Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a beacon of probity, has been caught allegedly hiring a prostitute. He has appeared on TV to apologise – see it here. And what an inadequate job he did.
I was reminded of a previous apology he made in the New York Times last July for his administration’s involvement in ordering the State Police to record the whereabouts of State Senate majority leader Joseph L. Bruno – read it here.
In neither case does he even do the first thing that any apology worth anything should do – he does not state what he did. If you’d missed news broadcasts you’d have no idea what he was apologising for.
According to Perfect Apology the key steps in any good apology are:
1. a detailed account of the offence
2. acknowledging the hurt caused
3. taking personal responsibility
4. recognising one’s role
5. stating one’s regret
6. asking for forgiveness
7. promising that it won’t happen again
8. offering resititution
Spitzer’s apology fails miserably on several of these counts. But even if he’d successfully ticked off each of the above criteria – say a savvy aide had written something more fitting – his tone means that the apology would have failed anyway as an apology. At the heart of any decent apology is genuine contrition, remorse, regret, sorrow, guilt, shame. These emotions are to my ears totally missing from Spitzer’s ‘apology’. I imagine that his wife loyally standing next to him must have been suffering a lot.
Let’s just recall what he’s alleged to have done. He patronized a high class prostitution service called Emperors Club VIP and met for over two hours with a $1,000-an-hour call girl. The call girl traveled to Washington, D.C., from New York City for the tryst. Spitzer paid her $4,300 in cash, which included $1,500 as a deposit with the agency toward future services. Spitzer had at least seven or eight liaisons with women from the agency over six months, and paid more than $15,000. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a law enforcement official said on March 11 that Spitzer, in fact, had spent tens of thousands of dollars with the Emperors Club. Another official said the amount could be as high as $80,000. So, not one “disappointing” mistake – an ongoing series of events involving who know whose money.
(Interesting side note: Spitzer registered at the hotel under the alias of George Fox, the name of an uninvolved friend, and the Governor’s own Fifth Avenue Manhattan address. So revealing – but a topic, perhaps, for another day.)
My conclusion is that an apology like this is actually an insult. It’s cruel, and perhaps that’s it’s point.