You know how it goes — you briefly forget you’re in public and say something thoughtless about, say, a grieving family or skolling beer, and you need to draw a line under your mistake and move on. How do you do it? We’re genuinely asking, because this week gave us nothing but examples of how to ensure people just keep on talking about you and your gaffe:

Trevor Ruthenberg “I’m sorry (but I didn’t do it)” 

Ruthenberg, the LNP candidate for the eccentric-laden Longman byelection, got into hot water for the claim — on his parliamentary website — that he had an Australian Service Medal (which recognises distinguished overseas military service), rather the more common (and in his case far more accurate) Australian Defence Medal (which recognises four years of service). He gave a pretty full apology, albeit adamant he made an error rather than a misrepresentation:

I apologise to the prime minister, this is not the kind of front-page news the prime minister wants to see. I unreservedly apologise to the defence community. I tell cadets when you make a mistake you put your hand up and you own the mistake. I’ve never worn the Australian Service Medal, I’ve never claimed I’ve been eligible for the medal.

Except for the personal website were the same claim was made for many years … 

Greg Thomson: “The only thing I’m sorry for is being fun and popular” 

Former Sky News and Fox Sports presenter Greg Thomson (he resigned yesterday) was suspended when footage emerged of him shouting and swearing at the audience while MC-ing a charity event, before offering everyone the chance to “skol a drink with Greggo” — an offer the audience was happy to decline, as it happens. 

The next day he was asked for comment and gave a masterclass in not apologising:

It was a difficult, noisy crowd who had no doubt enjoyed a long lunch prior to the event commencing. I’m a fun, popular, off-script MC and received positive feedback and a lot of sympathy from members of the 500-strong crowd who agreed the behaviour of so many others was quite appalling. I certainly have nothing to be sorry about.

Craig Kelly: “If …” 

Liberal backbencher Kelly managed to unite both friend and foe in condemnation this week. After the father of three victims of the MH17 disaster attacked US President Donald Trump’s servile performance at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kelly told Sky “nothing is going to bring those three kids back” and, as such, Russia’s involvement in the shooting down of the place ought to be “looked over” for the sake of good international relations.

Kelly’s eventual apology made it clear that wasn’t his fault — it was all those opportunists who took his quotes out of context by printing them in full: “… what a disappointment that people have taken my comments and actually taken advantage for political reasons to blow them up and have caused additional pain to those families.”

This followed the all time classic of the non-apology genre (and discarded Kipling verse) “If my comments were taken out of context and have been blown up I certainly apologise to everyone”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey