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Backhanded Apology
Rat: I'm gonna start apologizing to all the people I've insulted by telling them "I'm sorry that you were offended."
Pig: Is that a real apology?
Rat: No, that's what's so great. It allows me to retain the impact of the original insult while tacking on the implied bonus insult of, "You are an oversensitive ninny."

First, I'm sorry that you have no life and spend all day editing tropes.

Second, this is a subtrope of Sarcasm Mode, when a supposed apology is actually very unapologetic, and instead makes it very clear that either the person being apologized to is the one in the wrong, or that the apologizer prefers Insane Troll Logic to admitting they are wrong. So when Alice is supposed to apologize to Bob, she instead says "I'm sorry you screwed up, Bob."

Why would Alice be apologizing in the first place? Perhaps Bob demands an apology for some tiny or imagined slight, and Alice just can't resist explaining how it's all his fault, instead. Perhaps Alice's boss is a Beleaguered Bureaucrat or a Corrupt Corporate Executive who just wants to get the problem over with, and the easiest way to do that is to order Alice to apologize for something she didn't do. Or perhaps Alice really is in the wrong, but she's enough of a Jerkass to ignore this in favor of putting Bob down.

Note that it's not enough for Alice to say "I'm not sorry." Her apology has to actively shift the blame to Bob. This may cause Alice to say Screw the Money, I Have Rules!, to place Honor Before Reason, or lead her to become The Last DJ. Alternatively, this is just one more spat between Alice and Bob and there are no real consequences, other than Bob now being irritated with Alice.

A subtler variation of this trope is for Alice to apologise by saying something like "I'm sorry if you were offended, Bob." This is a relative of False Reassurance and an even closer relative of the Stealth Insult, since Bob has to pay attention to the wording to notice that she's putting the blame on him for being offended rather than on herself for causing offense.

If it's an Ordered Apology, the character giving the order may declare that it's not acceptable.

Compare with Flippant Forgiveness.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the English dub of My Bride Is a Mermaid, Mawari apologizes after cockblocking two guys, saying "I'm sorry you guys thought you had a chance with them."
  • In Sonic X, Knuckles tells Eggman to release Amy from his clutches or he'll be sorry. Eggman then says that he's sorry that the heroes are still alive in the other world.

    Comics 
  • In Tintin (at least the French version), Haddock has to apologise to the Thompsons for saying that a circus (actually a Moon crater, called a circus in French) needed two clowns, and that they would suit perfectly. He then proceeds to say: "The circus does not need two clowns. Therefore you would not suit perfectly". One of the Thompsons tries to ponder on what that actually implies, but the other is perfectly happy with this "apology".

    Fan Works 
  • In the Harry Potter fic Darkness Within Tom Riddle begins torturing Harry until he gets an apology for a perceived slight. After several rounds Harry finally gives him one:
    Harry: I'm sorry you're such a jerk. Not that I can do anything about it.
  • In the Love Hina fic For His Own Sake, after Keitaro explains why he's leaving the Hinata Inn and calls out each of the girls on how their past behavior hurt him, Shinobu and Mutsumi are the only ones that linger long enough to apologize. Shinobu apologizes honestly, while Mutsumi instead talks more about how she's sorry how he's hurt Naru and everyone with his rejection. This foreshadows their resultant character arcs: Shinobu comes to recognize and accept how she helped drive him away by never speaking out against the abuse, while Mutsumi convinces herself that Keitaro needs her help to get back together with Naru.

