COMMENTARY | Recently Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk show host, and Bill Maher, host of the HBO show "Real Time," demonstrated different ways of how to deal with similar mistakes. The two approaches by the different men speak much to their character.
Limbaugh has apologized to Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law school student whom he insulted, according to Hot Air. "My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir," Limbaugh said. "I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices." Limbaugh owned up to his mistake and behaved as any gentleman should.
Maher has chosen a different approach, according to the Daily Caller. In the opening monologue of his show, Maher took note of a previous monologue by Limbaugh in which he compared his own behavior toward Fluke with Maher's vile and obscene insults toward Sarah Palin. In Maher's view, unlike Limbaugh, he does not have to apologize.
Maher's excuse goes like this. Limbaugh has sponsors to which he is responsible. Some of Limbaugh's sponsors have pulled their advertising in the wake of the storm he has stirred. But Maher, since his show airs on a pay-for-view cable network HBO, does not have sponsors. Ergo, Maher can say anything he wants, even insulting a lady with words that cannot be reproduced here.
Maher misses the point. One does not apologize for making a mistake only if some outside institution or people apply pressure. One apologizes because it is the right thing to do.
To be sure, there are instances, articulated by John Wayne's iconic character in "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," in which he famously said, "Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness." Neither the case of Limbaugh with Fluke not Maher with Palin applies. Neither woman deserved what they got.
Apologizing in such circumstances is quite easy, as demonstrated by Limbaugh. It consists of the following:
What I did was wrong.
I am sorry about it.
Everything else, while necessary in some cases to provide context, is usually supercilious to the task at hand.
Limbaugh managed to swallow his pride and showed himself to be a man and a gentleman by doing so. Maher, by making excuses, showed himself to be something else entirely.
- Rush Limbaugh
- Bill Maher