The Year In Apologies Whatever 2009 will be remembered for, the year reigned supreme when it came to apologies. Among the apologetic: singer Kanye West, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, Sen. John Ensign and golfer Tiger Woods. Other notorious apologies include ones from South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, tennis champ Serena Williams and talk show host David Letterman.
NPR logo

The Year In Apologies

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/122125101/122125082" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Year In Apologies

The Year In Apologies

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/122125101/122125082" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

There's really only one thing to say about 2009.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Sorry So Sorry")

Ms. BRENDA LEE (Singer): (Singing) I'm sorry, so sorry...

Secretary TIMOTHY GEITHNER (Treasury Department): I want to apologize to the committee.

Mr. RICHARD HEENE: �very, very sorry.

Dr. RICHARD LAND (President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention): We apologize for that. We lament that. We grieve over that.

Mr. KANYE WEST (Singer): It was rude, very. And I'd like to apologize to her in person.

Governor MARK SANFORD (Republican, South Carolina): I hurt a lot of different folks, and all I can say is that I apologize.

SIEGEL: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was sorry for his extra-marital affair. Kanye West was remorseful for ruining Taylor Swift's moment at the Video Music Awards. Richard Land lamented the Southern Baptist Convention's past support of slavery and segregation. Richard Heene was very, very sorry in court for launching the Balloon Boy hoax. And starting it all off, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner apologized to the Senate Finance Committee for failing to pay $34,000 in taxes.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Sorry So Sorry")

CHORUS: I'm sorry.

Ms. LEE: I'm sorry.

CHORUS: So sorry.

Ms. LEE: So sorry. Please accept my apology.

SIEGEL: In 2009, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was sorry that he'd been photographed with a bong. Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff said he could not adequately express how deeply sorry he was for bilking investors out of at least $13 billion. Tiger Woods wrote on his Web site: I've let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all my heart. That was after he crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant, and now you know the rest. Nevada Senator John Ensign confessed his transgressions in terms that we think would suit etiquette czarina Emily Post.

Senator JOHN ENSIGN (Republican, Nevada): Last year I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage.

SIEGEL: Emily Post says, when apologizing take responsibility for your actions and whatever the transgression, consider the feelings of the other person.

Senator ENSIGN: I know that I have deeply hurt and disappointed my wife, Darlene, my children, my family, friends, my staff and all those who believed in me. And to all of them, especially my wife, I'm truly sorry.

SIEGEL: David Letterman mastered the art of apology this year, first with this offense.

Mr. DAVID LETTERMAN (Host, "The Late Show with David Letterman"): Sarah Palin went a Yankees' game yesterday. There was one awkward moment during the seventh inning stretch: her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriquez.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: A bad joke, Letterman later called that - that targeted Palin's then-18-year-old daughter. But it was Palin's 14-year-old daughter who was actually at the game.

Mr. LETTERMAN: I would like to apologize especially to the two daughters involved: Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke. I'm sorry about it, and I'll try to do better in the future. Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of applause)

SIEGEL: Textbook Emily Post there. She says offer a solution when you solution, and Letterman's promise to do better was put to the test in no time. Within a few months, he was offering this public mea culpa to his wife for his past affairs with some female staffers.

Mr. LETTERMAN: If you hurt a person, and it's your responsibility, you try to fix it, and at that point, there's only two things that can happen. Either you're going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you're going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed. So let me tell you, folks, I've got my work cut out for me.

SIEGEL: An apology should sound like it comes from the heart, not from the boss. We don't know what Emily Post would make of this apology for shouting you lie at the president during his speech to Congress.

Representative JOE WILSON (Republican, South Carolina): Last night, I heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and state that my statements were inappropriate. I did.

SIEGEL: South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson wasn't exactly fulsome in person, but he did release a statement to the press later, and he said: While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend my sincere apologies to the president for my lack of civility. Sincerity, another critical element of a good apology. Here's tennis champ Serena Williams.

Ms. SERENA WILLIAMS (Tennis Player): I just really wanted to apologize sincerely because I am a prideful person, and I'm very emotional. I'm a very intense person, and I think it all shows, and most of all, I am a very sincere person. I wanted to offer my sincere apologies to anyone that I may have offended.

SIEGEL: Did she mention that she's sincere? That was for her outburst at the U.S. Open, by the way. William cursed a lineswoman after she called a foot fault, which cost her the match.

Emily Post tells us apologies should be timely, but some apologies are better late than never.

The Honorable KEVIN RUDD (Prime Minister, Australia): We are sorry, sorry that as children, you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused, sorry for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care.

SIEGEL: That's Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, addressing the forgotten Australians who were dispatched involuntarily from Britain, supposedly for a better life. An apology from Britain is expected next year.

One last tip from Emily Post. If you are on the receiving end of I'm sorry, you should make an effort to accept. That's not to excuse or condone the offense, just to show that you're willing to make amends.

(Soundbite of song, "Auld Lang Syne")

Unidentified Man #1 (Singer): (Singing) Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind, should old acquaintance be forgot, an auld lang syne. For auld lang syne, my Jo, for auld lang syne...

SIEGEL: We remember the decade of loud music next on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.