Famous Celebrity Apologies

Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling
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Real estate and sports moneyman Donald Sterling is sorry for the racist remarks he made to his girlfriend over the contents of her Instagram account.

The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers apparently did not like the pictures V. Stiviano has posted to her Instagram account. Sterling said on the recording he could not understand why she was "broadcast[ing]" her "association with black people" and told her not to bring her friend Magic Johnson to any Clippers games.

Since the recording landed in the hands of celebrity tabloid TMZ, Sterling has been banned from the NBA, fined $2.5 million dollars, and is the subject of efforts to force the Clippers owner to sell his franchise.

But in a recent interview, Sterling expressed remorse over his words, and asked for absolution.

I'm a good member who made a mistake and I'm apologizing and asking for forgiveness," Sterling told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "Am I entitled to one mistake after 35 years? I love my league… it's a terrible mistake, and I'll never do it again."

Sterling complained of his emotional state over the whole ordeal in the same interview. "I'm so emotionally distraught," he said. "The reason it's hard for me—very hard for me—is that I'm wrong. I caused the problem. I don't know how to correct it.

And so it goes with celebrity apologies. Some are sincerely tendered with much attendant tear-streaked hyperventilation, while others drip with such unambiguous, tar-thick contempt that they actually make matters worse. Indeed, celebrity apologies are like snowflakes—no two are alike. But they all make for fascinating, compelling viewing.

Read ahead to see 10 other examples of memorable apologies from politicians, athletes, actors and more.

By Daniel Bukszpan
Originally posted 16 Jan. 2013 and updated 12 May 2014.

Lance Armstrong

Mladen Antonov | AFP | Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey interviewed former champion cyclist Lance Armstrong in February 2013 over the allegations Armstrong "doped" throughout his career. According to The Washington Post, he confessed during the interview at long last to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Winfrey said that although Armstrong had admitted to doping, she found him to be hesitant when it came to showing actual remorse. "He did not come clean in the manner I expected," she said.

Bill Clinton

Rex Banner | Getty Images

In 1998, former president Bill Clinton became embroiled in an embarrassing scandal. He had been involved in an extramarital relationship with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which became the subject of impeachment proceedings.

A few weeks after the scandal broke, the former president gave an address at the National Prayer Breakfast at the White House, where he took the opportunity to speak about the scandal. "I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned," he said.

Larry Craig

Larry Craig
Win McNamee | Getty Images

Larry Craig was a U.S. senator from Idaho who was arrested for alleged lewd conduct after an incident in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport men's bathroom. He had been suspected of attempting to solicit sexual activity from a man in one of the stalls, and the man turned out to be an undercover cop.

Craig entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, but denied any wrongdoing and characterized the plea as a mistake made without the benefit of legal counsel. "I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away," he said in a press conference two months after the incident. "That was a mistake, and I deeply regret it."

Mel Gibson

Bertand Langlois | AFP | Getty Images

Actor and director Mel Gibson was arrested for driving under the influence in July 2006. According to the arresting officer, the actor took the opportunity to launch into a drunken, obscenity-laced tirade about "the Jews."

A few days after the incident, he sprang into damage-control mode and issued an apology. "I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a DUI charge," he said.

David Letterman

Mike Coppola | Getty Images

The "Late Show with David Letterman" took a surreal turn during its Oct. 1, 2009, broadcast, when the host took to his desk to offer a nine-minute confession regarding sexual relationships with female staff members. He explained that he had been threatened in an extortion plot, and had worked with authorities to stop it.

"I had to go downtown to testify before the grand jury … and I had to tell them all of the creepy things that I have done," he said in the monologue. "The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who worked for me on this show."

Michael Richards

Giulio Marcocchi | Stringer | Getty Images

Michael Richards was a household fixture when he played Kramer on the hit series "Seinfeld," but when the show went off the air, he returned to standup comedy. A 2006 engagement at Los Angeles' Laugh Factory, during which he used racial epithets against African-American audience members, was caught on video and he had a viral disaster on his hands.

Shortly thereafter, Jerry Seinfeld appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman," and Richards apologized via satellite during his former cast mate's segment. "I'm really busted up over this and I'm very, very sorry to those people in the audience, the blacks, the Hispanic, whites, everyone that was there," he said.

Mark Sanford

Paul J. Richards | AFP | Getty Images

Mark Sanford was governor of South Carolina from 2003 until 2011. In June 2009, he resigned his position as chairman of the Republican Governor's Association following a six-day disappearance, after which it was revealed that he had been involved in an extramarital affair.

"I have been unfaithful to my wife," he said in a press conference. "I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys ... I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize."

Eliot Spitzer

Silda Wall Spitzer;Eliot Spitzer
Chris Hondros | Getty Images

Eliot Spitzer was attorney general of New York State for eight years, and the conventional wisdom was that he would go far. He was elected governor and sworn in in 2007, but his term lasted just over one year, as he was forced to resign in the wake of a prostitution scandal in March 2008.

The disgraced governor took to the airwaves to announce his resignation and tender his apology. "I apologize first, and most importantly, to my family," he said. "I apologize to the public, whom I promised better … I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself."

Jimmy Swaggart


Jimmy Swaggart is a televangelist who was carried by a seemingly endless number of television stations during the 1980s. In 1988, he was publicly disgraced when he was implicated in a prostitution scandal, and he responded by doing what he did best. He took to the airwaves, and embarked on one of the most memorable exercises in supplication in television history.

The apology was light on details and heavy on melodrama. "I have sinned against You, my Lord, and I would ask that Your Precious Blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God's forgiveness, not to be remembered against me anymore," he said.

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner
Getty Images

Anthony Weiner was a seven-term Democratic congressman from New York. Like Eliot Spitzer, he had a bright future ahead of him and, like Spitzer, he resigned from office after a sex scandal. Or rather, a "sexting" scandal.

The incident, which at times was referred to by the unfortunate name "Weinergate," involved the U.S. representative taking to Twitter to send a young woman a link to a lewd photo of himself. He denied it at first, but more photos and more women emerged, and eventually the whole house of cards fell apart.

"I'd like to make it clear that I have made terrible mistakes, that have hurt the people I care about the most, and I'm deeply sorry," he said at a press conference. "I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma, and our family, and my constituents, my friends, supporters, and staff."

Tiger Woods

Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

Tiger Woods is one of the most successful golfers of all time, and certainly one of the most famous. He enjoyed a squeaky-clean image for most of his career, but that evaporated in late 2009, when news broke that he had been involved in an extramarital affair.

After dropping off the radar for a few months, he returned to the spotlight in February 2010 to hold a press conference. "I was unfaithful," he said. "I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame."