I’ve been asked by quite a few people what I thought of Steve
Harvey’s apology after the Miss Universe gaffe, naming the wrong winner --
instead of Miss Philippines.
The quick answer is: it was good.
to news reports, a behind-the-scenes video shows Harvey
pointing to a cue card and talking to an unidentified person saying: “The
teleprompter said Miss Universe – Colombia.”
He immediately stated: “I’d like to apologize wholeheartedly to Miss Colombia
and Miss Philippines
for my huge mistake. I feel terrible.”
As readers of this site know, the basic formula for a kosher apology is that
it has to be expeditious (this was), specific (this was), and promise through
words and actions never to repeat it. That’s the ESP Rule.
I’ve been challenged on this case, asked whether Harvey’s
apology was, in fact, good, since it was missing the last element.
And it’s a very good question. Most apologies require all of the elements.
Most of the time, concrete steps must be taken to show the offended party
goodwill. This especially occurs in instances when there’s a possibility of a
repeat offense, if the relationship is already damaged, or the initial offense
Those steps can take the form of reparations, trust-building, and
demonstrable effort at change.
But, apologies must also reflect the proportionality of the harm caused. The
smaller the harm, the less of apology needed; the greater the harm, it stands
to reason that a much wider-reaching apology is obligatory.
What happened at the pageant was a small blunder. As I understand, it wasn’t
that Harvey misspoke; rather, that
the winner’s name was wrong on the card.
But whether or not it was directly his fault, the simple answer is that when
a small wrong is addressed in an expedient fashion, that’s all that is
necessary. Think of it like somebody accidentally stepping on your toes.
A quickly offered “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” is sufficient for those times, but
highly insufficient for greater harm.
Surely, one doesn’t expect the ridiculous: “Sorry that I stepped on your
toes. It won’t happen again. I was careless, there are no excuses, and I’m
going to take all precautions in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen
Saying such a thing is a mockery.
The ESP Rule is in descending order, and for good reason.
By racing to address the problem, Harvey
has already proven how important it is to mitigate the harm done.
Had Harvey, on the other hand,
pretended as if the entire incident never happened, and only much later offered
words of contrition, we could reasonably think less of his apology.
The specificity of the offense – or confession – shows the hurt party that
the transgressor truly understands what they’ve done.
Yes, sometimes, that’s all that’s required for small gaffes, such as Steve
He took responsibility and admitted immediately what he had done, without
being told to. Some people have referred to that as being a mensch.