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Backhanded Apology

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She's apologizing, but not for her actions!

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. A genuine apology, one that lacks any sarcasm or double meaning, would be a Heartfelt Apology, the direct opposite of this trope.


Compare with Flippant Forgiveness and Bait-and-Switch Comment. Compare and contrast Never My Fault, where the perpetrator directly blames others for their own wrongdoing, with no attempt to disguise it as a non-apology. See also YouTuber Apology Parody, which commonly intersects with this trope thanks to the common perception of such videos as half-hearted attempts at damage control. If Alice instead apologises to the thing she compared Bob to, that's Insult to Rocks. Also see Two-Faced Aside.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In episode 11 of the English dub of Beyblade G-Revolution, after losing a tag match against Ray and Lee, and a spat between Tyson and Daichi, Hilary orders the former to apologize to the latter for saying he'd "be better off beyblading alone". His response?
    Tyson: I'm sorry you had to ruin our match for the both of us, Daichi. And I'm sorry I had to pick you to be a part of my team.
  • 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."
  • The Valentines Day Episode of the Osomatsu-san manga has Osomatsu call a couple of girls ugly, with Choromatsu apologizing on his behalf while mentioning it probably offends them more getting that insult on that day than it should any other day.
  • 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.
  • So-Sorree from Yo-Kai Watch makes anybody it inspirits do this constantly, to the annoyance of their peers.

    Comic Books 
  • In Tintin (at least the French version), Haddock has to apologize 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". The English version changes the confusion to the Thompsons thinking the Sea of Nectar is the seaside, and Haddock claims that they're looking for two Punch and Judy men on the pier, for which they would suit perfectly. The apology goes about the same way, with Haddock "explaining" that they're not hiring after all, which doesn't address the insult at all.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, when Calvin is (unusually) trying to apologize to Susie, she just tells him to get lost, and he screams at her as she walks away: "I'm trying to apologize, you dumb noodleloaf!" He then Face Palms realizes what he's just said.
  • 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 apologized "To all the Dorks who were offended."
  • In a For Better or for Worse comic, Michael 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 Michael says "sorry" in a goofy voice, which causes him to get sent to his room.
  • Non Sequitur: 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Anger Management:
    • When Lincoln is made to apologise to Lynn, he says, "Sorry I didn't hurt you more".
    • When Lynn is made to apologise to Lincoln, she thinks, "Sorry you aren't lying on the floor crying like a baby."
  • In Bound in Servitude, Mrs. Weasley insists that Ron apologize for implying most of the Order of the Phoenix are Dumbledore-worshipping sheep.
    Ron: I apologize for pointing out your shortcomings. I failed to notice that you hadn't realized your inadequacy.
  • In Buddy Holly, Harry and Draco have a fistfight and part of their punishment is to write apology letters to each other.
    Dear Malfoy, I'm sorry you aren't more hurt. Sincerely, Harry Potter.
  • In Couturiere, Marinette gets akumatized into the titular villain after Lila Rossi's lies push her too far. When she finally corners Lila and demands she own up to her lies, she instead gets a non-apology that all but push the blame of her actions on her classmates for believing her lies, and on Marinette for being hurt by them. Needless to say, Couturiere isn't amused, and proceeds to give her a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • In Darkness Within Tom Riddle tortures 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.
  • 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!
  • Erased Potential: After Nedzu repeatedly manipulates Toshinori, tricking him into revealing Izuku's status as a Recommended Student to the whole class, Izuku wants an apology. Nedzu initially pretends he didn't hear what he asked, followed by a pithy "Then I am sorry that I caused you trouble, Midoriya-kun." Aizawa immediately calls him out on this non-apology, and Nedzu affirms that he still thinks his actions were completely justified.
  • Faery Heroes:
    Luna: Now Harry, what have we told you about getting into battles of wit with unarmed opponents? He is just jealous that you're in the middle of everything that seems to happen around here; there is no need to rub his nose in his inadequacies. Now say you're sorry.
