Sometimes sorry seems to be the hardest word…
So crooned Elton John in 1976, and it turns out he was (mostly) right.
2014 was a year of humble pie for many, with some figures literally smothering the public with their pleas for forgiveness, whilst others seemed more intent on fine-tuning the art of the non-apology.
George Clooney launched a blistering attack on the Daily Mail
The newspaper had claimed Clooney’s fiancée did not approve of their upcoming nuptials on religious grounds, prompting the 54-year-old to launch a blistering attack on the publication, accusing it of behaviour that “should be criminal.”
He added: “It says Amal’s mother has been telling ‘half of Beirut’ that she’s against the wedding. It says they joke about traditions in the Druze religion that end up with the death of the bride.
Clooney is now married to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin
“Let me repeat that: the death of the bride.”
The 54-year-old pointed out Alamuddin’s mother is not Druze and hadn’t even been in Beirut since the pair started dating in September last year.
The Daily Mail article as it appeared in the newspaper
… And how it appeared online
The paper responded by offering apologies to Clooney, his now-wife and her mother Baria “for any distress caused”, though insisted the story “was not a fabrication but supplied in good faith by a reputable and trusted freelance journalist.”
Then it disappeared altogether
Unfortunately for the Daily Mail, Clooney refused to accept its apology, penning a second furious op-ed in USA Today in which he stated: “Either they were lying originally or they’re lying now.
“There is one constant when a person or company is caught doing something wrong. The cover-up is always worse.”
Next up was the truly bizarre spectacle of Daniel O’Reilly – aka Dapper Laughs – apologising in the wake of the media storm which saw his show On The Pull cancelled.
The controversial ‘lad comedian’ who made a career of such pearls of wisdom as “Just show her your penis, if she cries she’s just playing hard to get” and “remember, it’s only sexual harassment if she’s more attractive than you”, issued a statement “to say sorry to those people who I have upset.”
Back in the day… Daniel O’Reilly as Dapper Laughs
He followed this up with an appearance on Newsnight in which he announced he had killed of the character entirely.
Looking pale and subdued, O’Reilly gravely informed presenter Emily Maitlis: “Dapper Laughs is gone.”
Sombre and sorry: The comedian on Newsnight
In a similar vein, controversial American pick-up artist Julien Blanc appeared on a TV news programme to defend himself against accusations of “teaching men how to violate women through physical and emotional abuse.”
Blanc, who describes his “techniques” as “offensive, inappropriate, emotionally scarring but DAMN EFFECTIVE” advises men on how to “develop panty-dropping masculinity” and also launched a hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld, with which he tweets footage of himself doing exactly that: choking women around the world.
Julien Blanc appeared on CNN to apologise, insisting his intentions were ‘never bad’
The 25-year-old, who has since been denied a visa to enter the UK because of the disturbing content of his “pick-up” seminars, told CNN host Chris Cuomo: “My intentions were never bad, it was a horrible attempt at humour and unfortunately a lot of it was taken out of context.
“I 100 per cent take responsibility. I apologise 100 per cent for it. I’m extremely sorry. I feel horrible, I’m not going to be happy if I feel like I’m the most hated man in the world. I’m overwhelmed by the way people are responding.”
— Heather Marsh (@GeorgieBC) November 4, 2014
Someone who is extremely familiar with the consumption of humble pie is David Cameron.
In September the Prime Minister was left red-faced after he was overheard saying the Queen “purred down the line” when he told her the Scottish Independence result.
The PM made his comments in New York to former mayor Michael Bloomberg, without realising the conversation had been picked up by a TV microphone.
David Cameron was overheard saying the Queen had ‘purred down the line’ when he told her the Scottish Independence result
As the pair arrived for a press photo-opportunity, the PM smiled broadly as he recalled how he was able to tell her it was “all right” after the referendum resulted in a victory for the No camp. “The definition of relief, if you are Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is ringing up Her Majesty the Queen and saying ‘Your Majesty, it is all right, it’s okay’,” he said. “That was something. She purred down the line.”
Upon being rumbled, Cameron said: “Look, I’m very embarrassed by this. I’m extremely sorry about it. It was a private conversation, but clearly a private conversation that I shouldn’t have had and won’t have again. My office has already been in touch with the Palace to make that clear and I will do so as well.”
In November Rosetta scientist Dr Matt Taylor made history when he helped land the Philae spacecraft on a comet 300 million miles away.
Dr Matt Taylor made history but was criticised for his shirt
But the achievement was overshadowed by the reaction to his appearance on TV during the mission’s live stream wearing a bowling shirt featuring images of women in bondage gear.
Dr Taylor faced a furious backlash with many branding his choice of attire as “sexist” and “disappointing”. Astrophysicist Katie Mack remarked: “I don’t care what scientists wear But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn’t appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in STEM”. New York blogger, James DiGioia added: “Technology advances while society remains decidedly retrograde.”
I don’t care what scientists wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn’t appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in STEM
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) November 12, 2014
— James DiGioia (@JamesDiGioia) November 12, 2014
Not everyone was as censorious, however. Chloe Price observed: “Imagine the shitstorm if the scientist had been a woman and everyone focused solely on her clothes and not her achievements #shirtstorm”, while another female space professional asked: “Don’t these women and their male cohorts understand that *they* are doing the damage to what/whom they claim to defend!?”
imagine the shitstorm if the scientist had been a woman and everyone focused solely on her clothes and not her achievements. #shirtstorm
— Chloe Price (@Dekashoko) November 14, 2014
@ellypriZeMaN Yes, don’t these women and their male cohorts understand that *they* are doing the damage to what/whom they claim to defend!?
— claudiadm (@cldm_ish) November 14, 2014
Dr Taylor ended up delivering a public apology which saw him weep as he pleaded: “The shirt I wore this week, I made a big mistake and I’ve offended many people and I’m very sorry about this.”
In one of the more questionable examples of remorse, Dave Whelan the multimillionaire owner of Wigan Athletic Football Club made some somewhat bizarre comments after being accused of anti-Semitism while attempting to defend the appointment of Malky Mackay as manager.
Whelan sparked a furious backlash after justifying his decision to hire Mackay – himself under investigation for sending racist and anti-Semitic text messages – by making controversial comments about Jewish and Chinese people that were described as “offensive” by West Ham owner David Gold.
Dave Whelan: ‘Some of my best friends are Jewish and Chinese’
While talking about the club’s new manager, Whelan reportedly said: “Jewish people chase money more than everybody else” and used the term “chink” to refer to Chinese people – a word also used in one of the text messages revealed to have been sent by Mackay.
Whelan then attempted to use the classic defence against allegations of racism by stating “some of my best friends are Jewish and Chinese,” and then managed to reiterate the views he was supposed to be apologising for.
“If somebody says to a Chinaman, ‘you’re a chink’, would he be upset about it? I don’t know really,” he said. “If he was upset, I would say I am very sorry, I won’t call you that again.”
He added: “If any Englishman said he has never called a Chinaman a chink he is lying. There is nothing bad about doing that. It is like calling the British Brits, or the Irish Paddies.”
Later in an interview with Sky Sports News, Whelan apologised again and claimed the reported remarks “may have been a misquote”.
Ryutaro Nonomura held a press conference in Kobe to address accusations he had misused ¥3m (£17,000) of official allowances.
During the three-hour event the 47-year-old wailed hysterically, banged his fists on the desk and generally made a spectacle of himself.
According to a translation, his ramblings included: “I finally became an assembly member… with the sole purpose of changing society… This Japan… I want to change this society… I have staked my life… Don’t you understand?”
Nonomura – a member of the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly – allegedly spent the misused funds on 195 trips he made in the course of a year, including over 100 visits to a hot springs resort.
Naturally the internet responded to his emotional outburst by doing what it does best… taking the piss. His tear-stained performance inspired a stampede of cruel memes like this one..
— はくたく (@Yui63R) July 2, 2014
In September, Conservative Minister for Civil Society Brooks Newmark resigned from the front bench after sending sexually explicit photographs of himself to a male undercover reporter with the Sunday Mirror, who was posing as a female Tory activist.
