How Politicians Do Apology with Words

Hillary’s Apology

explanation and vindication

Recently, Hillary was accused that she was exchanging classified information in her private email with others. Hillary’s first reaction was to deny the accusation. Actually, she admitted that she was using her private email account, but she claimed that it was allowed by the law and the State Department. However, after deeper investigation, Hillary apologized for her mistake, but she still denied that all those emails don’t include classified information and she turned over 55,000 pages of her email.

  1. “I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier.”

At first, Hillary didn’t admit that she broke any law by using private email and she stated that her right of using her own account was protected by the law and the regulations. She also stated that a reason why she used her personal account is it is much easier and convenient. This point would be significant in later discussion.

  1. “Everything I do was permitted. There was no law, there was no regulation, there was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate. Now I don’t have to turn over anything. I chose to turn over 55,000 pages, because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me.”

This time, Hillary still didn’t admit the accusation and she chose to respond to the accusation by releasing 55,000 pages of her email to show that she is innocent. She used parallelisms to strengthen up her confidence in this interview.  And she also said “I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me” to gain her face by claiming that her releasement of her emails is not only a proof for her innocence but also a sign that she had done something better than people expected.

  1. “I used a single account for convenience, obviously these years later, it doesn’t look so convenient.”

Now, Hillary began to step back a little bit. From her words this time, we can sense that she admitted something is wrong with using personal account, but she still didn’t admit that she didn’t break any rules. She was trying to remove people’s attention on the point whether she broke laws to the point whether using personal account is convenient or not. She didn’t gain or lose face this time, but she did protect her face by stepping back and clarifying at the same time.

  1. “I should have used two emails, one personal, one for work, and I take responsibility by that decision.”

Now, she admitted that it is wrong to use her personal account, and she apologized for her decision!

  1. “I used a personal account which was allowed by the State Department, but I should have used two different accounts. I made a mistake and I’m sorry for the confusion; I take responsibility for that. But now, I’m trying to be as transparent as not just I can but everybody……”

It is an obvious and direct apology, but there are more skills of protecting face in this sentence. She again stated that although her behavior was wrong, she didn’t break any law or regulation and her misusing of personal account is unintentional. Moreover, she also pointed out that she tried to cooperate with the investigation by turning over her emails to show her innocence in this case. I think the two “but” she used in this apology is the most significant: the first “but” was to step back to admit her mistake and show that her mistake was not using her personal account to exchange classified information, but using one account instead of two; the second “but” she used was to remind people that her mistake was an unintentional one and she tried to cooperate.

  1. “I could and should have done better job, answer the question easier, I should have used two account; that was a mistake. I’m sorry about that, I take the responsibility.”

At last, she admitted that she indeed made mistakes but apologizing many times. But we can also see that there is principle for her that she would not step back for. Even at last, as a politician, she didn’t admit that she break ay law.

Martin O’Malley’s Apology

assurance of no offence intended

At the Netroots Nation conference, democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said “Black lives matter; white lives matter; all lives matter.” After he spoke that, he formally apologized for what he said.

I meant no disrespect. That was a mistake on my part. I meant no disrespect and I did not mean to be insensitive in anyway or to communicate that I didn’t understand the tremendous passion, commitment and feeling, depth feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue.

For politicians, no matter white or black, discrimination and racism is always a sensitive topic. This time, the democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley also paid price for his misstatement. In his apology, it is obvious that he was trying to persuade people that his words were said unintentionally and he personally had no intention of discriminating black people or ignoring black people’s lives. For me, I actually didn’t recognize what’s wrong with his statement. But from the condition of the conference, his words did incur chaos and anger. So I think may be “All lives matter” is what he said to protect himself right then. And afterwards, as a politician certainly he should respond to that situation. So he apologized for his speaking. But he didn’t admit that he had any bias towards black people and he clarified that if people considered his statement in the conference as discrimination, it is some misunderstanding. This clarification is not only to show people that he is not a racist but also to protect his own face by stating that he actually just spoke something unintentionally which was not a seriously big issu

Bob McDonald’s Apology

regretful acknowledgement of failure or fault

“Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” Bob McDonald the Veteran’s Affairs Secretary told the homeless veteran in the street, who said he served American Special Forces. But the truth is McDonald did serve in American army, but not in American Special Forces. So he apologized for this later.

  1. I have no excuse. I have great respect for those who have served our nation’s Special Forces. They and all veterans deserve department of veterans’ affair that provides them the care and benefit that they have earned. We VA is working hard to restore trust and again I apologize to those who have been offended by my misstatement. We remain focused on continuing our progress to better serve veterans. I made a mistake, and I apologize for it. What I said was not on my mind at that time. I was trying to connect with them.

He apologized for his misstatement at first and then he tried to honor veterans which is obvious an action to gain positive face for veterans. After that he began to explain the aim of VA to show that VA focused on the interest of veterans to gain trust form people and protect VA’s face after he made mistake. And then he apologized again, which I think after watching many apology of politicians is what politician does regularly in an apology (again and again states it is one self’s fault).

  1. When you try to connect with someone, what you do is try to find your common ground. And we are veterans, my common ground is my veteran’s experience. So what I was trying to do is to find a way to connect with those veterans. And as I said I made a misstatement. I apologized for that I have no excuse for it. But if you look at my 61 years biography, you will never find anywhere in any of my biographies that I have claimed to be part of Special Forces. I’ve never claimed that.

This is his response to a CNN journalist’s question. He said he had no excuse for his misstatement, but obviously this response is an excuse. He said he was trying to decrease the distance between that veteran and himself so he said he served Special Forces. So he is gaining face for himself to explain further the cause of his mistake and gave this cause a reasonable and even made it seems to be honorable. Then he claimed that this misstatement never happened in his biography to protect his own integrity and face.

In general, when a politician apologize for his or her own mistake, they have a base line that they will never broke in the apology. In Hillary’s case is that she never admitted what she did broke any law or regulation; in O’Malley’s case is that he never admitted that he discriminated black people; in McDonald’s case, he never admitted that he lied to honor himself. Moreover, they also apologize as many times as possible (IFIDs and taking on responsibility by explicit self-blame) and most of those apology appear before or after an explanation or a clarification. Another significant point in politicians’ apology is that they use “but” a lot. The content after “but” is always an excuse which can also be interpreted as gaining or protecting their own face.

(All the speech is put down in writing from the videos in the link, so there might be something wrong because of my English.)

About Haipu Sun

I'm a 2019er from China and major in Computer Science Engineering.
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1 Response to How Politicians Do Apology with Words

  1. Katie Faull says:

    Very good work!

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