Howard University Political Science Professor
On Saturday September 12th, at the U.S. Open semifinals, Serena Williams was caught in a “human moment” that she wishes she could change. After being called for a foot fault by a line judge Ms. Williams launched into an “f-bomb” laden tirade saying in part, “If I could, I would take this @#$#ing ball and shove it down your @#$#ing throat…" The resulting unsportsmanlike conduct penalty cost Ms. Williams the match.
On Monday September 14th Ms. Williams offered a written apology. In it she said, "I want to sincerely apologize first to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the US Tennis Association and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst … I really wanted to apologize sincerely...I think the lady was doing the best she could. She was just trying to do her job.”
Some have questioned Serena’s sincerity and others have questioned the timing of her apology. These questions may be valid but at the end of the day Ms. Williams did the right thing. She took responsibility for her behavior and apologized directly to all of those whom she attacked and offended.
On Wednesday September 9th, Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) had his own “human moment.” During President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on health care, Wilson shouted at the President “you lie”. Shortly after his outburst Congressman Wilson called the White House to offer his apology to the President. President Obama did not take his call. It was accepted on his behalf by Chief of Staff Rhom Emanuel.
Congressman Wilson has been asked by members of his own party as well as Democrats to formally apologize on the House floor. He has refused to apologize on the floor of the House saying, "I've apologized one time. The apology was accepted by the president, the vice president. ... I am not apologizing again … I believe that is sufficient."
As a result of Congressman Wilson’s failure to apologize on the floor, the House passed a “resolution of disapproval” by a 240-179 vote. Congressman Wilson has now been duly punished for his outrageous and childish behavior.
Even though polls show a strong majority of American’s oppose Congressman Wilson’s actions, Republican Party leadership stands behind him. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said the House Democrats are guilty of “stunning…. Hypocrisy.” GOP leader John Boehner (R-OH) said that the action initiated by Wilson's fellow South Carolina colleague, Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) — is "patently partisan." Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) circulated a letter of support for Wilson.