The lost value of an apology

The lost value of an apology

The View’s undignified suspension of its regretful host teaches that owning our misdeeds has more negative consequences than ignoring them does

I often quote the Fonz, from the old television show “Happy Days.” When he had to say that he was incorrect, he couldn’t quite get the words out. “I was wrrrrrrr,” he said. “I am sssssoooooor.” He could not seem to say the words “I was wrong” or “I am sorry.”

Elton John wrote a chart topper on the same notion: We all know, “Sorry” seems to be the hardest words.

Today, finding someone with the temerity and courage to admit their mistake and seek forgiveness is a rare commodity. We are living in a culture where digging in our heels and doubling down, regardless of how wrong we might be, seems to generate more points than the ability to acknowledge our vulnerability and imperfection.

When Whoopi Goldberg made remarks invoking the Holocaust last week on “The View,” she made some people upset. Whites talking about race and gentiles speaking about the Holocaust have turned into the third rail of conversations. Whoopi heard from all streams of the Jewish and Holocaust memory world pushing back on the assertions she made on air.

Within hours of “The View,” Whoopi made a full-throated, unabashed apology. There were no what-about-isms. She did not try to explain herself. She did not dig in her heels, nor did she double down on her initial statement. She apologized for hurt she caused and acknowledged she misspoke and caused pain. She demonstrated openness to learning about how better to craft her thoughts and words related to this topic in the future.

Whoopi tweeted this apology to her millions of followers. She then opened “The View” the next day with her apology and hosted the head of the Anti-Defamation League to discuss the proper context of the Holocaust and race for future conversations. During the entire segment, Whoopi was contrite, remorseful, and humble.

I had hoped that as I put myself to bed that night, so did this issue.

I didn’t.

I awoke in the morning to learn that Whoopi has been suspended from “The View” for two weeks, “to reflect on her comments.”

Why?! Have we lost the value of an apology? What will further reflection provide that has not already been achieved?

Maimonides lays out three valuable steps for seeking forgiveness:

1. Admitting wrong-doing

2. Showing sincere remorse

3. Making the wrong, as right as possible

Whoopi followed these to a T. She perfected Judaism’s view of teshuvah (forgiveness). Her actions would satisfy any public-relations guru. Why did it not satisfy “The View” and her network?

While I appreciate the solidarity that the head of ABC (“The View’s” parent company) is signifying with the Jewish people, I think it is not very Judeo-Christian or ethical to suspend Ms. Goldberg. She should be back on “The View,” now.

Whoopi Goldberg is a veteran of the entertainment industry. In her extensive career, she has held a sterling and well-deserved reputation as a kind-hearted and thoughtful person. She does not have one racist, antisemitic, or hateful bone in her body. Her long and diverse history has proven that.

Whoopi’s ability to apologize unambiguously and recognize her mistake should be heralded, not opposed. We should champion the clinic Whoopi put forward on national television on how to own an error and to show the ability to learn, grow, and be corrected, with grace and dignity, instead of fueling her blunder.

Her suspension is against the grain of everything Whoopi is about and exhibited. It is undignified, coarse, and models to people of all ages that owning our misdeeds and apologies have more negative consequences than ignoring them does.

Please put Whoopi back on “The View,” where she belongs, and let the world take note that we should all be able to handle ourselves — our rights and wrongs — like Whoopi Goldberg.

David-Seth Kirshner is senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El of Closter, immediate past president of the New York Board of Rabbis, and the president of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis.