Book Reviews



My Bad

25 Years of Public Apologies and the 
Appalling Behavior that Inspired Them

by Paul Slansky and Arleen Sorkin

Review by Richard Sheppard


This book captures the timbre of our celebrity-besotted times: the very public verbal and/or behavioral screw-ups by some overexposed dimwit, followed by their sometimes hilarious, sometimes teeth-grinding apologies for these spotlight mishaps. Some of the original "bad" remarks are utterly hilarious, as are the often-scripted, monotone-delivered mea culpas. Some remarks are so evil/bad that no apology can erase their intent or harm, but it's fascinating to read the desperate attempts at forgiveness all the same. Some of the people included in this book have never been publicly redeemed, for others, their misspoken words or acts only served to garner still greater fame and fortune. 

Among the offenders included, for sheer number of misstatements and ensuing apologies, Ted Tuner wins the prize. Given his brash nature and cupcake upbringing, this shouldn't surprise anyone. Ted has very rarely had to answer to anyone or anything but his self-inflated ego, so it's no surprise he blurts out stupid remarks and assembly-line apologies at a rate exceeding everyone else in this book. Apart from Ted's ubiquity, mostly represented are the kinds of religiously, sexually or racially "charged" statements that the famous or political utter when they think cameras, recorders, or other un-trusted listeners aren't nearby. Followed by their carefully crafted "explanations," "clarifications" or admitted "apologies," when they are suddenly exposed. All told, a fine window into the culture of fame, and the famous when they must endure the spotlight's glare as opposed to its glitter. 

Interestingly, the authors only deal with a single example of recent history's most notable apologies at the very end: former President Bill "Bubba" Clinton "apologizing" for his marital indiscretions before breakfast meeting of ministers. Clinton more so than Ted Turner required extreme unctions; he was never held to account (another indicator of cultural debasement). Granted, the verbally facile Clinton's apology is a heck of an effort, going so far afield as to quote the Torah (though never mentioning the tawdry semen-esque offense). However, it comes as the last apology in the book, and the authors don't include the more familiar "public" apology Clinton offered on national television. They chose not to include it perhaps, because that nationally-televised version in effect was an "apology that never was," as Clinton used that speech to further inflame and attack his political pursuers. In this sense, while the authors include apologies from across the fame, educational, and political spectrums, you wonder if the authors held a little back, or included a little extra (for instance, they drag Trent Lott across several pages for his racially-interpreted remarks during a Jesse Helms tribute, and his ensuing way overdone apologies - which were admittedly pretty ridiculous all 'round).