The Washington Post

A history of campaign apology ads

Regret and apology are not themes candidates typically choose to underscore in campaign ads. But that's exactly what Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) did Tuesday when he released a 30-second spot in which he apologizes for saying in a Sunday interview that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy.

Akin's not the first politician to take to the airwaves to say he or she is sorry. Here is a look back at who else has used a similar tactic in recent (and not-so-recent) years:

Earl Pomeroy (2010): The North Dakota Democrat sought to reintroduce himself at the end of the campaign with an ad acknowledging that he had, on occasion, fallen short in the eyes of some voters. "I know I've disappointed you with a vote here or there. But you can always count on the fact that I do what I do for the right reason — for the people of North Dakota," he said at the end of the ad.

Pomeroy didn't mention specific votes, but his support for the federal health-care measure was a target of Republicans during the campaign. Ultimately, the ad didn't work. Pomeroy was swept away in the midterm wave election that brought the GOP control of the House.

Christine O'Donnell (2010): O'Donnell, the surprise GOP Senate nominee in Delaware who enlisted the help of media producer Fred Davis, was tripped up by by prior statements in which she said she had "dabbled into witchcraft." She sought to to set the record straight by declaring head-on to the camera: "I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you." The ad received a lot of publicity, but wasn't enough to help her win.

Tom Feeney (2008): When you take a trip to Scotland with a disgraced former lobbyist, an apology is in order. That was Florida Republican Tom Feeney's thinking when he said in an ad that he was sorry about the trip, which he took with Jack Abramoff five years prior.

"I embarrassed myself and embarrassed you, and for that I am very sorry," Feeney declared in a sobering tone. It wasn't enough to prevent Feeney from being replaced in the House by Democrat Suzanne Kosmas.

Don Sherwood (2006): Extramarital affairs can sink campaigns. In 2006, the Pennsylvania Republican, hoping to mitigate damage from one, released an ad apologizing and maintaining that he did not ever abuse the woman with whom he had an affair.

"While I'm truly sorry for disappointing you, I never wavered from my commitment to reduce taxes, crate jobs, and bring home our fair share," Sherwood said in the commercial. He lost to Democrat Chris Carney in the midterm wave year.

Tom Reynolds (2006): As chairman of the House Republicans' campaign arm, Reynolds was a senior Republican in the House during the congressional page scandal surrounding  then-congressman Mark Foley of Florida. Reynolds expressed regret in an ad that he didn't take action against Foley earlier. "I'm disappointed I didn't catch his lies before. For that, I'm sorry," Reynolds said. Reynolds survived the 2006 election, which was the last race he would run before retiring two year later.

Bob Torricelli (2002): Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat running for reelection to the Senate, released an ad saying he was ''determined to learn from this painful experience," a reference to accusations that he accepted gifts and cash from a campaign donor. Despite airing the ad in the expensive New York and Philadelphia markets, Torricelli eventually withdrew from the race.

Jerry Springer (1982): Best known for his television talk show, the former mayor of Cincinnati was a politician well before he was a TV personality. He ran for governor of Ohio in 1982 and ran an ad in which he expressed regret for soliciting a prostitute in the 1970s. "Nine years ago, I spent time with a woman I shouldn't have," Springer said in the ad. "And I paid her with a check. I wish I hadn't done that." Springer lost in the Democratic primary.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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