    Harry: I'm sorry that I brought up your inadequacies for everyone at the table to hear, Seamus. I should have waited until it was just the two of us before I pointed out how much of a hypocritical sack of gob-shite you are.
  • 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.
  • In Imitation Steamrollers, Emily demands that George apologise to her for covering her in oil. He does his roller, for making it dirty.
  • The Night Unfurls: Downplayed in Chapter 1 of the remastered version. Kyril is not one for insults or jerkassery, but his apology towards Alicia for not showing respect towards a noble like her serves to highlight his brusque, seemingly uncaring demeanour.
    Kyril: If I have offended you, I do apologize, but I must get going. *gives a short, curt bow* Have a wonderful afternoon.
  • The Pros and Cons to living a triple life After two older women insult Kairi and Sora for their public displays of affection:
    Kairi: It must be incredibly boring to have nothing to do with your hard-earned downtime than to sneer and scoff at other people for their happiness. Are you ladies feeling that lonely and unfulfilled with your lives?
    Woman: How dare you! Do you have any idea to whom you speak so disrespectfully, you brat?
    Kairi: A gossipy old goose who seems to have some serious issues with minding her own business?
    Woman: Hmph. I'll have you know that my husband is a cabinet minister, young girl. So some respect for the family of a man who governs this great country is in order.
    Kairi: (shocked) Oh! Oh I am deeply sorry, ma'am. I apologize for my actions. I had no idea that you were so jealous because your husband is married to his job while I can do this whenever I want. (turns and kisses Sora)
  • The Snitch Effect:
    Dumbledore: Lee, while I agree with you that Mister Diggory is being an ass, as you put it, that's no reason to become so vulgar. Kindly apologize, if you would.
    Lee: Fine. I'm sorry that you're such a prat, Diggory!

    Films — Animation 
  • Rock and Rule: Omar and Toad's first encounter has Omar call him one of "Mother Nature's finest freaks", which Toad doesn't take kindly to. A few minutes later when he's holding up Omar by his shirt collar:
    Omar: It was the freak reference, wasn't it?
    Toad: You gonna apologize, rude boy?
    Omar: I'm sorry...dicknose! note 
    Toad: Why, you—!
  • Shrek:
    Shrek: [to Donkey] Well, if I treated you so bad, how come you came back?
    Donkey: Because that's what friends do — they forgive each other!
    Shrek: Oh, yeah. You're right, Donkey. I forgive you — for stabbing me in the back!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dogma Opening Disclaimer:
"So please — before you think about hurting someone over this trifle of a film, remember: even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the Platypus. Thank you and enjoy the show. P.S. We sincerely apologize to all Platypus enthusiasts out there who are offended by that thoughtless comment about the Platypi. We at View Askew respect the noble Platypus, and it is not our intention to slight these stupid creatures in any way."
  • 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 possible that in Derek's case, he is being genuine.
    Derek: I'm sorry that good-looking people like us made you throw up and feel bad about yourself.
    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:
    • There's 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 popular.
      (cue crowd moving back, except a blissfully-smiling Karen)
    • 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. (Although that could be a genuine apology, as the girl in the wheelchair might have observed that her bullying of Laura caused Laura to binge eat, and she is horrified that she could have done that).
    • 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.
  • Paths of Glory. Colonel Dax's epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech to his commanding officer.
    Colonel Dax: I apologize for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you're a degenerate, sadistic old man. AND YOU CAN GO TO HELL BEFORE I APOLOGIZE TO YOU NOW OR EVER AGAIN!"

  • 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!"
  • A child comes up to his mother complaining that his sister called him stupid. The mother orders her daughter to say she's sorry. She turns to her brother and says "I'm sorry that you're stupid."
