Last night, comedian and Late Night With Seth Meyers writer Amber Ruffin demonstrated to Late Night viewers how to apologize like a man who’s been accused of sexual harassment or assault. After joining Meyers onstage to give him a (fake) punch in the face, she set off on a stream of weaselly not-quite-apologies that echo the words of famous men over the past few months. Here are the takeaways, and the lame apologies they are echoing:
Always deny any kind of wrongdoing
“You just punched me in the face!” Meyers protests at the top of the segment.
“I categorically deny those allegations,” Ruffin responds, echoing former Rep. John Conyers. Conyers responded to the accusation that he had sexually harassed a staffer by declaring, “I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so."
Explain that you couldn’t have harassed anyone, because you’re a good guy
“Amber, you just punched me,” Meyers says.
“Did I? That doesn’t sound like me,” Ruffin muses. “Anyone who knows me would say that’s very out of character.”
Dustin Hoffman said the same thing after he was accused of sexually harassing an intern, protesting that this behavior was “not reflective of who I am.”
Low-key suggest that your accuser is lying and/or maybe hysterical
“You came in here, you sat down, and you punched me in the face,” Meyers says, to which Ruffin responds, “I remember those events differently.”
Here, she’s channeling Sen. Al Franken, who responded to the first allegation of sexual harassment against him by saying, “I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way.”
Place all responsibility on the victim
Ruffin then says, “I’m sorry,” adding after a meaningful pause, “that your face feels punched.” This particular line is a favorite of many of the men who have been apologizing lately: It allows them to sound like they’re saying sorry while refusing to take any responsibility for what happened.
“I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry,” said Hoffman.
“The women with whom I worked are smart and good people,” said former New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier. “I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected.”
“It's been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable,” said Pixar’s John Lasseter. “That was never my intent.”
“To anyone he has offended,” said a spokesperson for former President George H.W. Bush, “President Bush apologizes most sincerely."
Suggest that there was a time when people didn’t know it was bad to harass other people
“It was a different time back then!” Ruffin remarks cheerfully.
This line was most famously used by Harvey Weinstein, who explained his multiple decades of allegedly harassing and assaulting employees and colleagues by saying, “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”
Explain that you can’t have hurt women, because you’re pro-woman
“I’ve always been a supporter of faces,” Ruffin tells Meyers. “Some of my best friends have faces.”
Many of the powerful men currently accused of hurting women are fond of whipping out their pro-woman bona fides.
“One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC,” said Weinstein. “While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom and I won't disappoint her.”
Hoffman cited his movie Tootsie as evidence that he is a great friend to women. “I would not have made that movie if I didn’t have an incredible respect for women,” he said. “The theme of the movie is he became a better man by having been a woman.”
But as Ruffin concludes at the end of the sketch, making a bad apology like the ones she mocks only bars you from certain jobs. It might (perhaps temporarily) tank a career as a movie producer or an actor or even as a senator — but apparently it doesn’t disqualify you from running for senator in Alabama, or from being president of the United States.