Susan Wise Bauer’s editor reached out to her last year about updating her 2008 book, The Art of the Public Grovel, about how politicians apologize when accused of sexual misdeeds. Given the #MeToo movement and claims against Donald Trump, her editor said, a new edition might sell well.
It was Bauer’s turn to say sorry. “I just don’t know what I would write,” Bauer, a historian, recalls saying. “No one really apologizes anymore.”
The modern American political apology, which dates back to President Grover Cleveland seeking forgiveness in 1884 for fathering a child out of wedlock, is in a precarious state. Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—facing sexual harassment allegations from several women— gave only a semi-apology for making some female aides “uncomfortable.” He denied he did anything wrong and argued the public should “wait for the facts.” He’s continued to maintain his innocence, ignoring growing calls from fellow Democrats to resign. Cuomo is just the latest in a recent string of male political figures, from state lawmakers to members of Congress to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who’ve hotly denied allegations of sexual harassment, or attacked their accusers, or claimed to be the victims of smear campaigns.
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