— Us Weekly (@usweekly) May 19, 2014
When a public figure does something really stupid (like, say, rapper Macklemore dressing up as what many perceive as a stereotypical Jewish man) they have two options. They can dig in their heels and deal with the fallout. Or they can apologize.
Nearly 100 percent of the time, they apologize — after all, it’s necessary for their careers. But sometimes, you can tell they don’t really think they should have to say they’re sorry. That has resulted in a special kind of apology, which we’re calling the “Anyone Who Knows Me.”
The Anyone Who Knows Me is a popular defense for people who have one point in their career done something selfless, or embraced a social cause, or spoken out for the less fortunate. For example: “Anyone who knows me knows I would never do (offensive thing here) because I (did this wonderful thing here).” Sometimes even more general: “Anyone who knows me knows I’m nice, and would usually never do (this offensive act).” That’s great for them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give you a free pass for when you do or say something breathtakingly dumb.
Enter Macklemore: The Seattle rapper made a lot of people angry this week when he showed up for a secret performance dressed in a wig and fake nose that, to a lot of people, looked suspiciously like a really offensive stereotype of a Jewish man. People at the concert didn’t seem to care, but once the pictures hit the Internet, the backlash was swift.
Sure enough, Macklemore wrote a lengthy post on his Web site Tuesday about how, of course, his costume wasn’t a Jewish stereotype. He just wanted to be in disguise, so he picked up a “witch’s nose” at a costume store. “Some people there thought I looked like Ringo, some Abe Lincoln,” he wrote. Then he followed it up with a slight variation on the textbook Anyone Who Knows Me apology.
I will let my body of work and the causes for which I’ve supported speak for themselves. I hope that anyone who may question my intent take a few moments to discover the human and artist that I strive to be. I respect all cultures and all people.
Translation: His body of work = Macklemore sings “Same Love,” which has become somewhat of an anthem for gay rights over the last year or so. The song is huge and people love it. By making a veiled reference to the song and how he’s openly spoken out for marriage equality, Macklemore is essentially saying, “Because I’ve done this one good thing, anyone who knows me knows I couldn’t possibly have been offensive with this completely different situation.”
It’s a popular line of defense. A sample:
MSNBC host Thomas Roberts, openly gay and a well-known advocate for LGBT rights, on his morning show’s controversial “Cinco de Mayo” segment: “Anyone who knows me knows where I stand on diversity and inclusion, so to those I let down or feel betrayed, I hear you, and I’m sorry.”
Former Redskins player Dexter Manley who used a slur referring to football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman: “Anyone that knows me knows that’s not who I am in my heart or mind.”
Sports radio host Mike Missanelli after his vulgar “homophobic e-mail fight” with a listener went public: “Anyone who knows me or has ever listened to my show knows that I would NEVER cast aspersions on anyone’s culture or lifestyle.”
“The View” host Sherri Shepard for an interview that many felt expressed “anti-gay” remarks: “Anyone who knows me knows that I love, I accept, I embrace everybody who has love in their hearts.”
Ireland politician Michael Copeland for what people called a racially prejudiced tweet: “Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not possessed of a sectarian, racist, socially prejudiced, gender prejudiced bone in my body.”
And so on. On the one hand, it’s a natural instinct to see media headlines calling you names and to want to yell: “This is ridiculous, I’m not really like that! Ask anyone who knows me, they can prove it!” On the other, sometimes it’s best just to offer a heartfelt apology without the many qualifications.