Newmark, who has been an MP since 2005, was alleged to have sent the reporter a graphic image of him exposing himself while wearing paisley pyjamas.
Brooks Newmark, Tory MP resigned as minister for civil society
The married father-of-five said: “I have no one to blame but myself for falling for this tabloid sting. What I did was wrong and I am sorry for the pain and shame I have caused my family, my friends and my constituents.
“I have been a complete fool and deeply regret my behaviour. I hope people will give me the time to try to heal the enormous hurt I have caused Lucy and my children. I hope with time I will be forgiven.”
Every iTunes user received a free copy of Songs of Innocence in October – whether they wanted it or not.
During a Q&A for Facebook, the singer said: “I’m sorry about that, had this beautiful idea, and we got carried away with ourselves, artists are prone to that kind of thing. A drop of megalomania, touch of generosity, dash of self promotion and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there and I guess we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.”
Bono apologised for the ‘beautiful idea’ which saw all iTunes users receiving a free copy of U2’s latest album
November was an excruciatingly embarrassing month for QC and former Conservative MP David Mellor, who was caught on tape branding a cab driver a “smart-arsed little git” and a “sweaty, stupid little shit” during a fierce argument about the route he wanted to travel.
Mellor, who had accompanied his partner, VisitEngland chairman Viscountess Penelope Cobham, to an Investiture ceremony with the Prince of Wales, was heard in a mobile phone recording given to The Sun.
The paper reported that Mellor, who served as national heritage secretary in Sir John Major’s government, accused the driver of not taking the quickest route to their destination in east London during rush hour.
During the audio, Mellor, who told the driver to “fuck off”, threatened to name him and discuss the incident on his LBC radio show, which he co-presents with former London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Saturday mornings.
David Mellor was recorded calling a cab driver a ‘sweaty, stupid little shit’
“I don’t want to hear from you, shut the fuck up,” he said.
“You’ve been driving a cab for 10 years, I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s Counsel. You think that your experiences are anything compared to mine?”
Mellor has since apologised for his foul-mouthed rant during a phone-in session on his LBC radio show. He said he “can’t” and “won’t” defend his actions.
Mellor began the show by telling listeners he was “really, really sorry” and promised to make a “substantial donation” to the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association’s Christmas charity appeal.
He said: “I can’t think what possessed me to lose it with that cabbie the way I did.
“OK, I had a case but I threw it away by the way I spoke and I’m really, really sorry about that, and I especially want to apologise to you, our listeners, for trying your patience and risking my own credibility with you by speaking the way I did.
“Anyway, it’s water for me at the next celebratory lunch, I’ve definitely made that decision.”
In October unlikely I’m A Celebrity contestant Michael Buerk appeared to criticise the woman raped by footballer Ched Evans for being drunk – ironically whilst appearing on a programme which discussed the moral issues behind news stories.
The BBC radio host caused outrage in a trailer for Radio 4 discussion show Moral Maze when he suggested the woman attacked by the former Sheffield United footballer emerged from the crime without “any credit” because she was so intoxicated “she could barely stand”.
Michael Buerk made his comments on a programme which discusses the moral issues behind news stories
The corporation was forced to apologise after women’s rights campaigners hit out at the comments.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Buerk said: “If I gave the impression that the two issues of her being drunk and the rape for which Ched Evans was convicted were some sort of moral equivalent, that would be terrible and something I would need to apologise for. It was not my intention.”
He added: “If people took from it the impression that I was blaming the victim for the rape, that was absolutely not my intention.
“Having said that, the fact that the victim was drunk was the central issue in the court case. In fact, it was her case that she was so drunk she was incapable of giving consent.
“I’m not sure we’re in the position where subsequently we shouldn’t mention that, or perhaps I was clumsy.
“What I was trying to get across was that this case is packed full of very difficult and complex issues and I was not intending to conflate it.”
Footballer Ched Evans was convicted of raping a women at a hotel in Wales