    Film 
  • In Donnie Darko, when the independent-minded teacher complains to the head about being fired, all he says is "I'm sorry you have failed."
  • Zoolander: Though it's entirely possible that in Derek's case, he was being genuine.
    Derek: I'm sorry that good-looking people like us made you throw up and feel bad about yourself.
    ...and...
    Mugatu: Oh, I'm sorry, did my pin get in the way of your ass? Do me a favor and lose five pounds immediately or get out of my building like now!
  • Mean Girls has a scene where each girl is supposed to apologize and do a trust fall. One of the Girl Posse members makes this excuse for an apology, which leaves few willing to stand behind her to catch her when she falls:
    Gretchen: I'm sorry that people are so jealous of me... but I can't help it that I'm so popular.
    • In the same scene, there's also the girl in the wheelchair:
    Girl in Wheelchair: Laura, I don't hate you because you're fat. You're fat, because I hate you.
    • And this gem:
    Girl from Michigan: Alyssa, I'm sorry I called you a gap-toothed bitch. It's not your fault you're so gap-toothed.
    • Janis also does this with Regina when she "apologizes" for helping Cady in sabotaging her and says she did it because "I guess I've got a BIG, LESBIAN CRUSH ON YOU!"
    • Really, save for Karen's apology and the over-emotional girl, it seems like most of the trust fall scene is this trope.
  • The title character's apology in Patton for slapping a soldier under his charge, which is based off something Patton did in real life.

    Jokes 
  • Some guy just has been finally convicted. A reporter asks him what he thinks the reason is. The convict snarls: "Because half of the jury are assholes, that's why!" The judge interferes: "You will take this back immediately, or I'll take measures!" The convict: "OK, I take it back. Half of the jury ain't assholes!"
  • A similar one with headlines: "HALF OUR NATION'S POLITICIANS ARE CROOKS". Outraged phone calls and Strongly Worded Letters ensue. The next day, the paper prints this correction as a headline: "HALF OUR NATION'S POLITICIANS ARE NOT CROOKS".
  • A man tells his neighbor that hanging would be too good for him. The neighbor sues, and the man is forced to apologize by the court. So he says: "I take back what I said. Hanging is not too good for you!"

    Literature 
  • The Carpet People:
    Owlglass: He was sentenced to death for telling the Emperor that he was a blithering idiot who didn't have the brains of a meat pie.
    Pismire: Actually, I got sentenced to death for apologising.
    Snibril: How can you be sentenced to death for apologising?
    Pismire: I said I was sorry, and that, on reflection, he did have the brains of a meat pie.
  • Plato's Apology of Socrates appears to be one of these, considering that Socrates spends most of his speech lamenting how stupid everybody is. But the definition of "apology" at the time also meant "a reasoned argument in justification of something". So Socrates's "apology" was him explaining to the people of Athens his beliefs and methods.
    • This meaning is the basis for the term "apologetics".
  • In Kai Lung's story about the discovery of tea, the Emperor is advised to confess his sins in order to bring an end to a drought:
    “No complete record of Ming Wang’s confession now exists, all those who accompanied him having entered into a deep compact to preserve a stubborn silence. It is admitted, however, that it was of inordinate length, very explicit in its details, and that it implicated practically every courtier and official of any standing. In a final access of self-reproach the Emperor penitently admitted that he was the guilty head of a thoroughly decayed and criminal autocracy, that he weakly surrounded himself with greedy and incompetent officials, and that he had thoughtlessly permitted sycophancy, bribery and peculation to abound.”
    —pp. 39-40 of Ernest Bramah, Kai Lung unrolls his Mat (1928; repr. Penguin, 1937).

