Matt Gaetz, it’s time to apologize; here’s how
State Rep. Matt Gaetz

gaetz, matt2

Ask any crisis communications expert: Half-hearted and/or misdirected apologies do almost nothing to solve your problem and can even make your problem worse.

“If what I said offended you, then I apologize.”

The inference there is that if my actions didn’t offend you, then hey, all’s good. The underlying premise is that the offense in question isn’t my problem, nor my responsibility — it’s yours. This is your burden not mine. I did what I did and it was only worth apologizing for if you were offended. The problem here is really your thin skin.

“Please accept my apology to those offended.”

To everyone else, pay no attention to the man behind the Tweet.

Matt Gaetz, you can do better than that because you are better than that.

I want to be clear and on the record here: I do not think for a second that Matt Gaetz is a racist. He’s not. Well, to be crystal clear, he’s no more racist than everyone else because, as anyone who has seen Avenue Q knows, we are all a little bit racist. And we all make mistakes.

Matt Gaetz can be called a lot of things, but “racist” is probably not one of those things. I have always like the guy (even when he would make fun of Charlie Crist). He is hard-working, smart, grounded in his beliefs and has a clear plan as to where he is headed. So let’s focus for now on the sin and not the sinner.

With that, the Tweet heard round the Capitol was churlish, childish, intemperate and darn sure was chock full of racial overtones. The guy who sent it made a mistake when he hit the send button.

Bad Tweet!

And when you send a bad Tweet, you need to own it and apologize for it — really, sincerely and genuinely apologize for it.

Here would be a few good examples:

  • I am sorry for the Tweet I sent.
  • I recognize that my Tweet was offensive and I am sorry for sending it.
  • I apologize to Senators Joyner and Bullard for my inappropriate Tweet. It was wrong to think and wrong to send.

See how that works?

You own it. You apologize for your actions and take full responsibility for what you did.

Otherwise you didn’t really apologize. Oh sure, you got the headline and you can tell everyone that you apologized. But in the end, you may only have  further offended the very people you intended to offend in the first place, without at least winning over the people you may have actually offended but didn’t intend to.  Whew!

Short version of the above run-on sentence: Own it, brother!

Matt Gaetz, I genuinely like you and know you have an amazing future ahead of you, and if this column offends you, then (and only then) am I sorry.

See how that works?

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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