Tiger Woods, Rahm Emanuel Win Prizes for Best Apologies

06/20/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tiger Woods may have lost the Masters, but this past week he did walk away with an even bigger win: the First Annual Harding Prize for Best Crafted Apologies of the year. Winning in the Sports category, Tiger joined fellow winners Rahm Emanuel (Politics), Usher (Entertainment) and Adam Corolla (Twitter) as recipients of what is perhaps the first ever prize that celebrates "the art and science" of the perfect apology.


Presented in a ceremony at American University in Washington, the Harding Prizes are an ironic answer to the pervasive culture of apologies that has seeped into all corners of America. If the Pulitzer Prizes can honor everything from newspaper articles to poems, then it seems reasonable to have a prize for the succinct and dramatic rhetorical form of the apology. As the bronze Harding Prize medal reads: "Ut apologia est non satis" ("when sorry isn't enough"). The real craft of the perfect apology is - as faux pundit Martin Eisenstadt himself said at the ceremony - "in giving the impression of sincere contrition while simultaneously shifting blame, changing the subject or in some other way coming out ahead in the court of public opinion."


If the Pulitzer Prize can be named after a ruthless newspaper baron, and the Nobel Prize after the inventor of dynamite, then it is only logical that the Harding Prize be inspired by President Warren G. Harding, arguably America's second worst president, who issued his own famous apology, "I am not fit for this office and should never have been here."

Here then, is the list of the winners and nominees:


* Tiger Woods - WINNER - For shifting focus from him being a serial cheater to his wife not being a domestic abuser, and for his follow-up Nike ad in which he invoked his dead father, made money for Nike, and brought the sexy back to golf.
* Mark McGwire - For blaming MLB for not having drug testing back then.
* Gilbert Arenas - For asking forgiveness from former Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who is dead.
* Tony Kornheiser - For going against the grain and refusing to apologize at all to Hannah Storm.


* Rahm Emanuel - WINNER - after calling someone a "f***ing retard" his private apology was accepted publicly by Timothy Shriver (a political ally and Kennedy) on behalf of the Special Olympics, proving that acceptance of apology is more important than apology itself.
* Jimmy Carter - For apologizing to the Jews, but then having his apology rejected by the ADL on behalf of the Jews.
* Gov. Mark Sanford - For talking about his mistress as a soul mate while apologizing to soon-to-be ex-wife.
* Michael Steele - For apologizing to Rush Limbaugh
* Gov. Robert McDonnell - For apologizing to his fellow Virginians, rather than African-Americans in particular
* Gen. Stanley McChrystal - For apologizing for Afghan civilian deaths on behalf of "International Security Assistance Force" rather than simply the US.


* Usher - WINNER - for brazenly insinuating himself into Chris Brown/Rhianna scandal by apologizing to Chris Brown for privately saying he shouldn't have been jet skiing and flexing his muscles
* David Letterman - For getting ahead of the story by apologizing on air for his affairs before people even knew there was a scandal, and casting himself as the victim of an extortion plot
* Jesse James - For distracting from his apology to Sandra Bullock by denying she'd made a sex tape with him
* John Mayer - For shifting attention away from his use of the N-word to him having a problem with always trying to be clever and witty


* Adam Corolla - WINNER - For apologizing to Manny Pacquiao and the Philippines for comments he made on his podcast. Used apology to plug podcast no one even knew he had.
* John Mayer - His Twitter apology gave him excuse to stop incessant tweeting.
* Kim Kardashian - For her apology to Demi Moore over her use of "Big Pimpin"
* Kanye West - For his awkward apology to Taylor Swift.

[Full disclosure: I was part of the Blue Ribbon panel of experts who chose the winners. It was an honor and a thrill to play a part.]