So. As you may have already heard (I got it from about a hundred blogs, here it is on Pam’s House Blend), pastor Rick Warren, of Obama inauguration fiasco fame, whined in a recent interview with Larry King that he is being unfairly targeted as a hater of Teh Gays… and actually claimed in said interview that he never endorsed Prop 8 (the 2008 anti- same- sex ballot initiative in California), and never equated same-sex marriage with pedophilia or incest.
Liar, liar, pants on fire. Pam’s House Blend has the evidence and the links, as do about a hundred other blogs — I don’t feel a compelling need to repost them here.
So. Insert the obvious “Liar, liar, pants on fire” rant here. But that’s not actually what I want to talk about today. Here — in addition to “Liar, liar, pants on fire” — is what I want to say.
We no longer live in a world where you can say, “I never said that.”
We just don’t. If you said it — on camera, on a radio show, in an interview with the press, in a letter to the editor, or heck, even in a blog comment — somebody will find it. We live in a searchable, Google-able world, and if you’ve ever said anything in an even remotely public setting — and you then try to deny that you said it — somebody will be able to find it, and call you on it. (I occasionally worry about this myself vis a vis my dreams of being a Famous Writer, as I don’t always watch my snark on places like Pharyngula… but oh well. Whaddya gonna do.)
So if you’re trying to backpedal from something you said that’s alienating people, “I never said that” is simply not an option.
Therefore, I would like to advise Rick Warren, and for that matter anyone in the public eye, to familiarize themselves with the concept of the “apology.”
An “apology,” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” It’s what you say when you’ve said something wrong or hurtful, and you don’t people to be ticked off at you about it. Or, in extreme cases, when you actually feel bad about what you said/did and want to express that.
The best form of apology, of course, and the one we would like to see from Rick Warren, is the genuine one. “I’m sorry that I hurt people. I said/did those things, and I’m sorry I said/did them. I was mistaken, I’ve been educated on this topic, I now understand better, and I’ve since changed my mind.”
But if that’s not feasible for whatever reason, the half-assed non-apology is always an option. The “I’m sorry people were upset by this” apology. The “I haven’t changed my mind and am not willing to admit I was wrong, but I don’t like the fact that everyone’s mad at me, and since I know I’m a nice person and yet everyone’s still mad at me they all must have misunderstood my intentions, and so I’m going to apologize because my publicist tells me I have to” apology.
So here’s what I think.
If Warren were really trying to shift the public perception of him as a bigoted, homophobic schmuck, pretending he never said those things is not going to fly. Apologizing for them is the only way to go. And he has to know that. He’s not a complete moron. A partial moron, yes, but not a complete one. And whatever else you say about the guy, you can’t accuse him of not being media-savvy.
So I don’t think he is trying to shift public perception of him as a homophobic bigot.
I think he’s trying to have it both ways. He’s trying to suck up to the rabidly homophobic extreme Christian right, which is his base — while still trying to stay in the good graces of more mainstream Americans, who have somewhat more tolerant attitudes towards gays and lesbians than the extreme Christian right, and whose attitudes are becoming more LGBT- friendly every year… and who are the ones buying his books in droves.
If he were serious about mending the rift with LGBTs and our friends and families, he’d have issued an apology. At least a half-assed non-apology. At least for the “pedophilia and incest” remark. But he’s not. He’s trying to get away with “I didn’t really say that”… which conveniently evades responsibility for saying whether he really thinks it. (At least, it would if it still worked.)
So since he hasn’t apologized — even half-assedly — I can only assume that he is perfectly happy to let his hardcore extreme right-wing base go on thinking of him as a hater like them, while trying to come across to Middle America as a nice guy who love Teh Gays but just doesn’t think we should re-define marriage away from the biblical definition of one man,
six hundred women one woman. Or at least, trying to plant sufficient doubts in Middle America’s mind about it.
I’m just saying, is all.