  • Vovochka (a schoolchild in Russian jokes) writes on a blackboard during a break: "Tanya is a moron". The teacher catches him and orders to say three times "Tanya is not a moron" and apologize. Vovochka says: "Tanya is not a moron... Tanya is not a moron? Tanya is not a moron?! Excuse me!!!"

  • Beast Tamer: The hero party led by Arios needs Rein to do a quest for them, but they cruelly fired him, confiscated his equipment, and let him with few, if any, viable options. When they seek him out they try to recruit him with an insincere "apology" that goes along the lines of "sorry we had to fire you for being weak and useless." Rein and his party rightly take it as an insult and try to walk away before the heroes state that humanity will suffer greatly if Rein doesn't go to Lost Forest and get the Shield of Truth. When Rein agrees under those conditions, they insult him in just about every way imaginable for wasting their time. Cue a Curb-Stomp Battle on Arios and his party when Rein's party takes offense to that.
  • The Carpet People:
    Owlglass: I was trying to remember what you called him.
    Pismire: An ignorant sybarite who didn't have the sense of a meat pie.
    Glurk: Sounds pretty nasty, sentencing someone to death just for that.
    Owlglass: Actually, he got sentenced to death for apologizing.
    Glurk: How can you be sentenced to death for apologizing?
    Owlglass: He said he was sorry, but on reflection he realized that the Emperor had got the sense of a meat pie. He was running at the time, too.
  • 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).
  • After the girls of The Baby-Sitters Club get into a huge fight, Mary Anne writes her friends "apology" notes. While she manages one sincere apology to Claudia, the other notes fall under this trope:
    Dear Kristy, I'm sorry you're the biggest, bossiest know-it-all in the world, but what can I do about it? Perhaps you should consider professional help.
  • In the Warrior Cats book The First Battle, Clear Sky is infuriated enough to claw Falling Feather across the face, shocking them both. His "apology" is basically "I'm sorry you don't understand that questioning me puts us in danger."
  • Time To: Defied in "Time to Say, 'Please!'", which says that "sorry" is another useful word, but you have to mean it.
  • In Missy Piggy-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure, the first stage of said Whatever Cure involves the child being cured being magically placed in a floating bubble whenever they do something incosiderate. They can get out of it if they apologize, but as Frankfort Freeforall discovers, "Veronica, I'm sorry you're such a crybaby" won't work. It just causes the bubble to swoop up even higher.

    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: " 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.
  • In Black Books Manny has finally left Bernard's shop after one mistreatment too far. All Manny wants is an apology and Fran finally gets them in the shop together so Bernard can say sorry:
    Bernard: Manny, I'm sorry. I am sorry I ever let you in here to rob me of my best years before leaving me a burnt-out husk!
  • In The Boys (2019), Super Supremacist Blue Hawk gets in hot water for using Police Brutality in black neighborhoods. When he's forced to make an Ordered Apology, he essentially says "I'm sorry you feel that way" with it quickly devolving into a shouting match with the crowd and violence.
  • 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 was ordered to apologize to the Centauri for something that was the Centauri's fault. Sheridan is shown practicing an epic backhand apology to a mirror in his quarters. It's just too bad he never got the chance to actually deliver it.
    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! [Beat] "As with everything else, it's the thought that counts."
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • After the guys act like Jerkasses to Penny's boyfriend Zack Leonard asks how they should apologize, Sheldon suggests "Zack, I'm sorry you're stupid. Have a Milk Dud".
    • Sheldon tries to do this to Amy, but she doesn't accept it:
      Sheldon: I was not myself, I had lost a lot of thumb blood.
      Amy: That's not an apology.
      Sheldon: That is your opinion.
      Amy: I want a real apology!
      Sheldon: I'm sorry that you weren't able to...
      Amy: No!
      Sheldon: That my genius...
      Amy: No!
      Sheldon: That the soap was so...
      Amy: Sheldon!
      Sheldon: Fine... sorry.
  • Scrubs:
    • After Carla tries to interfere in Perry and Jordan's relationship, Turk persuades her to apologize 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, J.D. 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. Given that he's playing a satirical character, almost every apology to people he offends comes off as this.
  • 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:
    • One episode has this impressive demonstration of the rhetorical device of paralipsis:
    • In the architects sketch, after Mr Wiggin's tirade of insults towards the city gents, they simply reply "Well we're sorry you feel like that."
  • 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:
    Brian Cox: 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 declares that, "if he is in such need of validation, then I guess for some sense of familial harmony, I do apologize." Niles joyfully accepts.
    Frasier: He doesn't get that kind of validation at home, you see.
  • 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. Because 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.
  • Ally McBeal: In episode 5 of season 1, during Ally's hearing, with her lawyer license being at stake, her representative colleague heatedly argues to what he calls unfair process. Interrupting, their law firm boss (present, as he says earlier in the episode, as backup) declares to be in agreement with the board on this one, cheerfully continuing to elaborate that their hothead is being constantly reminded of the need for civility and yet keeps getting these reactions to witch-hunts, especially this blatant.
  • In Roseanne, DJ and his Mom are fighting, so while at the diner he leaves a note on one of the tables saying "The big scary one spits in the food." Annoyed, Roseanne demands he apologize.
    DJ: I'm sorry my mom spits in your food.
    [the customer leaves in disgust]
    Roseanne: Ha! Joke's on you, DJ; I really do spit in the food!
  • This Hour Has 22 Minutes's Apology to America, in which Anthony St. George walks around Washington D.C. and passive-aggressively apologies on behalf of Canada for such things as calling George W. Bush a moron, burning down The White House during the War of 1812, various terrible Canadian celebrities and music inflicted on the U.S. over the decades, and, finally, for "apologizing for things in a passive-aggressive way which is really a thinly-veiled criticism, because we've seen what you do to countries you get upset with."
  • In Saturday Night Live, Melissa McCarthy's impersonation of Sean Spicer opens with one of these:
    "I'd like to begin today by apologizing on behalf of you to me for how you have treated me these last two weeks, and that apology is not accepted."
  • Because sarcasm and sadism are the modus operandi of Cutthroat Kitchen, Alton's request that a losing cheftestant return his or her remaining cash to the briefcase often reeks of this.
  • Played humorously in That '70s Show. Kelso tells the guys that he got into some trouble with Pam Macey, mainly him unable to... well, let's just say in his case, the South didn't rise again. Eric and Hyde proceed to mock him about it, which Fez chatises them for. Then we get this gem from him:
    Fez: Kelso, I just want you to know that I feel bad for you and that I am sorry... YOU ARE NOT A MAN!!!
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "The Trouble With Tribbles", Scotty makes it clear to Korax that he's treading on dangerous ground when he compares the Enterprise to a garbage scow. Instead of backing down, the Klingon doubles down:
    Scotty: Laddie, don't you think you should... rephrase that?
    Korax: (imitating Scotty's accent) You're right. I should. (Normal voice) I didn't mean to say that the Enterprise should be hauling garbage. I meant to say that it should be hauled away AS garbage!
    (Scotty decks him, starting a Bar Brawl.)
  • The Flash (2014): In the first Season Finale, Cisco reveals to Thawne that he has memories of Thawne killing him in an alternate timeline. Thawne says he's sorry...not for killing him (he's confident he had a good reason) but for him being able to remember it.
  • In The Umbrella Academy, a retired Marine at the veterans' bar gets offended when twenty-something Klaus claims to be a Vietnam vet (which Klaus actually is, but there's Time Travel involved so he doesn't look it) and demands an apology for this perceived lie. Klaus calmly agrees:
    Klaus: I'd like to apologize...that you are depriving some village...OF THEIR IDIOT!
  • In Peaky Blinders, every apology made by Tom Hardy's character Alfie Solomons is either utterly flippant, sarcastic, or a transparent means of manipulating someone. The closest he gets to apparent sincerity is his apology to Arthur in season 3 for previously trying to frame the guy for murder, and even that is a blatant act of self-preservation, which he goes on to undermine anyway by trolling Arthur for several minutes afterward and keep mocking him. As a rule, a "good" apology probably doesn't end with the other person so irate they're inches away from smashing you over the head with an ashtray...
  • In The Good Place, Brent does this to Tahani after he write a book, where the main characters love interest is a racist, sexist caricature of her. After a few "attempts", he gives up and rants about how there was nothing wrong with his portrayal of Tahani, and accuses the rest of the gang of bullying him and infringing on his rights.
  • iCarly (2021): In the third episode "iFauxpologize", an image of Carly spitting out a rotten meatball goes viral and, at Harper's insistence, Carly milks the popularity of the meme for all its worth. Spencer gets angry at her for doing so since his latest sculpture was in the background of the photo and many viewers thought her cringy expression was aimed at the sculpture. When Spencer demands an apology from Carly for the meme, her response is "I'm sorry if your feelings were hurt. I didn't realize you were so sensitive." Spencer deems it a "Fauxpology", hence the episode title. She does apologize for real at the end of the episode.

    Pro 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!

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Playhouse Disney puppet show The Book of Pooh had a song called "If We Were Talkin'," which consisted of Rabbit and Tigger doing this to each other after an argument, at least until Piglet suggests that they could work things out. Such lyrics from the song from Rabbit in particular include "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." and "If we were talking, I'd say sorry his world record was a bust."
  • In the Danny Kaye episode of The Muppet Show, Kaye and Miss Piggy are on the outs because Kaye says he remembers Piggy singing "Cheek to Cheek" years and years ago, when she was thin. Over the course of the duet they make up, and it ends with Kaye apologising ... sort of.
    Danny Kaye: Piggy, I'm sorry I said I knew you when you were thin. [Beat] I never knew you when you were thin!

  • The Interview Sketch on Season 5, Episode 3 of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme features the Shadow Minister for Saying Stupid Things and Refusing to Apologise For Them, who first says he's "sorry if people were offended", then, when Patsy Straightwoman says they definitely were, shifts it to "sorry that they were offended". When she directly asks if he's sorry he offended them, he comes up with circumlocations like "Sorriness is being experienced by a number of people, not necessarily excluding me." She eventually gets an Ordered Apology out of him.
    Patsy: Say it like you mean it.
    Minister: I don't mean it!
    Patsy: I know that. Say it like you do mean it.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Ruby Rose from RWBY gives one to Weiss after Weiss sums up how their first fight as a team didn't go very well.
    Ruby: I'm sorry that you need my help to win a fight.


    Web Videos 
  • 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.
  • In Jake and Amir, Jake calls out Amir for giving one of these to his cousin, Micah.
    Amir: Are you still pissed about the last time he visited?
    Jake: You mean when he went to get a drink from the water fountain and you shoved his face into it? Yeah, he lost two of his front teeth!
    Amir: I apologized for that!
    Jake: You said, "Sorry you don't have a sense of humor, bitch!"
  • Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] Abridged has a subverted example of this trope. Rather than hitting her for Archer nearly killing him, Shirou suggests to Rin that he apologizes for the above event. While Rin complies, and genuinely, nonetheless, it doesn't stop her from throwing shade at Shirou for his actions during said event.
    Rin: Shirou Emiya... I'm... sorry. I'm very sorry you got your back cut open by Archer.
    Shirou: Tricky start, but I can work with that.
    Rin: I'm sorry that you thought letting your guard down around a Servant who's been talking about killing you for days was a good idea.
    Shirou: Getting worse...
    Rin: I'm especially sorry that you straight-up tried to throw a punch at a Servant who's been talking about killing you for days before letting your guard down around them!
    Shirou: Admittedly not my greatest moment. All right, you know what? This is perhaps devolving into something less than apologetic.
