On May 26th, Jay Townsend, chief political advisor and campaign spokesperson for Rep. Nan Hayworth, posted an unacceptable comment to a Facebook page where he said:
“ […] Let’s hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector”
Talk about an unacceptable comment that made headlines across North America and caused an uproar in offended and alarmed citizens across the country!
I speak often of unacceptable comments and how to deal with them, as well as the power of a sincere apology. This is a clear-cut example of an unacceptable comment, never mind that it came from an experienced politician – which simply adds to the shocking factor of it all. And although an apology would not have retracted his written words, nor would they have excused his unacceptable innuendo, had it come in a timely manner AND had it been truly sincere, perhaps the wrath that has come down upon him would not have been so profound – or perhaps it rightfully would have been. Either way, in a case such as this, an apology would have been expected in a more timely manner and could have been hoped to be more sincere, at the very least.
Dissecting Townsend’s apology
Let’s take a look at the apology Townsend issued, because by my definition, it does not pass as meaningful or sincere.
I had hope when I saw his opening line:
“On May 26, I posted a stupid, thoughtless, and insensitive comment on a facebook page.”
Though when he followed it with:
“It was stupid because my words were easily misconstrued; thoughtless because my choice of words obscured a point I was trying to make, and insensitive because some have interpreted the comment as advocating a violent act.”
My hopes vanished. His words were in no way “misconstrued”. They were direct and vulgar and received exactly the way they were dished out – this, is not an apology. And stating that “some have interpreted the comment as advocating a violent act”, well let me rephrase this one for you: “I’m sorry you misinterpreted my comment” is NOT an apology. Nor was the comment misinterpreted. It was received loud and clear in the tone that it was issued.
“To friends, associates, and clients I have offered my apology for the embarrassment I have caused, and do hereby offer it to the many who rightly found fault with my incendiary choice of words.”
This, to me, still doesn’t scream “I’m profoundly sorry for the inexplicable, unacceptable and highly offensive comment I so indignantly and unprofessionally made.”
I say it often, and will continue to say it: there is power in a true and sincere apology. And as a truly sincere apology would not have excused Townsend’s choice of unacceptable words, it would have, at the very least, brought us some ease of mind knowing that he truly felt regret and shame for his actions. This is a clear example of the lack of power a half-hearted and forced apology will omit onto a crisis.
What about you?
How do you feel about Townsend’s actions, apologies and his forced decision to resign from his post? It’s a hot topic and I know you have thoughts on the matter, so feel free to share them with me below!
If you would like to read more about this hot topic, here are some excellent links with great insight and opinions:
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.