    Live Action TV  
  • House is forced to apologize to Cuddy's mother: "I'm sorry...that we saved your life", he starts, and then steers it back to a straight apology: "...in the way that we did". Wilson gives the apology a B+.
  • Bewitched: Maurice and Endora are not known to fully admit they're in the wrong.
    Maurice: I apologize that your abominable behavior had so exhausted my patience that I was goaded into a slight transgression.
  • The Closer: Assistant Chief Pope has received numerous complaints about friction between Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson and other legal departments, and so has ordered her to apologize to the offended parties.
    Brenda: I'd like to start with you, Ms. Powell. I'd like to say how sorry I am that I was unable to ignore your general level of incompetence in the wrongly obtained conviction in the case of Bill Croelick. And I'm sorry if you felt hurt and defensive about putting a man on death row for the wrong crime, and I certainly hope that that will never, ever happen again. Agent Jackson, I deeply regret that the FBI handed over two million dollars to a man on a terrorist watch list without the capacity to trace it, or managed to follow him for months without knowing his wife was having an affair with a doctor, and I hope you do much better in the future. Captain Taylor, I suppose I should apologize to you for not having been born in Los Angeles, but having seen you work up close now for several months, I can honestly say that try as I might, I can't think of any fair and reasonable system on earth where I wouldn't outrank you. There. I hope that clears everything up.
    • Pope himself delivers a nice one in season 4 to a man accused of killing his wife due to past domestic abuse:
    Chief Pope: On behalf of the entire LAPD, allow me to say how sorry I am that you lied to us so much and that you knocked your wife around to such an extent that we considered you a suspect in her murder.
  • On Babylon 5, Sheridan's apology to the Centauri firmly cemented him as an awesome replacement to Sinclair. It's just a pity he never got to carry it out to them.
    Sheridan: I apologize. I'm... sorry. I'm sorry we had to defend ourselves against an unwarranted attack. I'm sorry that your crew was stupid enough to fire on a station filled with a quarter million civilians, including your own people. And I'm sorry I waited as long as I did before I blew them all straight to hell! ...'As with everything else, it's the thought that counts.'
  • From Scrubs, after Carla tried to interfere in Perry and Jordan's relationship, Turk persuades her to apologise to Jordan:
    Carla: I didn't mean to upset you. Even though everything I said was true, and you know it.
    Turk: Baby, that is a God-awful apology. Just God-awful.
    Jordan: Yeah, that's 'cause she's not really sorry.
    • Elliot within the first three episodes gets off on the wrong foot with Carla, JD makes her apologize and then she always adds "you know I'm right" or "But (excuse)". There is added dream sequences of her digging her own grave to prove the point!
  • Glee: Santana is the absolute queen of this.
    Santana: Hey Tubs! Can I talk to you for a second?
    Rory: Hey, listen here. You can't make fun of Finn anymore.
    Santana: Shut your potato hole, I'm here to apologize. [to Finn] Rachel's right, I haven't been fair to you. You're not fat. I should know, I slept with you. I mean, at some point I must have liked that you look like a taco addict who's had one too many back alley liposuctions.
    Rory: Whoa.
    Santana: Please stick a sock in it or ship yourself back to Scotland. I'm trying to apologize to Lumps The Clown. [back to Finn] I am sorry, Finn. I mean, really, I'm sorry that the New Directions are gonna get crushed by the Troubletones. And also sorry that you have no talent. Sorry that you sing like you're getting your prostate checked, and you dance like you've been asleep for years and someone just woke you up. Have fun riding on Rachel's coattails for the rest of your life, although, you know what, I would just watch out for her come holiday time if I were him, because if I were her, I'd stick a stent in one of those boobs and let the Finn blubber light the Hanukkah lamp for eight magical nights.
  • The Colbert Report: Stephen likes to invert this by proclaiming "I accept your apology" to someone who has not, in fact, apologized in any way.
  • Sex and the City: Carrie apologizes to Big's trophy-wife for having an affair with Big, to which she reples "I'm sorry too: I'm sorry you cheated with my husband, ran around behind my back, and caused me to fall and break my tooth, requiring 27 stitches and hours of painful surgery."
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has this impressive demonstration of the rhetorical device of paralipsis:
    WE WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGIZE FOR THE WAY IN WHICH POLITICIANS ARE REPRESENTED IN THIS PROGRAMME. IT WAS NEVER OUR INTENTION TO IMPLY THAT POLITICIANS ARE WEAK-KNEED, POLITICAL TIME-SERVERS WHO ARE CONCERNED MORE WITH THEIR PERSONAL VENDETTAS AND PRIVATE POWER STRUGGLES THAN THE PROBLEMS OF GOVERNMENT, NOR TO SUGGEST AT ANY POINT THAT THEY SACRIFICE THEIR CREDIBILITY BY DENYING FREE DEBATE ON VITAL MATTERS IN THE MISTAKEN IMPRESSION THAT PARTY UNITY COMES BEFORE THE WELL-BEING OF THE PEOPLE THEY SUPPOSEDLY REPRESENT NOR TO IMPLY AT ANY STAGE THAT THEY ARE SQUABBLING LITTLE TOADIES WITHOUT AN OUNCE OF CONCERN FOR THE VITAL SOCIAL PROBLEMS OF TODAY. NOR INDEED DO WE INTEND THAT VIEWERS SHOULD CONSIDER THEM AS CRABBY ULCEROUS LITTLE SELF-SEEKING VERMIN WITH FURRY LEGS AND AN EXCESSIVE ADDICTION TO ALCOHOL AND CERTAIN EXPLICIT SEXUAL PRACTICES WHICH SOME PEOPLE MIGHT FIND OFFENSIVE.
  • In one episode of Wonders of the Solar System, Brian Cox made an offhand remark that "astrology is a load of rubbish". After the show received complaints, he made a statement which sadly was not chosen as the BBC's official response on the issue:
    "I apologise to the astrology community for not making myself clear. I should have said that this new age drivel is undermining the very fabric of our civilisation."
  • The "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld spawned one of these. Apparently, Jerry Seinfeld and several writers went to the restaurant of the man (Al Yeganeh) that the character had been based on. He recognized them and launched into a rant about how the episode had "ruined his life" and demanded an apology. Seinfeld stood up and gave, to quote, "the most sarcastic, insincere apology" he'd ever heard. Yeganeh then yelled "No soup for you!" and threw them out of the restaurant.
  • In Frasier, Niles bears some animosity towards Frasier's ex-wife Lilith after she sniggered during Maris' wedding vows. When Frasier tries to get the two to reconcile, Lilith responds along the lines of "If Niles is so insecure that he needs an apology for something so minor, then fine, I apologise." Niles joyfully accepts.
  • The Playhouse Disney puppet show The Book of Pooh had a song called "If We Were Talkin'," which pretty much consisted of Rabbit and Tigger doing this to each other after an argument, at least until Piglet suggests that they could work things out. "If we were talking, which were aren't since that nasty somersault / I'd say I'm sorry that our accident was totally his fault." ... "If we were talking, I'd say sorry his world record was a bust."
  • A rare accidental example in Doctor Who, when the Doctor attempts to apologise to Barbara for kidnapping her and accusing her of trying to kill him. Due to the fact that he has No Social Skills it comes out as self-aggrandisement and blaming her for everything and he never actually says the word 'sorry'. Barbara's facial expression suggests she notices this, but at the same time she sees that it's meant sincerely and he's just communicating it badly, and accepts it.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • After a reader with the surname Dork complained about a Dilbert strip using 'Dork' as an insult, Scott Adams printed a reply in which Dogbert apologised 'To all the Dorks who were offended'.
  • Danae loves this concept.
    Danae: Sorry if you mistook something I said as somehow being offensive. Now everyone should stop dwelling on the past and just get over it.
  • Used in a The Wizard of Id Sunday strip, where a peasant is loudly claiming that the king is a fink, for which he is brought before the king to apologise.
    Peasant: I'm sorry you're a fink.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, when Calvin sees Susie and tries to speak to Susie, but she just tells him to get lost, he screams at her as she walks away: "I'm trying to apologize, you dumb noodleloaf!" He then Face Palms realizing what he's just said.
  • In a For Better or for Worse comic, Micheal is showing off all of his new back-to-school supplies and then teases Elizabeth because she didn't get anything, causing her to cry. John then tells Michael to apologize, and say it like he means it, so Micheal says "sorry" in a goofy voice, which causes him to get sent to his room.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This is a stock part of Trash Talk in professional wrestling, with Heath Slater's "apology" to Chris Jericho being one of the more recent ones.
  • The most recent one is when The Miz speaks to CM Punk after the latter forces him to apologize to Paul Heyman for calling him a human walrus. So he replies with this:
    Miz: Okay...I'm sorry that you're a really REALLY big walrus!
  • In the night before Money In The Bank 2011, CM Punk demands Vince McMahon to apologize to him and the fans for not giving them what they wanted. He finally relents and gives CM Punk a rather furious apology:
    Vince McMahon: I apologize, you son of a bitch!