  • Netflix By Bots's ''The Second Stand-Up Comedy Special Written Entirely By Bots'':
    A comedian: Firstly of all, I am sorry that I am not sorry. Actually, I am not sorry that I am not sorry. I have never not been not sorry. If that offends, I think you should leaves.

    Western Animation  
  • An Abbott and Costello cartoon had the duo as lumberjacks, and Costello inadvertently insults the foreman. When Abbott tells him to apologize, Costello confronts the foreman and says "You're the boss, and am I sorry!"
  • 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.
  • 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. He does eventually give her a sincere apology however.
  • In the BoJack Horseman episode "Brand New Couch", BoJack's mother Beatrice calls him to apologize for how she treated him during his childhood after reading his memoirs. However, even as she apologizes, she still can't stop insulting him, calling him a narcissist for writing a memoir, and telling him he was born broken and that he'll never get better.
  • In The Boondocks episode "The Itis", during a Sunday dinner at the Freeman house, Riley rudely complains about Sarah Dubois' food. Robert orders him to apologize, to which Riley responds:
    Riley: Mrs. Dubois, I'm sorry your cobbler look like throw-up with peas in it.
    [this is followed by more arguing between Robert and Riley, until the former beats up the latter]
  • 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 (smacks Peter's can of Patriot Ale out of his hand) fat-ass!
    • 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 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. Realizing that's the best he'll get, Stewie simply tells Brian he can't write.
  • 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.
  • A closing gag in The Simpsons episode "Insane Clown Poppy" has Homer being chased by the mafia mob. He then screams that he's sorry, causing them to stop and decide to leave him be. He then invokes this trope (saying, "I'm sorry you're such jerks") and the chase resumes.
    • Another time, Homer declared, "I never apologize for anything. I'm sorry, that's just the way I am." It's played for Hypocritical Humor, but it becomes more logical when you reflect on it: It's really only half an apology when someone says, "I'm sorry, but I'm not gonna change." A complete apology would mean being willing to change and make things better, and anything that contradicts this is something of a backhanded apology.
  • Steven Universe: In "Barn Mates", Peridot tries to write an apology card to Lapis Lazuli. Unfortunately, Peridot is so asocial that even when she tries to be heartfelt, it comes off as insincere.
    Lapis: (reading Peridot's card) "Sorry I interrogated you. You were just full of such useful information. That's a sincere compliment."
  • Tritannus, the Big Bad of Winx Club season 5. After he is defeated and stripped of his powers, the monarchs of Andros condemn him before asking if Tritannus had anything to say in his defense or had any remorse for what he's done. He replies he's only sorry he didn't kill them all when he had the chance. This results in him banished.
  • In Rick and Morty, Rick is not the type to apologize. The closest you'll get from him is "I'm sorry you think you deserve an apology." Beth realizes she's not that different when she refuses to apologize to someone too, ultimately admitting "Oh my god, I'm my father."

    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."
  • There is a rule in the British Parliament that forbids personal insults. Benjamin Disraeli supposedly said "Half the Cabinetnote  are asses." He was ordered to apologize and he said "Mr. Speaker, I withdraw. Half the Cabinet are not asses," in a tone of voice that implied that the other half are asses.
    • 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..."
  • 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: When apologizing for making a mistake, hurting someone's feelings, or offending a social group DO NOT accuse the recipients taking your words out of context and being offended on purpose/being sensitive. "Sorry that you were offended" is not an apology in most circles, and will almost assuredly get the people you're addressing even angrier.
    • 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."
    • April 2018 presented a rather infuriating example of this as well; Former contributors of Channel Awesome put together an extensive document blowing the whistle on the site's terrible management, abuse (from the verbal to the physical to the sexual) from the higher-ups (especially CEO Mike Michaud), and poster boys Rob and Doug Walker's lack of will or care to do anything about it. Shortly after the mess became public and they could no longer ignore it, Channel Awesome posted an "apology" on their Twitter account where they told their viewers and their former contributors that they "sincerely regret that you felt that way", attempting to evade responsibility for nearly ten years of behind-the-scenes abuse. This resulted in disillusioned/disappointed fans leaving in droves and all but three of their remaining contributors leaving in less than a week.
