Eugene Robinson squirms through apology to Rick Santorum

posted at 12:40 pm on January 6, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

Allapundit covered this story after it first broke, and the entire thing looked like a slow motion train wreck from the beginning. During an appearance on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson broke out some jaw dropping comments regarding a story about Rick Santorum and his family following the death of one of their children only hours after being born. Their decision to take the child’s body home for a few hours as part of the grieving process was described by Robinson as, “not a little weird. He’s really weird.”

Through a strange turn of events, I was watching for both the beginning and the end of this story. (I don’t watch the MSNBC evening lineup, but on Wednesday I was in DC and the TV in my room was still on that channel from when I’d been watching Scarborough that morning.) As soon as he said it, I remember thinking, “Uh oh… this isn’t going to end well.”

And it didn’t. As James Crugnale reports at Mediaite, Robinson showed up on Morning Joe today and was taken to task for his remarks. The squirming which followed was uncomfortable in the extreme to watch.

In a remarkably heated back-and-forth on Friday’s Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough grilled MSNBC contributor Eugene Robinson over his controversial comments — calling Rick Santorum‘s handling of the death of his newborn “weird.”

“Do you think you may have gone overboard a little bit in your criticisms of Santorum?” Scarborough asked. “We haven’t talked about it. I’m not setting you up for anything. I was taken aback by what you said. My wife likes you very much, couldn’t believe you said it.”

“That was obviously not the right way to say what I was trying to express,” Robinson acknowledged.

“I certainly didn’t mean to offend anybody, especially Mr. Santorum,” Robinson added. “But it was in a discussion of his views, and, you know, which I consider extreme, and Santorum himself who is a cultural — culture warrior extraordinaire, whose faith — and we all appreciate someone of deep faith — but it is — it is extremely deep, and it’s a kind of faith that some people, I think, are going be… if not surprised by… at least want to know more about.”…

“It is a personal decision,” Robinson noted. “And I’ve certainly been educated on the subject since — in the past day, so I do understand that — that this is not — it’s not something that’s in any way beyond the pale or considered inadvisable and that many grief counselors do advise a period of saying good-bye to a child who tragically dies in that way.”…

“Do you wish you hadn’t said it?” Scarborough clarified. “You can see how prepared I am.”

“I wish I hadn’t said it that way, Joe. You know, I — we had — had this sort of discussion when I wrote about Chris Christie‘s weight, and I do think that a columnist has an obligation to — to write what he or she thinks and write what he or she sees, but obviously I did it in the wrong way. Or in a way that rubs people the wrong way, and that’s not what I intended.”

He wishes he hadn’t said it that way. And he didn’t mean to offend. I suppose that passes for an apology in some circles. Also, in the video (below) Robinson claims, “I said some people might think that was a little weird.” But that’s not what he said. He said Santorum was “really weird.”

It’s a very difficult subject for me, and even I was put off for a moment when the story was first told. But that’s primarily because of my own personal issues with handling death, funerals, etc. and not some larger social commentary. (I have always had a difficult time even attending funerals and tend to think of such things being handled in a hospital or funeral home, but as I said… that’s just me.)

But the bottom line is that I doubt any of us can even imagine the stress and unthinkable grief of losing a child – particularly so close on the heels of the joy of welcoming a newborn to the family – unless we’ve been through it ourselves. How somebody else deals with that is a personal decision for them to arrive at, and it’s possibly one of the least appropriate things imaginable for a pundit to chime in on, particularly while chuckling and chortling about how “weird” the person is.

For the record, I’ve followed Robinson’s writings for some time and, while I frequently disagree with his analysis, I find him to be a skillful wordsmith and an enjoyable author. But he seriously shot himself in the foot on this one and this apology seems like very weak tea given the nature of the offense. Here’s the video of the “apology” courtesy of Mediaite so you can judge for yourself.


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