How Do You Say, "I'm Sorry?"

Note: This post was started on August 18; however, it was not completed until after the Chris Brown interview with Larry King on CNN.


Last night Chris Brown did an interview with Larry King.  The goal, I thought, was to speak publicly for the first time since his sentencing about the incident between him and former girlfriend Rhianna.

A few Sundays ago Michael Vick talked for the first time about his sentence.

Clifford Harris, better known to most as TI or TIP, is currently serving time on federal weapons charges.

People across the world have watched each story unfold and each man take responsibility for their actions.  As I watched Michael Vick's 60-Minute interview a few weeks ago and Chris' interview with Larry King last night I couldn't help but to compare their stories from a PR perspective. I thought about how their stories played out in the media and couldn't help but think about who did the best job of apologizing for their transgressions.

So, let's talk about it ...

I won't recount each individual's trials, you can do a quick Google search to get acquainted or re-acquainted with their situations.  I will say, before I start dissecting their public apologies, that I recognize that each situation is different:

  • TI's fan base is mostly urban.  He hasn't crossed over into the pop realm, which keeps him from having to address the situation like Chris Brown and Michael Vick.  One could argue (and I am) that his audience had the potential to understand his situation and the circumstances surrounding it because they are more likely to have personally experienced it or know someone that has experienced it.  For that reason, they are more willing to accept his apology and allow him to move on with his life.
  • Chris Brown and Michael Vick, on the other hand, have crossed over.  As a result, they have a wider fan base and their actions actually caused hurt, and in Michael's case death, to people or animals.  These two things complicate the way they have to respond to the situation.

With that said, Michael and Chris failed miserably at saying "I'm Sorry." There are several things I find problematic with their public apologies:

They showed no remorse for their actions. Both Chris and Mike seemed to to be motivated by something other than remorse during the interviews.  To me, both seemed to be more concerned about their careers than really talking about the situation. In one instance in Michael's interview, he even seemed aggrevated that he had to explain his actions. And Chris didn't want to detail his actions or what caused him to do the things he did to Rhianna. This leads me to the next problem I have with the interviews.

They weren't open or honest. I've talked about the benefit of being transparent. It has worked for many a people (see 2006 post titled "Stop Frontin' and Get Real"), including TI.  Take a look at the video below.  TI talks openly about the circumstances that lead him to the illegal gun purchase that October night.  He explains that he is not trying to excuse his actions, just trying to help people undersatnd why he felt he had to purchase illegal weapons.  His approach was honest, sincere and he wasn't afraid to talk about what happened.  He didn't claim that he didn't know or remember what happened that night (Chris Brown).  He owned up to what happened and accepted responsibility. The most important thing here is that when presented with an opportunity to talk about the situation, TI talked.  He was open, honest and no question was off limits.

The lesson. If you agree to do an interview, do the interview.  If you aren't willing to be open, honest and transparent, decline and accept that people view you as [insert popular opinion here].  Doing an interview and not answering all the questions is worse than keeping a low-key and waiting until the storm blows over.

Below you will find the Mike's 60-Minute interview;Chris Brown's original apology interview and his Larry King interview; and one of the videos from TI's Road to Redemption series.  Take a look for yourself and tell me what you think. Who do you think gave the best apology? Who was really sorry for what they did?

Watch CBS Videos Online

Michael Vick's 60-Minute Interview


Chris Brown's Apology Video




Chris Brown on Larry King Live



TI Road to Redemption