    • In the same month, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, upset after the State legislature (also Republican) overrode his veto of increasing Education spending to resolve a teacher's strike, alleged that "somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them." After public backlash, he issued an apology stating (in part) the following. Translation - "I'm sorry you were too stupid to understand what I was intending."
      Bevin: For those of you who understood what I was saying, thank you, but clearly, a tremendous number of people did not fully appreciate what it was I was communicating. I apologize for those who were hurt by the things that were said.
  • 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 released a press statement, responding to an earlier statement he had made in which he 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".
  • In July 2020 Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL) was caught by a reporter referring to Representative Alexandria Oscaio-Cortez (D-NY) as a "fucking bitch" after he started an argument with her in which he called her "disgusting" and "out of your freaking mind". Once the news broke, Yoho "apologized" to her on the house floor without apologizing for calling her a "fucking bitch". He apologized for starting with an argument with her and for any misunderstanding while denying he'd ever call a woman such a thing because he has a wife and two daughters.
    Yoho: "The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues. And if they were construed that way, I apologize for their misunderstanding."
  • 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 left-wing 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". Their British readers did understand that they were obviously not serious...and, true to stereotype, Bing did not. To be fair to Bing, many Americans would have found that pun to be in poor taste (and probably still do).
  • 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 Clegg wasn't apologising for breaking the pledge, but for making it in the first place.
  • Commenting on Secretary of War Simon Cameron's reputation for corruption, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens once told President Lincoln, "I don't think that he would steal a red hot stove." When Cameron demanded that he retract the statement, he told Lincoln, "I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I will now take that back."
  • In June 2014, Ashton Wood raised $18,000 online so he and 300 people could destroy his car after Jeep refused to pay a full refund for the car or replace the vehicle which he claimed had suffered 21 separate mechanical problems. During a failed settlement between the manufacturer, Jeep, and Mr. Wood, one of the requests made by the car company was for the disgruntled buyer to publish an 'apology' in a national publication. However, because no one would publish the apology, he instead read it out on The ABC's The Checkout:
    Dear Jeep,
    I'm sorry.
    I'm sorry my Jeep broke down before it even left the dealership.
    I'm sorry it had 21 problems.
    I'm sorry it had to be towed 4 times.
    I'm sorry I wasn't more grateful for your offer of a replacement battery.
    I'm sorry you wouldn't offer me a replacement or refund.
    But most of all I'm sorry...
  • In Australia the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, got in trouble for chartering a helicopter to take her to a Liberal Party fundraiser and charging the taxpayer for it. In her response after paying the money back she said "I'm very sorry it's taken the heat off Mr Shortennote  and his triple-whammy carbon tax bill". The Prime Minister later mentioned that she had apologised but this was the only time she said sorry in the interview. She later offered another apology three weeks later after sustained criticism but made sure to point out it was technically within the rules.note 
  • General George S. Patton famously slapped two soldiers suffering from shell-shock (even brandishing his pistol threateningly at one) and was ordered to apologize in lieu of a formal reprimand. His private apologies to the two men were reported as "no apology at all, an attempt to justify what he'd done." When apologizing to his soldiers at large, Patton only made vague references to being "too hard" on the men serving under him, and later wrote in his diary that he felt no shame at all at what he'd done and greatly resented having to apologize at all. For the record, the two men who were slapped seemed satisfied with their private apologies, one even remarking that Patton was under stress himself when the incident occurred.
  • In 2003, longtime Canadian Football League rivals, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, faced each other in the CFL West Division semifinals. During the run-up to the game, Bombers kicker Troy Westwood was quoted in the media as calling people from the Riders' home city of Regina "a bunch of banjo-pickin' inbreds." He later issued a faux apology, saying "the vast majority of the people in Saskatchewan have no idea how to play the banjo." Ever since, the rematch between the two teams in Winnipeg that follows their Labour Day Classic matchup in Regina has been called the Banjo Bowl.
