An outstanding segment on CNN’s “New Day” addressed (video above) whether Martin Bashir should get to stay in his MSNBC job as 4 p.m. host. Bashir’s the guy who last Friday’s show shouted down Sarah Palin’s comparison of slavery and public debt by citing an example of slavery’s cruelty — an unspeakable act. Then he said that Palin herself would be an “outstanding candidate” for such treatment.
That was heinous.
On Monday’s show, Bashir showed full appreciation of the dark place into which he’d veered. He knocked out an airtight apology that covered everything — the full depravity of what he’d suggested, the disgrace heaped upon colleagues and so on.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo rated it tops among the media apologies he’s sampled: “I thought it made CBS’s Benghazi apology look like a maybe,” said Cuomo in a chat with his co-hosts and media commentator Joe Concha.
For Concha, the state-of-the-art contrition didn’t come soon enough. “But how long did it take him to say it, Chris — three days,” said Concha in a tone of reprimand. Indeed, Bashir mouthed his offensive remarks on Friday. A weekend intervened. At the top of the show on Monday, the host presented his mea culpa. By just about any modern media standard, that’s exemplary turnaround.
Only a suspension or dismissal will please Concha: “There has to be accountability, otherwise it’s going to happen again.”
That’s true only if you don’t consider an apology to be an element of accountability. In the realm of the Erik Wemple Blog, it happens to be the ultimate measure of accountability. Especially when compared to a suspension, a PR device in which the news outlet tries to look tough, the punished party goes off and sleeps in for a week or so, and then everything resumes as before.
An honest-to-goodness apology, on the other hand, forces the errant to: 1) Own up to the mistakes; 2) Explain them; 3) Vow that they won’t happen again; and 4) Be really embarrassed. There’s far more courage and accountability in such a step than in a suspension, in which the person who screwed up just sort of disappears for a while.
In March 2012, Bill Maher appealed in the New York Times, “Please Stop Apologizing.” Bashir, with his performance on Monday, made a case for rehabilitating this ritual. Accountability, it turns out, doesn’t necessarily need to come in the form of punishment from the boss.