6 ways Sam Bee nailed it with her on-air apology

By Joe Berkowitz

June 07, 2018

Last week, media outlets courageously decided in lockstep to give 24/7 coverage to the week’s most important story: How the actual Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico–around 4,600 souls–drastically dwarfed the official government tally of 64. Just kidding, the top story last week was Roseanne Barr doing racism and losing her TV show, a topic cable news networks covered 16 times more than the Puerto Rico news, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. The only other news item that came close was Sam Bee calling Ivanka Trump the c-word. (You’re doing great, cable news!)


Because Barr and Bee’s separate controversies somehow became inextricably linked, it bears pointing out the difference between the way each apologized for them: Barr’s shambolic apology was a contradictory, hole-deepening mess, while the statement Bee released last week was straightforward and (seemingly) sincere. Her just-released on-air apology further proves what a class act she is.

Here are six ways Bee’s apology came across as smart, shrewd, and refreshingly free of bullshit:

    In recounting the incident, Bee made sure to mention that Ivanka Trump is not only the president’s daughter but also his advisor. This word subtly conveys the distinction between insulting Ivanka and, say, President Obama’s teenage daughters.

    While Bee points out that she’s used the c-word many times before on the show, in an effort to reclaim it, she does not let herself off the hook for using it this time to insult another woman. As my colleague, Kathleen Davis, pointed out last week, this usage takes the term a step beyond colorful language.

    Bee goes on to acknowledge that a lot of women, in fact, don’t want that word reclaimed at all, let alone used to insult a public figure, no matter how problematic the figure may be. The comedian is telling women who may not be familiar with her show but were offended by the term that she sees them and understands where they’re coming from.

    However, Bee emphasized that her apology is exclusively intended for women. She remains unconcerned about men, like Ted Cruz, whose outrage may have been less than genuine.

    The host expresses supreme regret that her insult distracted from the story of migrant children being separated from their parents at the border, and redirects attention back to it. Lost in all the outrage over Samantha Bee’s uncouth expletive was any legitimate discussion over what Bee was so upset about in the first place and what we as a nation intend to do about it. (Aside from pass the buck, of course.)

    Finally, Bee takes care to explain not only what she’s sorry for, but also what she’s not sorry for. In the wake of what I can’t believe we’re sort of calling c*ntgate, many critics pointed to Bee’s insult as the death knell of our country’s civility. It must take some kind of nuclear-grade cognitive dissonance to admonish Bee for her tone and not the president’s–or to even look at tone at all when our current policies stipulate ripping apart families. As Bee says in closing her apology, “Civility is just nice words. Maybe we should all worry a bit more about the niceness of our actions.”