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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Mistakes Happen. Own it. Move on.

By Kevin O'Toole, April 16 2021 12:01 am

Recently, we have witnessed many of our politicians apologize for transgressions or mistakes made while in office or a prior life. It now seems that these apologies are more common than ever.

Mistakes happen. Lapses of judgement occur.

Too often, these so-called apologies come only after they have been caught or exposed in some indefensible behavior after denying it and hoping it would go away on its own.|

I know that Roger Stone once said: “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack,” but that usually doesn’t work.

I have an idea for politicians and other civic leaders for when that moment comes that you have to own a mistake – actually mean it when you seek forgiveness. Have a sense of quality and sincerity when you apologize. People can tell when you’re faking it.

One of my favorite nieces and goddaughter, Jacqueline, is an amazing mother of three phenomenal (some say highly energetic) boys, devoted wife to a brave police officer, and a successful businesswoman to round out a busy life. However, if we can learn one thing from my niece it’s how NOT to apologize.

Since the day Jacqueline was born, certainly since grammar school, if Jacqueline did something wrong, which was rare, she had this odd way of apologizing. Instead of stating that she was really sorry for her action, Jacqueline would say the following: “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

WTF! Who says that?

New flash: The above doesn’t constitute an apology – not even close.

With all due respect to Jac, the “I’m sorry you feel that way” doesn’t exactly convey remorse, reflection or an apologetic tone. It is so funny though. The “Jac Apology” as we call it in our family, actually flips the table and makes the person who is giving the apology act as if they deserved an apology.

To politicians seeking forgiveness; when you apologize be sincere, be authentic, don’t qualify or seek an excuse, own it and promise to do better. Have some real contrition and, depending on the magnitude of your error, you might stand a chance to be forgiven.

Let’s admit it, politicians are not very likeable and when they make a blunder, the public is eagerly waiting to jump at the opportunity to condemn.  Next time you make a mistake, and invariably you will, really apologize. Don’t compound the problem.

To anyone who feels this column is directed at you, I’m sorry you feel that way.

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