I'm going to keep this short. That's because it really doesn't need much explanation or analysis, which frees us up at the Apology Institute of America so that we can use our time research apologies better. It's simply one of the worst "apologies" we here at the Institute have come across, and it doesn't the skill of a professional apology expert to understand that.
The background is that British Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sir Tim Hunt is reported to have told the World Conference of Science Journalists, "Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry."
It won't shock you to learn that there was an outcry in response.
Sir Tim then went on BBC Radio 4 to...well, I guess "apologize" is the word, since the phrase "I'm sorry" was buried in there somewhere, somewhat like it's in the phrase, "I'm sorry you're an idiot."
On the Today programme, he noted that he was "really sorry that I said what I said", and he should have stopped there. But alas, he added it was "a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists." Meaning that he's not actually sorry he said it, just that he said it in from of people who write things down like that for a living.
To be clear, that's not my interpretation, it's Sir Tim's. That's because that last sentence wasn't the bad part of his "apology." And bad as it was, he should have stopped there. Because he then went on to say --
"I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. It is true that people -- I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it's very disruptive to the science because it's terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field.
"I found that these emotional entanglements made life very difficult.
"I'm really, really sorry I caused any offense, that's awful. I certainly didn't mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually."
The man is clearly a brilliant scientist. And a clueless, social luddite.
I'm really, really sorry if calling him a clueless, social luddite causes any offense, that's awful. I certainly didn't mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually.
By the way, the best response in all of this came for a wide range of women scientists. Independently, they went on Twitter and left comments, among them (sorry for this being fuzzy, but it's the only way I could capture them all in one graphic file) --
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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