In June, Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, wife of Israeli Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, shared a racist joke about President Barack Obama on social media: “Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak.”
Once the backlash hit, she apologized and passed the buck: “I apologize, that was a stupid joke someone sent me.”
I shook my head when I read about it, and it got me thinking about the nature of apologies today. When they happen in the media, they seem insincere. Perhaps that’s because they’re forced. Some person puts their foot in their mouth, the public demands its metaphoric pound of flesh, and so that individual says, “Sorry.”
But why on earth would a person in a position of celebrity or authority think it’s OK to say something so potentially damaging? Is it arrogance? Or is it ignorance?
I have to go with arrogance. I find it hard to believe that an adult — a politician’s wife at that — would not know how completely inappropriate it is to say something so insulting about the leader of the United States.
Nir-Mozes can’t have been that ignorant. Was there no moment when she thought, “Hmmm … maybe it’s not a good idea to share this with my 74,000-plus Twitter followers because my husband is the minister charged with strategic ties with the U.S.”
Whatever the motivation, all I can say is don’t be sorry. Rather, think before you speak. When you’re in a position of authority — or connected to someone who is — take that extra second or two to consider the consequences of your actions.
Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it. As a leader, it’s better to bite one’s tongue than spend precious time trying to repair damaged trust.