We are in uncharted territory here, folks: The public apology apology. A Lexis-Nexis search turns up no others in the history of recorded media. (Earlier investigations into nonapology apologies are here.)
First, the background, via the AP:
Cartoonist Jim Davis apologized Thursday for a Garfield strip that some veterans may have found offensive.
Not a promising start, I'll admit--did he apologize for the strip or because veterans may have found it offensive? But we'll blame the reporter, not Davis.
The strip ran on Veterans Day in newspapers across the country. It shows a spider daring the pudgy orange cat to squash it. The spider tells Garfield that if he is killed, "they will hold an annual day of remembrance in my honor."
The final panel shows a spider-teacher asking its students if they know why spiders celebrate "National Stupid Day."
So, obviously, Davis has deep-seated issues with stupid spiders that have enlisted in the armed forces.
Davis, of Muncie, Ind., said in a statement posted on his website that he didn't know the strip would appear on Veterans Day. He said it was written nearly a year ago and called the publication Thursday "the worst timing ever."
Nearly a year ago? Lots of cartoons work in comments on the news--the dreaded, laughter-destroying Mallard Fillmore just did some strips on last week's brief sacking of Keith Olbermann. Lasagna-eating cats, however, are forever. It is quite possible that a nuclear bomb will drop tomorrow and new, banked Garfield strips will run in The Cockroach Times for another decade or two.
"It absolutely, positively has nothing to do with this important day of remembrance," Davis said. ...
Davis said his brother served in Vietnam, and his son is a Marine who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he is grateful for the service of veterans, and called any offense "unintentional and regrettable."
So he wrote a strip a year ago that coincidentally fell on Veterans Day thereby creating the illusion of anti-vet sentiment. He could have issued a PR statement saying, "Um, it's Garfield, people. I make millions in mugs and calendars every day. You think I'm going to jeopardize that by doing anti-veteran gags? Don't be crazy!"
But he didn't. He apologized--with a real apology.
Why, it's almost quaint! And it'll never catch on.