An offer of contrition?

What is contrition, what is apology, what do we mean when we use those words?

Did Ted Yoho apologize and/or “offer contrition” to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for calling her a fucking bitch?

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s outrage over a Republican lawmaker’s verbal assault broadened into an extraordinary moment on the House floor on Thursday as she and other Democrats assailed a sexist culture of “accepting violence and violent language against women” whose adherents include Donald Trump.

A day after rejecting an offer of contrition from Republican congressman Ted Yoho for his language during this week’s Capitol steps confrontation, Ocasio-Cortez and more than a dozen colleagues cast the incident as all-too-common behavior by men, including the president and other Republicans.

An offer of contrition? What offer of contrition? There wasn’t one. Let’s review:

“I rise to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York,” Yoho said Wednesday morning, while also denying that he ever directed profane language toward Ocasio-Cortez.

Yoho, who was emotional during his brief soliloquy Wednesday morning on the House floor, stated, “the offensive name-calling — words attributed to me by the press, were never spoken to my colleague, and if they were construed that way I apologize for their misunderstanding,” before concluding, “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my god, my family and my country.” 

That’s not an offer of contrition, or an apology. Apologizing for “the abrupt manner of the conversation” is not apologizing for calling a woman a fucking bitch. Apologizing for other people’s misunderstanding is a minus-apology, an apology-remover.

Also: this is a pattern, and it’s a pattern the sitting president follows.

The remarkable outpouring, with several female lawmakers saying they had routinely encountered such treatment, came in an election year in which polls show women lean decisively against Trump, who has a history of mocking women. Trump was captured in a 2005 tape boasting about physically abusing them, and his disparagement of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has included calling her “crazy”.

And there are mountains more where that came from.

No Republicans spoke. But the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, at a separate appearance defended Yoho, 65, one of his party’s most conservative members and who will retire in January.

“When someone apologizes they should be forgiven,” McCarthy said. He added later: “I just think in a new world, in a new age, we now determine whether we accept when someone says I’m sorry if it’s a good enough apology.”

But he didn’t apologize. Apologizing for “the abrupt manner of the conversation” and not for the “fucking bitch” is not apologizing. Really. If I hit you in the head with a brick and also get mud on your shirt, it’s not an apology if I cite only the mud on the shirt. Yoho does not get to count that petulant whiny belittling irrelevance as an apology and neither does McCarthy. Also it’s not always the case that “when someone apologizes they should be forgiven.” It depends. Say someone kills your family and burns down your house and then says “sorry”; does that make forgiveness mandatory? I think not.

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