    Video Games 
  • In Super Paper Mario, after Luvbi trash-talks the Mario brothers, Jaydes (her mother) forces her to apologize. So she replies. "I am sorry... that thy noses are so large." (The last part said very quickly and apparently unnoticed by Jaydes, though Mario reacts.)
  • In Sonic Lost World, Zeena gripes to Sonic that she has to reapply her nail polish because of him. Sonic says he's sorry, which Zeena takes at face value until Sonic explains that he's sorry that she "has nothing more important to do in life."

    Webcomics 

     Western Animation  
  • A closing gag on The Simpsons has Homer being chased by the mob. He then screams that he's sorry, causing them to stop and decide to leave him be. He then invokes this trope and the chase resumes.
  • The Boondocks:
    Riley:Mrs. Dubois, I'm sorry your cobbler look like throw-up with peas in it.
  • Family Guy: Mel Gibson's "apology" to the Jews, and also:
    Peter: Hey, hey, hey. Easy, fella. That's my kid. Now apologize.
    Douchebagnote : Okay. I'm sorry your kid's a brain-dead stinking blue cheese fatass.
    • There was also the episode where Brian writes a best selling book and Stewie becomes his agent. But soon, all the fame goes to Brian's head and starts acting really mean towards Stewie and even going as far as to firing him. At the end of the episode, Brian tries to apologize to Stewie, but claims that Stewie was the reason he acted like that.
  • From the Adventure Time episode "Mystery Dungeon:"
    Lemongrab: You will make pies FAST, servile!
    Tree Trunks: If you wanna taste of my apple pie, you'd better be nice!
    Lemongrab: ... I am sorry. Make pies, slave.
  • Squirt and Shimmer do this to each other in "Stumped" on Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends after having a fight over a hollyberry. Holley demands that they stop fighting and apologize to each other. "Sorry your ugly scarecrow won't have a head," shouts Squirt and Shimmer retorts "And I'm sorry that you're the world's worst berry thief!" Later, the two apologize to each other for real after they cool off and realize the pettiness of their earlier behavior.
  • An Abbott and Costello cartoon had the duo as lumberjacks, and Costello inadvertantly insults the foreman. When Abbott tells him to apologize, Costello confronts the foreman and says "You're the boss, and am I sorry!"
  • The Arthur episode "So Funny, I Forgot to Laugh" centers around the title character making fun of Sue Ellen because of a fur sweater she wore to school; claiming that she looks like a sheepdog. Sue Ellen then tells Mr. Ratburn about this and he tells Arthur to write Sue Ellen an apology letter. Arthur does apologize in the letter, but also points out that he thinks that Sue Ellen is just overreacting.

