Apology Expert Rates Anthony Weiner’s Public Apology

June 16, 2011 1 Comment
Dr. Jennifer Thomas is the co-author with Gary Chapman of The Five Languages of Apology, and today she gives a closer look at how Rep. Anthony Weiner’s public apology for his recent actions compares to a complete and genuine apology.

Anthony Weiner is in hot water. He sabotaged himself by sexting first privately then publicly. Next, he lied to cover it up.

Wikipedia provides this bio:

Anthony David Weiner (born September 4, 1964) is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 9th congressional district. Weiner is a Democrat, and has held the office since 1999. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1998 mid-term elections. He was re-elected handily for six additional terms, receiving 59 percent of the vote in 2010. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor of New York City in the 2005 election.

In June 2011, after having first denied doing so, Weiner admitted having sent sexually explicit photographs of himself to several women “followers” on Twitter, both before and since his marriage a year ago. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an ethics investigation.  On June 9, a NY1-Marist Poll showed that 56% of registered voters in Weiner’s Congressional District wanted him to stay in Congress, and 33% thought he should resign. On June 11, Pelosi and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called for Weiner’s resignation.

Weiner’s Statements and My Thoughts:

Below, I’ll analyze Weiner’s public apology from 6/7/2011 using the five languages ofapology from my book with Gary Chapman by the same title.  Here is a numbered list of our apology languages.  Within Weiner’s apology text, I’ll reference these numbers in parentheses after his comments:

  1. Expressing Regret: “I am sorry”
  2. Accepting Responsibility: “I was wrong”
  3. Making Restitution: “What can I do to make it right?”
  4. Genuinely Repenting: “I’ll try not to do that again”
  5. Requesting Forgiveness: “Will you please forgive me?”

Weiner said:

I would like to take this time to clear up some of the questions that have been raised over the past ten days or so. I take full responsibility for my actions. At the outset, I would like to make it clear that I have made terrible mistakes (2).

I have hurt the people I care about the most and I am deeply sorry (1). I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friend and supporters and the media (2).

Last Friday night I tweeted a photo of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle.

Once I realized that I had posted it to Twitter I panicked, I took it down and I said that I had been hacked. I then continued with that story, to stick to that story, which was a hugely regrettable mistake (1, 2).

This woman was unwittingly dragged into this and bears absolutely no responsibility (2). I am so sorry to have disrupted her life in this way (1). To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent it (2).

I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife Huma, and my family, and my constituents, my friends, supporters and staff (1).
In addition over the past few years I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, email and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online.

I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the past three years.

For the most part these communications took place before my marriage, although some sadly took place after (2).

I have never met any of these women, or ever had physical relationships of any kind.

I haven’t told the truth, (breaks down) I have done things that I deeply regret (1,2). I brought pain to people I care about the most, to people dear to me, and for that I am deeply sorry (1).

I apologize to my wife and our families, as well as to our friends and supporters. I am deeply ashamed of my terrible judgment and actions (1,2).

My analysis:

Weiner only covered two of the five languages of apology in his statement.  At that time, he did not offer any amends or a plan to change his behavior.  He did not make a request for forgiveness.  Five days later, he announced that he will enter rehab.  This is a good step towards cleaning up his act and, perhaps, his reputation.

Bonus Material:

Weiner has not admitted to having an affair.  Has he “cheated”?   My late colleague Dr. Shirley Glass (she’s the mother of NPR’s Ira Glass) wrote about the power of both emotional affairs and sexual affairs.  Weiner has not done some damage to the emotional trust in his marriage; he has set off an atomic bomb in his home.   

MSNBC reports that last weekend, Weiner ran some personal errands near his home in the New York City borough of Queens during the morning, and said he was looking forward to getting back to work quickly.  Weiner told reporters:

“I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve acknowledged it. I’m trying to make it up to my wife and my family,” he said. “I’m working hard to get back to normal.”

When I heard the above quote, I groaned.  The word “some” in the first sentence grabbed my attention and would not let me go.  A man who is in the center of such a huge scandal should not use that word.  All of us make SOME mistakes, but if the President of the United States is saying that he would resign if he were in your shoes (as Obama said on Monday), Weiner’s comment is far too minimizing.  Weiner has made enormous, repeated mistakes.  He has lost the trust of many.  Why did/does he make such choices?

Weiner’s 39-year-old brother Seth was killed in a hit and run pedestrian/car accident on May 20th, 2000 (Weiner also has a younger brother, Jason).  As a psychologist, I see Weiner’s compulsive sexual actions as possibly being triggered by the pain of this loss.  Pain creates a desire to escape and we know that sex is a common refuge (along with drugs and alcohol).  When did Weiner get in trouble for his growing online flirtations?  He made his Twitter photo mistake in May, the same month of the year in which he lost his brother in the blink of an eye eleven years ago.  I’m surprised that, to date, this issue of grief has not been raised by the mainstream media.  Anyone who has lost a loved one deserves compassion.  However, this is no excuse for lying and cheating.  Many say that Weiner no longer deserves his respected position in Congress.  Will he come to that painful realization this week?

What are your thoughts? And what are your ideas about how we can protect marriage boundaries in growing technological advancement?

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One Response to Apology Expert Rates Anthony Weiner’s Public Apology

  1. Pam says:

    Former Rep. Weiner’s story is a sad one. Not only have his actions shown irresponsibility and poor judgment (or no judgment at all), they are also childish. I’m sorry for him, but not sorry he has resigned his position in Congress. I hope his young marriage will survive.
    Protecting marriage in an age of technological advancement is similar to protecting it in any time: be committed, make up your mind beforehand to be faithful, and realize that a marriage is larger than the two people in it.

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