but let him talk. The free and open public discourse is the root of everything – even when it is built on a chicken sandwich.