In Crisis Management, Reputation

harris perryRecovery Starts with an Apology.  And Melissa Harris-Perry’s recent apology showed us the way.

If ever you want to see class, understanding and the right way to handle a misstep, I suggest you check out the MSNBC host’s apology for her show’s comedic take on a Romney family photo that includes his African-American grandson.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll give you the quick take: As part of Harris-Perry’s annual “Look Back in Laughter” program, a panel of comedians made lighthearted remarks about a Romney family photo in which Romney’s African-American grandson was perched on his knee.  One of the panelists began singing “One of these things is not like the others” and the conversation romped off from there.  Even Harris-Perry chimed in.  The result was an uproar about the panelists’ insensitivity that blossomed over social and traditional media.

Recovering from such remarks, especially given Harris-Perry’s dedication to fostering constructive conversations on diversity, could have been downright impossible.  But her apology, and the recovery I expect it to open up, is a true example of how to do it.  In fact, Romney was gracious enough to accept what he referred to as, “Melissa Harris-Perry’s heartfelt apology” saying, “…We hold no ill will whatsoever.”

Check out the full apology here and learn how to acknowledge a mistake and open the door to intelligent learning from it.  I am especially taken with these comments from a contrite, emotional and clearly moved professional:

  • “Whatever the intent was, the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive”
  • “Without reservation or qualification I apologize to the Romney family”
  • “I broke the ground rules that families are off limits and for that I am sorry”
  • “On this program we are dedicated to advocating for a wide diversity of families and I am reminded that when we are doing so it must be with the utmost respect.”
  • “I am genuinely appreciative of anyone who offered criticisms of last week’s programming and I am reminded that our fiercest critics can sometimes be our best teachers.”

Well done, Harris-Perry.  Well done.  May we all learn that the beginning of recovery starts with a demonstration of an understanding of lessons learned and a dedication to using those lessons to move forward.

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