Don Imus says he’s “apologized enough” for his sexist, racist comment about the Rutgers Womens Basketball team. How many husbands and wives have you heard say the same thing?
Imus will have apologized enough when the state of his relationship is acceptable to him. And he hasn’t yet tried the step most likely to rebuild it.
A husband or wife is fortunate to have just one relationship to repair after a particularly hurtful act. Don Imus has many. Here’s how he might go about mending those relationships instead of bitterly accepting their end.
A More Effective Apology
To the politicians and newsmakers he’s offended, he might say, “I value your contribution to my show. You are a huge part of my brand, what makes me famous and what makes me money. I need you. I am so sorry to have hurt your careers with my mistake. What can I do to make our relationship right again?”
To the sponsors of his show, he might say, “It takes a lot of money to put this show on the air. Sometimes, I slip into thinking I make that money, but I don’t. You make the money, and you pay the bills. We are partners in this show. I am so sorry to have let you down in this way. What can I do to make our relationship right again?”
To MSNBC, who has broadcast his radio show on TV, he might say, “You have brought me so many more listeners. You’ve made it so much easier for a radio jock to compete with the morning TV shows. I’m sorry I’ve created this divide in your viewers, and I know it will cost you viewers for other shows and income from mine. You must feel like I’ve stabbed you in the back. I’m so sorry. What can I do to make our relationship right again?”
To CBS Radio, who produces his radio show, he might say, “We are a team, and I’ve let you down. You allowed me to express my opinions and walk very close to the line of what you as a broadcaster can get away with. I have overstepped the line this time, and I am responsible for the huge mess it’s brought you, including the effects on your other shows. I am so sorry for this. What can I do to make our relationship right again?”
To his listeners, who are the only reason CBS, MSNBC, his sponsors, and all those politicians and newsmakers have anything to do with him, he might say, “I stepped over the line when talking about the Rutgers team. I offended many of you. I embarrassed you with a racist, sexist, and insulting comment that your friends and family might think you are OK with just because you are a loyal listener of mine. I’m not OK with that comment, either. These were not public figures, used to being poked fun of and even thankful sometimes for the publicity of my biting comments. These are young women at the pinnacle of their athletic careers, brand new to public attention, and the comment went well beyond biting. It was insulting, to them and to many others. I am so sorry for what I’ve done to you. What can I do to make our relationship right again?”
And to the Rutgers Womens Basketball team, he might say, “Until I stepped over the line of decency, you and I never had a relationship, but we do now, and it’s not one I’m proud of. You have risen to fame fairly. You have just suffered what must be a very difficult defeat to accept. At the worst possible moment, I made the horrible mistake of suggesting to millions of people that you are not strong women of remarkable athletic ability and drive, but members of some group of people I implied are common and beneath me. You most definitely are not, but the harm I’ve done to you is very real. I am so sorry. What can I do to make our relationship right?”
Unfortunately, Don Imus isn’t working to make any of his relationships right again. He’s not leaving it to those he’s harmed to name the steps he needs to take to make things right again. He’s done all he cares to do by speaking to the media and making a date to talk to the team. The politicians and newsmakers have filed for divorce. Some of his sponsors have filed for divorce or begun an indefinite separation. MSNBC has filed for divorce. CBS has asked for a two-seek separation. Many of his listeners have filed for divorce. The team has no good reason not to dump him before the relationship goes any further.
And that’s quite often what happens when anyone says, “I’ve apologized enough” instead of “What can I do to make our relationship right again?”