Public officials and celebrities say offensive things every day. Whether you’re Kobe Bryant, Rahm Emanuel, or Don Imus, there’s only one way to get out of hot water: apologize. You don’t just have to say you’re sorry, though—you have to say sorry to the right person. So who should you put on speed dial just in case you say the wrong thing about African-Americans or the mentally disabled? Slate has the answers. Consult our apology cheat sheet below and you’ll never have to hunt down the Anti-Defamation League’s number again.
Group offended: gays and lesbians
Sample offense: After receiving a technical foul in a game against the Spurs on Tuesday night, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant accused the referee in question of being a “fucking faggot.” The Human Rights Campaign quickly condemned the act.
Sample apology: Bryant issued a statement and appeared on ESPN Radio the next day to apologize, blaming the slur on “the heat of the game.” He also called Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese to express his regrets—a conversation Solmonese said was “very sincere.”
How to apologize: Call the Human Rights Campaign at 202-628-4160 and ask for Solmonese. For extra points, you can also call contact Jarrett Barrios, the president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. His email address is email@example.com.
What to say: As a role model, you must lead the fight against gay slurs.
Group offended: the mentally disabled
Sample offense: In a 2009 strategy session with liberal groups, then White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called a plan to air attack ads against conservative Democrats “fucking retarded.”
Sample apology: Emanuel called Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver to offer a mea culpa. Shriver accepted. President Obama similarly apologized after referring to his own bowling skills as “like the Special Olympics or something.”
How to apologize: Call Shriver’s assistant Donna Maxwell at 202-824-0263.
What to say: Offer to join Shriver’s campaign against the “R-word.”
Group offended: Jews
Sample offense: In 2010, director Oliver Stone blamed Jewish control of the media for preventing an open discussion of the Holocaust and stated that “Israel has fucked up United States foreign policy for years.”
Sample apology: Stone had to make two attempts before the Anti-Defamation League was satisfied by his contrition. The first apology, in which he refuted the notion that Jews control any American industry, was deemed insufficient by ADL president Abraham Foxman for not addressing Israel’s role in foreign policy. Stone touched on that point in his addendum, which Foxman accepted.
How to apologize: E-mailFoxman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to say: The Jews control nothing whatsoever.
Group offended: women
Sample offense: While running for governor of California in 2010, Democrat Jerry Brown accidentally left an extended voice mail for the Los Angeles police union in which an aide could be heard referring to Brown’s opponent Meg Whitman as a “whore.”
Sample apology: Brown publically apologized to Whitman in a debate. In response, NOW president Terry O’Neill absolved his campaign.
How to apologize: You can reach O’Neill through NOW communications director Lisa Bennett. Her phone number is 202-628-8669, ext. 123.
What to say: Hate speech against women is absolutely unacceptable.
Group offended: African-Americans
Sample offense: In 2007, radio host Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.”
Sample apology: Imus went on Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show, Keepin’ It Real, to make an extended apology for the remarks.
How to apologize: Contact Sharpton at 646-380-2000. You can also reach his representative Rachel Noerdlinger at email@example.com.
What to say: There is no excuse for your racism.
Group offended: Indian-Americans
Sample offense: In 2006, former Sen. George Allen referred to an Indian-American student working for his opponent as a macaca—an obscure North African ethnic slur.
Sample apology: As part of his apology tour, Allen sat down with a coalition of Indian American leaders. Sanjay Puri, the chairman of the political action committee USINPAC, called Allen’s apology “very heartfelt.”
How to apologize: Call Sanjay Puri at 202-276-7946 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to say: You never meant any harm to the Indian-American community.
Group offended: Mormons
Sample offense: While running for the Republican presidential nomination against Mormon Mitt Romney in 2007, Mike Huckabee wondered aloud whether Mormons believed that Jesus and the devil are brothers.
Sample apology: Huckabee told Romney he was sorry in person after a debate. Romney accepted.
How to apologize: Unless you’ve directed your comments to Romney personally, it’s best to go straight to the Church of Latter-day Saints. You can reach Thomas Monson, president of the church, through Kim Farah, the church’s media manager. Farah can be reached at 801-240-1977 or via email at email@example.com.
What to say: Mormons are just like regular Christians.
Group offended: the blind
Sample offense: In 2009, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said that then New York Gov. David Paterson was “blind and can’t read Braille, and doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Sample apology: Murdoch apologized to Paterson, who said the conversation was “cordial.”
How to apologize: Contact Dr. Marc Maurer, the president of the National Federation of the Blind, via the NFB’s director of public relations Chris Danielsen. His number is 410-659-9314, ext. 2330.
What to say: Blind people are just as capable as people with perfect vision.
Group offended: the obese
Sample offense: In a blog post about the sitcom Mike and Molly, Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly wrote that the obese lead actors made her uncomfortable. “I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other,” she explained.
Sample apology: Kelly wrote a follow-up post apologizing for her insensitivity and confessing to her own history of eating disorders.
How to apologize: Email Joseph Nadglowski, Jr., president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coaltion, firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to say: Overweight people are people, too.
Group offended: Arab-Americans
Sample offense: Benjamin Emanuel, Rahm’s father, told an Israeli newspaper in 2008 that his son would influence President Obama to take pro-Israeli positions. “Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab?” the elder Emanuel asked. “He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House.”
Sample apology: At the request of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Rahm Emanuel apologized for his father’s remarks. Mary Rose Oakar, the president of ADC at the time, found his apology “humble and very sincere.”
How to apologize: Sara Najjar-Wilson, the current ADC president, can be reached at email@example.com. If one apology won’t suffice, you can also try Arab-American Institute President James J. Zogby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to say: You’d be happy to meet with Arab-American leaders to prove that your contrition is genuine.
Group offended: Catholics
Sample offense: When a woman emailed Wal-Mart in 2005 to complain that the phrase “Happy Holidays” had replaced “Merry Christmas,” a customer-service representative responded, in part, that Christmas “is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism.” Catholic League president Bill Donohue announced a boycott of the discount chain.
Sample apology: Wal-Mart fired the customer-service rep, apologized for offending Christians, and changed its website so that the search term “Christmas” was not rerouted to “Holidays.” Donohue called off the dogs.
How to apologize: Call the Catholic League at 212-371-3191.
What to say: Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.