The celebrity apology: It's an art form.
While totally insincere apologies have sprung from the mouths of celebrities for decades, the Internet raises the bar and practically begs for displays of artificial remorse.
Imagine the trouble televangelist Jimmy Swaggart could have gotten himself into if he'd had a Twitter account. And we don't even want to think about a MySpace page falling into Bill Clinton's fumbling hands.
Not to be outdone, today's celebrities have raised apologizing to an ingenious level. First, deny any wrongdoing. When caught, make up some lame excuse. Choose from: "I was drunk," "I was selfish," "That dog/woman/child/teen country star was begging to be treated badly," and so on. Finally, promptly record a video version of your apology for the world to see.
So the next time some celebrity holds a highly publicized press conference -- a la Tiger Woods -- to issue his or her mea culpa, remember it wouldn't have been possible without these five trendsetters ...
No. 5: Chris Brown
R&B singer Chris Brown's 2009 fight with then-girlfriend Rihanna turned into a pre-Grammy beatdown. Brown was accused of hitting, pushing and biting Rihanna after a party (he later pleaded guilty to felony assault).
Five -- yes, five -- months later, Brown apologized to fans via video. But before anyone could reach for a tissue, Brown made it clear he was not entirely to blame for the delay. His attorney would not allow him to speak, "even though I wanted to express my deepest respect and accept full responsibility."
His words seemed sincere. His demeanor did not. Perhaps he should have spent less time practicing furrowing his brow and more time memorizing his lines so he didn't have to rely on cue cards. Was he sorry, or just sorry he got caught?
Nevertheless, Brown showed how it's done: Issue apology, then quickly record album to be timed to coincide with next court hearing.
Of course, he could have just blamed it on the rain, like our next celebrity pair ...
No. 4: Milli Vanilli
Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan -- or Milli Vanilli -- or those guys who didn't really sing on their album -- finally apologized in 1990 after duping the public for nearly two years.
"So we give this Grammy back now," Pilatus said with a smirk during the dubious duo's press conference, announcing that they hadn't sung a note on their multi-platinum album, "Girl You Know It's True."
They managed to make it look like they were "giving back" the Grammy, even though the award actually was revoked.
The pair went on to say that it was actually their producer's fault for fooling fans of crappy pop music everywhere.
Poor Milli Vanilli. First they deceived everyone; then no one believed them. The weight of the scandal crushed the duo, so much that in 1998, Pilatus died of a drug overdose.
Our next celebrity apologizer fared a bit better post-apology ...
No. 3: Martha Stewart
The best part about Martha Stewart's "apology" for lying to investigators about her involvement with the ImClone stock scandal? The fact that Stewart never actually apologized.
Stewart said "sorry" for starting a feud with Rachael Ray. She even apologized to Jessica Simpson for making insensitive remarks about the loss of the singer's dog.
But did Little Miss Camp Cupcake ever say she was sorry for taking part in a conspiracy that saved her from losing thousands of dollars and gave her a distinct advantage over other investors?
To top it off, before heading to jail in 2004, Stewart actually had the nerve to compare herself to Nelson Mandela. That's right, Martha, your five-month sentence at the "Yale" of women's prisons was exactly like the 27 years Mandela spent doing hard labor as a political prisoner.
That was not such a "good thing" to say. Hey, but least she didn't harm another living creature, like our next celebrity ...
No. 2: Michael Vick
Say what you will about the 21 months Michael Vick served in prison following the guilty plea in his dogfighting case. He was adequately punished and served his time, or he deserved more. Either way, we still didn't buy his apology.
Vick didn't just sit in on one or two dogfights; he was highly involved in a major operation that treated hundreds of dogs barbarically and executed dogs that didn't perform well.
In 2007, shortly after pleading guilty to felony dogfighting charges, the NFL player issued an apology that, like Chris Brown's barnstormer, sounded convincing only to PR hacks.
The video of Vick's apology is actually laughable. Watch as he hangs his head with all the conviction of an 8-year-old pretending to be sorry for stealing cookies. Listen as Vick says "sorry" to his coach, the NFL commissioner and his team for letting them down (oh, and dogfighting is bad, mmmkay?)
Our last celebrity's misstep was much less serious, but so was his "apology" ...
No. 1: Michael Phelps
One day, Michael Phelps was among the greatest athletes in the world. The next, he was among the greatest athletes in the world caught smoking pot.
After a British tabloid published photos of Phelps taking a hit from a marijuana pipe, the Olympian said his behavior was "regrettable." OK, Mike. Got it. Move along, now.
But there was more. Phelps snuck in a zinger: "I'm 23 years old, and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me."
Phelps had to remind us he was young, just in case we forgot. Then he casually emphasized his successes, lest we forget his golden-boy status. He topped it off by reminding us we simply expected too much from him.
The worst was Phelps' promise to fans that "it will not happen again." Surely many of those fans remembered Phelps saying the same thing four years earlier, when he was arrested for drunken driving. Come on, Mikey -- we don't need you to lie -- again.
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