David Letterman's Crisis Management Failure
David Letterman, second-rate comedian, second-rate jokes, second-rate apologist, a man with an obvious integrity deficit.
Letterman’s silly, stupid, phony, non-apology for trashing the reputation of a 14-year-old girl is about what we would expect from this tired, old, non-talent. Except for the fact that he was sitting down, his four minutes of self-forgiving, excuse filled chitchat, followed by 30 seconds of his, less than serious, so-called apology, was really another old stand up routine, and the audience laughed and clapped. Some apology.
David, here is what an apology is:
The most constructive structure for apology I’ve seen is in The Five Languages of Apology, a book by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. Here, with some paraphrasing and modification based on my experiences, are the ingredients of the perfect apology.
- Regret (acknowledgment) - A verbal acknowledgement by the perpetrator that their wrongful behavior caused unnecessary pain, suffering, and hurt that identifies, specifically, what action or behavior is responsible for the pain.
- Accepting Responsibility (declaration) - An unconditional declarative statement of admission by the perpetrator recognizing their wrongful behavior and acknowledging that there is no excuse for the behavior.
- Restitution (penance) - An offer of help or assistance to victims, by the perpetrator; action beyond the words “I’m sorry”; and conduct that truly assumes the responsibility to make the situation right.
- Repentance (humility) - Language by the perpetrator acknowledging that this behavior needlessly caused pain and suffering for which he/she is genuinely sorry; language by the perpetrator recognizing that serious, unnecessary harm and emotional damage was caused.
- Direct Forgiveness Request - “I was wrong, I hurt you, and I ask you to forgive me.”
The most difficult and challenging aspects of apologizing are the abject and humble admission of having done something hurtful, damaging, or wrong (which he admits he carefully planned) and to request forgiveness (which he carefully avoided). Skip even one step and you fail. Gloss over and trivialize any step and you reveal yourself for who you really are . . . someone unworthy of respect or attention.
Memo to CBS: Suspend him for a month, then probation for a year. If he does it again, kick his butt out the door and hire someone honorable, who is truly funny and the public can respect.