Back in the blissful days when I had time to blog, I wrote about how not to apologize. Chris Cuomo has mastered the technique — of not apologizing, that is. What is the subject of said apology, you ask? The small matter of sexual assault, as revealed in today's New York Times op-ed, written by Shelley Ross.
In it, she describes an incident during which there is a farewell party for a mutual colleague at a bar. Ross had previously been Cuomo's boss, but was in a different job at the time of this farewell party, so they were more professional equals, or at least, there was no direct reporting of one to the other in the career hierarchy sense. Cuomo greets her with a hug, grabs her ass, and says, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss." She says, "No, you can't!" as she shoves him away from her. Sitting directly behind her, having witnessed the entire assault (we assume, at eye-level,) was Ross' husband. The couple leaves quickly afterwards.
Shortly thereafter, Shelley Ross received an email from Cuomo that she is generous enough to categorize as an apology, first to her husband, then to herself.
I'm not going to address the overt aggression of the ass-grab itself. I'm not even going to go into what kind of man thinks the only reason he cannot grab a woman on any part of her body without her permission is that she is his boss. There is only so much time in the day, and only so much ceiling off of which my husband is willing to scrape what's left of my exploded brain.
I will, however, dissect this alleged "apology" email he felt highly motivated to send rather quickly after having been caught assaulting Shelley Ross by her husband.
Let's begin with the subject line.
"now that i think of it...i am ashamed..."
NOW that you think of it? What, in particular made you think of it NOW, Chris Cuomo? Was it the fact that the ass-grab was witnessed by Ross' husband? What if it was witnessed by another female friend/colleague? Could Shelley Ross have relied on her for corroboration or comfort if she chose? Would you have taken the opportunity to try to bully them both into silence? If it was witnessed by another male employee, would you wink and laugh at/with him in an attempt at ole boy camaraderie, as if to say, "We all do this, amirite?" Most burning in my mind is the question, did the reaction of Shelley herself play a role at all in your thinking of it, or your alleged "shame?"
though my hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see you...
This was a transparent attempt to immediately deflect blame away from himself, and gaslight her into wondering if she had a right to be upset at this gross public, uninvited violation of her body. After all, he was just happy to see her! It was just an enthusiastic hello! Not sure if he was trying to convince her that this is his standard greeting...he greets everyone he is happy to see by grabbing their ass! Just ask his mother, or his brother Andrew's daughters! Or Don Lemon! Do you suppose he grabs all of their asses when he says hello? He's just glad to see them! Innocent!
No? If not, the only other thing he must have hoped this absurd opening line would accomplish was to gaslight her with flattery. "Feel good, Sweetheart, that I find you attractive enough to squeeze your ass." "I'm a guy, you're a gal...I was just happy to see you."
Either way, it's a spectacular insult.
bizarre Christian Slater comparison
The only possible reason for this poorly constructed sentence and supremely weird analogy is that HR must have said, "Holy sh*t, Chris, Christian Slater just got arrested for doing the same thing, ya douchecanoe! Clean up this mess!"
*NARRATOR VOICE* That section does not, it turns out, clean up that mess.
No, it does not, because he is admitting he knew at the time, or found out soon after that he'd committed assault, and was trying to differentiate himself from Slater by saying his intent was not malicious, whereas Slater was charged with 3rd degree sexual assault. ("Please don't even think about suing me or bringing charges, Shelley.")
...and as a husband i can empathize with not liking to see my wife patted as such...
Oh, he's filled with empathy now? And for her husband? Yes, of course, because MR. Shelley Ross was the true aggrieved party here. He had to witness his wife's bottom being "patted," after all. More dismissive gaslighting, by the way, characterizing squeezing her ass as "patting" — a word that calls to mind something one does to a small child's head in a purely benevolent fashion.
so pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband...
Finally, we get the first mention of an "apology." In the fifth section of this horror show of an email. But again, to whom is he apologizing? HER F*CKING HUSBAND. Spare us the "good and noble" bullsh*t. Cuomo was just thrilled the guy didn't flatten him right there in the bar. No one is buying his counterfeit chivalry.
Note that Cuomo was apologizing to a man for grabbing that man's wife's ass, as if Mr. Shelley Ross was owed an apology in the first place. THIS was Cuomo's mentality. The wife belonged to the husband — an object, quite literally — and Cuomo played with this object that was not his without the other man's permission. THAT is the thing for which he felt he should apologize.
And through the wife. Using a command/imperative. Without so much as a "please."
What a coward and a bully.
and i apologize to you as well, for even putting you in such a position...
I mean, last and completely least...could he make it more clear that she's nothing more than an obligatory afterthought in this demeaning exercise?
He's not even apologizing for squeezing her ass. Only for "putting you in such a position." What position is that, Cuomo? The one where she might now have a professional crisis on her hands? The one where, had she been assaulted in the past, awful memories might be triggered? The one where she might feel her husband is owed an explanation? Or the one where she will never not know what it feels like to have a dude make her feel like an absolute piece of worthless sh*t when she was just there enjoying herself among friends and colleagues?
This is the f*cking lowest of the low.
next time, I will remember the lesson, no matter how happy i am to see you...
See, now, I cannot decide if this is a promise or a threat. He'd likely argue it's an innocent "I've learned my lesson." Personally, I think it sounds like "See if I ever grab YOUR ass again." Either way, he cannot help but bring it all back to himself, and how the whole thing was just an innocent misunderstanding sprung up from his overt joy at seeing her in the bar. How can she blame him for that? How can anyone? Gaslighting 101.
This all happened in 2005. I've learned over the years that the only true apology comes in the form of changed behavior. Did Cuomo's behavior change for the better after that? Or did he become punitive and/or hostile towards Ms. Ross in their future interactions? She doesn't say. Frankly, that isn't the focus of her op-ed, which is absolutely her right. She simply asks of him to show that he has evolved, and learned how to hold himself accountable for such behavior, though she shows understandable skepticism.
Time will tell if he will use his platform to demonstrate the true meaning of an apology - walking the walk of a man who has changed his way of interacting with the women around him. If he has not, Shelley Ross will likely not be the only op-ed that appears in the Times. Hers will simply be the first.