Romano: Could someone just say 'I'm sorry' and be done with it?

Published Sep. 9, 2015

I'm in the market for an apology.

Something short. Something sincere. Something that tells me the person isn't dancing past responsibility with a faux show of regret.

Because, it seems to me, the heartfelt mea culpa is in danger of extinction. At least it seems that way for those in public life, where apologies are more often designed to benefit the sender rather than the receiver.

Take the case of Hills­borough County Aviation Authority board member Sam Rashid. Last week, Rashid went on social media to call a female public relations consultant in Tampa a "tax-payer subsidized slut" with "an intimately close relationship" with three elected officials.

Rashid later sent a letter to the editor to "offer my personal apologies" to the consultant, and to explain that, in politics, slut is a double entendre used to describe certain insiders.

In hindsight, Rashid said, he should have been less "Donald Trump-like" and more "politically correct."

This is a good example of a nonapology apology. By falling on the sword of political correctness and comparing himself to Trump, what Rashid is doing is winking at like-minded cohorts while pretending to be contrite.

Here's the reality:

Casually insinuating that a successful woman is using sex to further her career does not make you comparable to Trump; it makes you a jerk.

Acknowledge that, and you have the beginnings of a real apology.

While Rashid's plea was ruined by insincerity and code words, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was done in by suspicious timing.

Given two opportunities in the past week to apologize for exercising poor judgment in potentially mixing business and personal email while secretary of state, Clinton insisted she had done nothing deserving of an apology.

And yet, a day after saying "what I did was allowed," Clinton reversed course and apologized in an ABC News interview and on Facebook for what she called a mistake.

This is a good example of a damage-control apology. The words may sound like sincere regret, and yet the more important mission is to alter a story line.

The irony is that her campaign is increasingly worried about Clinton being viewed as untrustworthy, and so the solution was to go on TV with a fake apology.

Because, let's face it, it's far easier to believe that Clinton's change of heart had more to do with her slipping poll numbers than an overnight epiphany.

At least Clinton didn't fall into the trap that ruined Hulk Hogan's nationally televised apology late last month.

Caught on a recently released videotape using incendiary racist language while angrily discussing his daughter and her boyfriend, the Tampa Bay wrestling icon appeared to be genuinely remorseful on Good Morning America. Hogan acknowledged his words were "ugly" and "disgusting" and tearfully asked for forgiveness.

He also suggested that using racist terms was a byproduct of growing up in a rough neighborhood in South Tampa in the 1960s and '70s.

This is a good example of the but-it's-not-my-fault apology. While seeming to accept responsibility for what he said, Hogan was also trying to justify his mistake by dubiously claiming it was a result of habits learned decades earlier.

Really, it shouldn't be this difficult.

We just need to remember that apologies are meant to convey our regrets and not further our careers.