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Photo from ABC News

Why is “sorry” so hard for Trump Nation?

Their initial coronavirus scoffing threatened lives — why can’t they own up?

Jeffrey Denny

As the coronavirus became the coronacrisis, when President Trump turned and pointed fingers about the lack of testing and said, “I don’t take responsibility at all,” few were shocked or even surprised.

This president never apologizes, even when he’s dead-to-rights wrong and every sentient being knows it.

Strong men, he seems to believe, never admit they’re wrong; it’s a sign of weakness. So Trump denies, defends, deflects, dissembles and does the whatabout, accusing others of being worse. Like Nixon, he demonizes critics as political enemies. The buck never stops at the Trump desk.

Unfortunately, as Trump goes, so goes his loyal base, media and fearful lockstep Republicans who scramble to echo his ever-shifting misinformation.

Together, by scoffing at the coronavirus pandemic, spreading fake truth that contradicted public health leaders and experts, and attacking the professional mainstream media we depend on to spread the word and warning, Trump Nation may have helped to spread the virus, sickness, death and stress to our healthcare system. Sorry, it’s true.

But Trump love means never having to say you’re sorry.

So far, few if any who downplayed and spread false and Trump-defensive misinformation about the pandemic has said, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I misled people who trusted me. I made the situation worse. Please forgive me.” Etc.

Instead, we get crazy-quilt, kaleidoscopic, fun house hall-of-mirror excuses and clever albeit vertiginous spinning, starting with Trump’s straight-faced gas-lighting denials of his denials of his denials of his denials. As if all Americans are Cletus Del Roy Spuckler, The Simpsons’ slack-jawed yokel, and stupidly swallow anything Trump says anymore.

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It’s easier to find the upstairs bathroom in an MC Escher “enigma behind an illusion” architectural plan than follow the desperate, Trumpy face-saving spin.

My favorite so far: When the fake intellectual and Great Swamp Spinmeister himself, Newt Gingrich, went from scoffing at the coronavirus as a common flu to urging action to stop the pandemic.

Instead of admitting, “I was wrong, I’m sorry for downplaying the threat and misleading people,” Gingrich side-stepped like Kid Glyde and tweeted:

“A reporter asked me today why conservatives were initially so skeptical of the threat of the coronavirus. I tried to explain that one of the dangerous consequences of having a totally dishonest left-wing news media was that most Americans discounted their hysteria as phony.”

Whew! In gymnastics, that’s a Simone Biles triple double, a double back flip with three twists. My tiny mind is dizzied. Airport pretzel mogul Auntie Anne is impressed by the logic. Although I understand, when all else fails, blame the media.

Excuse me while I kiss the commode.

Given my tiny mind, I don’t understand why apologizing when we’re indisputably wrong is so awfully hard.

Look it up: The internet is rife with step-by-step advice, and why a sincere apology can be a powerful, constructive, healing thing.

No, not, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Or “sorry, but ….” More like Grammerly.com’s roadmap: Say you’re sorry, period. Own the mistake. Describe what happened. Have a plan. Admit you were wrong. Ask for forgiveness.

In Corporate America, apologies have become a professionalized art form with a standard playbook that companies can and should use to recover from their mistakes, or ignore at their peril.

Consider the Forbes10 Powerful Examples of Corporate Apologies” such as “KFC Adds Humor to a Missing Chicken Situation.” Or CEO Today’sWorst Corporate Apologies You Shouldn’t Consider,” like when BP’s CEO blurted in self-pity, amid the worst oil spill disaster in modern history, “I’d like my life back.”

Successful companies know how to apologize, to put the problem behind them and rebuild trust. So do #MeToo perps who have any hope of saving their careers; couples who want to save their relationships; friends who want to save their friendships; and family members who want to make the holidays tolerable. So do employees who want to save their jobs, and employers who want to save their people.

We all screw up all the time.

Good lord, I certainly do. (And there’s a certain someone to whom I owe a big apology for being at my worst.)

I know, we all hate to be accused of anything we don’t think we did wrong. When we feel attacked, our lizard brain takes over with the impulse to justify or defend ourselves. But defensiveness makes the dispute about the dispute, distracting from resolving the matter being disputed.

What we do after we screw up is a good test of who we are, and how much we really care about people on the receiving end. No doubt, people in my life could say I need to practice what I preach here. I accept that.

Denying, defending, deflecting, dissembling, dismissing and demonizing when we’re wrong doesn’t just wrong the people we love, need and respect.

We wrong ourselves because deep down, we know when we’re wrong, and it feels bad. Real apologies bring forgiveness for ourselves too.

I don’t expect any Trump National reading this to suddenly have a come-to-Jesus moment and apologize for initially denying this pandemic and possibly making it worse. They might already be saying, “What?! The Democrats and their totally dishonest left-wing news media are much worse! They’re the ones that need to apologize!”

I’m sorry they feel that way.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.

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