Famed actor Kevin Spacey's response to allegations by fellow actor Anthony Rapp that Spacey sexually assaulted him in 1986, when he was only 14 years old, just gets it totally wrong. For all his brilliance in portraying a wide range of emotions on stage and screen, he could clearly use some help with emotional intelligence.
Before going further, I think it's important to acknowledge how serious these allegations -- and the larger wave of revelations involving mostly men in power using their position to victimize others -- truly are. But for now, I'm just going to focus on Spacey's response and what we can learn from just how far off the mark it is.
"I'm beyond horrified to hear this story," Spacey posted on Twitter Sunday night. "I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior."
This is the lamest non-apology approach someone can take, especially when the breach of conduct is so serious. Spacey feigns taking responsibility, but doesn't own the violation he claims not to remember.
But here's the thing: Spacey is being accused of sexual assault of a minor, which is obviously serious, illegal and beyond taboo. Most of us who would never dream of doing such a thing would respond with a rather forceful denial. Spacey, on the other hand, makes it clear that he's not sure if the assault happened, but apologizes if it did.
What's key here is that Spacey is letting us know that he believes this is something he may have been capable of with enough booze in his system. In this way, he's putting part of the responsibility on to an inanimate object, namely alcohol.
Spacey then goes on to follow-up his lame apology by taking the opportunity to make the occasion of his apology for sexual assault of a minor about him. Or more specifically about his sexuality, which has been the subject of much speculation for decades, by coming out.
"I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior."
Spacey may want to start by examining his apology, which ends where it should have begun. Examining his behavior may have led to a more sincere and worthwhile apology that focuses on the pain of the victim in the situation. Nothing else needs to be said.
If Spacey is truly unsure about what happened that night in 1986, then he needs to keep quiet and do some more of that examination before offering up a statement that blames alcohol and the failings of memory, then moves on to steal the spotlight and redirect it to his own personal failings. A list, by the way, which now includes the art of public apologies.