If you have been following American presidential politics, you will understand references to candidate faux pas like Romney’s “47%” or Obama’s “guns and religion.” [Check out this link for a comparison of the two].
Ever wonder why these gaffes happen? Is it a matter of mis-speaking as so often is claimed? Or is the candidate saying what he/she believes only to discover in the light of day that they wished they hadn’t been so honest? As I look at the possibilities, I see 4 reasons candidates say things they later must apologize for.
1. They mis-speak. Let’s deal with this one first since it is most often claimed as the reason for the faux pas. Anyone can get their tongue twisted around. My father once quoted Isaiah 40:31 during a sermon and said, “ings as wiggles” instead of “wings as eagles.” This is the usual form of mis-speaking. We can get numbers, facts, and ideas twisted around. Mis-speaking is usually fairly obvious to hearers and quickly fixed once it is brought to one’s attention.
2. They say what they think but later wish they hadn’t. Quite often we say what we think but then wish we hadn’t been so forthright. When it comes out, we recognize (immediately sometimes but not always) that what we said doesn’t sound very good. Sometimes we don’t always recognize what we believe until our own ears hear it. We look down upon a group of people (in the presidential examples, religious conservatives and recipients of public funds) and stereotype them as a group because that is how we have imagined them for some time.
3. They are mis-informed. There are times we say something but have mis-understood the facts. For example, there is a commonly repeated stat that 50% of evangelical marriages end in divorce. This is not true, but someone could repeat the stat as fact but later retract it once they learned the stat was not true. Sometimes we hold a stereotype but later discover better facts and change our opinions.
4. They lie to please others or win a point. Have you ever said something because it earned you some point, even if you didn’t fully believe it. Consider a fight with a family member. Did you ever stretch the truth to win a point, “You always… You never…” Or, maybe you said something that would please your audience. You made a joke about another group of people in order to win a laugh. You suggested you agreed with an opinion even though you did not.
So, sometimes we regret speaking what we believe. Other times we regret saying things for ulterior motives. Can you think of other reasons why we say things we wish we could take back? How would you react if a politician said,
What I said was patently false. I said it because I got caught up in pandering to my audience. It was wrong not only to speak falsehoods but also wrong to give in to people-pleasing. I apologize for these two wrongs and I endeavor to speak only the truth, even if it costs me your support or the presidency.