    Real Life 
  • During a televised awards show, reasonably popular stand-up comedian and breakfast radio host Dave Hughes refers to 'shock-jock' Kyle Sandilands as a "massive dickhead". Everyone laughs. Except Kyle Sandilands, who proceeds to underscore the statement by proclaiming on his show the following day: "I don't care if I go to jail for three months, that guy needs a punch in the throat. Simple." Hughes responded with a press release. In its entirety:
    "Mr Dave Hughes has issued a public apology to Mr Kyle Sandilands, who has made comments in the past days in reference to remarks made by Mr Hughes at the 2007 TV Week Logie Awards. Mr Hughes said : 'I am sincerely and deeply sorry that Kyle Sandilands is a massive dickhead.' Mr Hughes hopes that this sincere and unreserved apology will put this ugliness to rest and stop Mr Sandilands from going to jail. Mr Hughes further remarked: 'No one deserves to go to jail just for being a massive dickhead. Massive dickheads have the same rights as normal people.' Mr Hughes is not available for further comment on this matter."
  • On Fandom Wank, this is known as a Heidipology.
  • There is a rule in the British Parliament that forbids personal insults. Benjamin Disraeli said "Half the Cabinetnote  are asses.", He was ordered to apologize and he said "Mr. Speaker, I withdraw that remark, half the Cabinet are NOT asses." in a tone of voice that implied that the other half are asses.
    • Of course it's helpful that he never specified which half of the cabinet EITHER statement was talking about.
    • When Winston Churchill broke the same rule, his apology was simply "I called my honourable friend a liar it is true and I am sorry for it. Punctuate however you like."
    • Trenchant Labour MP Dennis Skinner took a leaf out of Disraeli's book when ordered to retract the statement "Half the Tories opposite are crooks."
  • Dave Barry once wrote a column about telemarketers which included the phone number of a major telemarketing company. Over the course of the following week, that company got swamped with so many calls from people complaining about being harassed by telemarketers that they couldn't get any work done. Dave Barry's next column covered this reaction, and ended with a highly sarcastic apology to the telemarketing company for the trouble he caused them, which included the phrase "I probably should not say that your new phone number is..."
  • Following a tweet by Chris Brown, Andy Levy made a comment about domestic abuse. Here is his apology to said comment.
  • Orson Welles's apology for the The War of the Worlds radio theatre incidentnote  essentially amounted to, "I'm sorry, I just didn't know so many people were stupid."
  • First rule of PR. Don't apologize for making a mistake, hurting someone's feelings, offending a social group. Instead apologize, but accuse them taking your words out of context and being offended on purpose/being sensitive. Too many examples to list. "Sorry If This Thing Offended You" is not an apology in most circles.
    • Late 2011 presented an archetypal example from Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing who, in the course of publicly abusing some customers, did not believe that one of the people he was talking to ran Penny Arcade. Hilarity ensued. The series of non-apologies was summarized as "Sorry, I wouldn't have done that if I had known I couldn't get away with it."
  • When Keith Olbermann was removed from Current in March 2012, he released a statement on Twitter which began with this:
    I'd like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.
  • The CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch recently released a press statement, responding to an earlier statement he had made in which he basically said that the company has no problem only selling to "cool" people, and that you can't be cool unless you're thin. In his new statement, he "apologizes" for that remark, stating: "I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense".
  • The British newspaper The Sun published a story "Flying saucers over British Scientology HQ". Their response to the resulting complaints:
    Following a letter from lawyers for the Church, we apologise to any alien lifeforms for linking them to Scientologists.
    • Their leftwing rivals The Mirror had another example: after American film producer Steve Bing ordered them to apologize for calling him "Bing Laden", he sent them an extremely grovelling and abject text of his apology which was to be run or they would face legal action. They ran it on the front page under the headline "A SINCERE AND HEARTFELT APOLOGY TO STEVE BING, PHILANTHROPIST AND HUMANITARIAN"...along with a feature inside the paper on "why Americans don't understand irony or sarcasm". Of course, their British readers did understand that they were obviously not serious...and, true to stereotype, Bing did not.
  • Any and all apologies which are: "sorry I offended you" or have a "but" justifier in the middle of it!
  • After the Liberal Democrats broke their campaign pledge not to raise tuition fees, Nick Clegg made a public apology (which quickly became a Stupid Statement Dance Mix) in which he said "We shouldn't have made promises we weren't absolutely sure we could deliver". Many people pointed out he wasn't apologising for breaking the pledge, but for making it in the first place.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Vegeta gets one in at the end of the first season, due to Goku's insistence that if Vegeta says he's sorry, he can leave Earth unmolested. The result?
    Vegeta: I'm sorry. Yep. Totally sorry. I just feel terrible. Yes, I'm very, very, "very" sorry...(capsule door shuts) THAT YOU'RE ALL STILL ALIVE! SUCKERS!
  • Happens in Video Game High School. The Law is such a jerk.
  • This video combines the trope with a well earned Armor-Piercing Question from today's youth to a previous generation.

Ask a Stupid Question...Oh Great, a Snark IndexCannot Convey Sarcasm
Apology GiftIndex of ApologiesEmotionally Tongue Tied
Author CatchphraseDialogueBad News in a Good Way

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