The Amnesia Defense Isn’t an Apology — Four Ways Celebrities Fuck Up “I’m Sorry”

Heather M. Edwards
6 min readNov 21, 2018

As Claire Underwood’s presidency ends I can’t help but think of how many industry veterans have lost their jobs because of someone else’s sexual misconduct. “The long shadow” cast by Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, even deceased, seems inescapable. And the casualties of some celebrities’ deviance, criminal or otherwise, seems unfair.

One of my best friends is a communications specialist. Her mastery of the written language is surpassed only by her mastery of reading people and reading between the lines. That is to say that her observations are largely beyond reproach.

When she texted me last year to ask if I had heard about Kevin Spacey we lamented his slimy decision to use that moment to come out as well. His exculpatory sidestep undermined decades of suffering, sacrifice and advocacy of the gay community — especially their tireless efforts to extricate themselves from the ignorance of those who conflate homosexuality and pedophilia. I’d actually never read the word “conflate” so many times in one week.

“His handler should be fired,” she said unequivocally.

Photo by © Paul Hudson, 2011

As my friend is someone who communicates for (read: handles) major clients and elected officials I’m inclined to agree with her expertise.

It’s been a year since then. We need to ask ourselves if we’ve made any progress. The short answer is not enough. With every celebrity “apology” since Spacey’s I lament two frequent tactics.

1.) Handlers
Celebrities only speak for themselves in moments of professional accomplishment or gushing gratitude, like winning awards, but hide behind the shield of handlers in moments of personal fuck-ups.

2.) Claiming amnesia
Celebrities often invalidate these already diluted apologies by saying they don’t actually remember whatever offense their handler is apologizing for.

As the celebrities dominos fell throughout a year unlike any other it was only a Michael Oreskes, a “celebrity” I’d previously not heard of…


See more recommendations