  • In November 2020, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel was accused of breaching the government's Ministerial Code after allegations of bullying during her time in government (across three different departments). She later said she was "sorry that people had been upset by her behaviour".
  • The phrase "sorry not sorry" is about as minimalist as you can get for this concept, as it basically expresses that you're sorry that you aren't.
    • Even more blunt is, "I regret nothing."
  • Fox News Channel personality Andy Levy gave one of these to Chris Brown and his fans live on air after an argument on Twitter:
    Andy Levy: I want to talk about something that happened on Tuesday night. About 8 o’clock here on the east coast R&B singer Chris Brown tweeted, “No more planking for me unless it’s on a sexy lady. Lol.” So I saw this tweet and I retweeted it adding, “You spelled 'punching' wrong.” Obviously in reference to that fact that Brown was arrested in 2009 for assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna.
    But now in the light of day, I’d like to apologize to Chris Brown and to his fans that are known as ‘Team Breezy.’ To Mr. Brown, I apologize for referencing the fact that you beat the crap out of Rihanna. It was disrespectful of me to draw attention to the fact that you put your girlfriend in the hospital. And further, it was not my place to make people remember that you beat a woman with your fists, leaving her with multiple facial contusions, a bloody nose, and a split lip. I know that now.
    I also appreciate the fact that you tweeted me, letting me know that children conduct themselves better than I do. You are correct, and I could only hope to one day mature to the point where I can conduct myself in a more adult manner. Possibly by throwing a chair out of a window and storming out of a building with my shirt off. I ask only for your patience.
    To Team Breezy I would also like to say that I’m sorry. Thank you for your thousands of tweets which taught me a lot about the creative possibilities of spelling, grammar, and syntax. Possibilities I couldn’t even imagine before last night. In particular I’d like to thank the female members of Team Breezy, who have taught me that as long as you can sing, you can beat the living hell out of a woman and other women will still love you.
    And lastly, I apologize to everyone for using Twitter to subtly address the fact that I think it’s disgusting that a guy who put his girlfriend in the hospital can, a mere two years later, be warmly welcomed back into society and appear on shows such Saturday Night Live, as if everything he did magically never happened. It won’t happen again.
  • Right before US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was voted off her committee assignments in February 2021 for her past calls for political violence against several prominent Democrats note  and open support for various deranged conspiracy theories,note  she gave a speech in defense of herself. During her roughly half hour speech, she claimed that she wasn’t that person anymore and was sorry she’d been manipulated in the past into believing such things at a rough patch in her life but never directly apologized. She blamed the media and government for radicalizing her and said she was sorry for that but never took responsibility for her own actions, some of which had happened as recently as not even a month before.
  • The launch of Warcraft III: Reforged was a complete disaster, being a blatantly unfinished mess that was rushed to release in time for 2020's fiscal year, with many features missing from the original Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos while lacking the cinematic cutscenes shown in its 2018 trailer, Game-Breaking Bugs and disconnections galore, and updating the EULA to grant Blizzard exclusive ownership over any and all custom content for fear of another DOTA scenario. To make matters worse, Reforged was merged with and overwrites the original game, meaning all of the problems with Reforged retroactively affect the original game regardless of whether the user buys Reforged or not. Fans were understandably furious, and eventually Blizzard issued an official statement addressing complaints... that refused to accept responsibility and attempted to shift blame to the fans for their high expectations that Blizzard themselves set with their 2018 trailer. It went about as well as you'd think it would, with Blizzard's reputation being self-damaged further.
    Community Manager: We've been following the discussions the past couple days and want to thank you for your feedback as well as your support. First off, we want to say we're sorry to those of you who didn't have the experience you wanted, and we'd like to share our plans for what's coming next.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Nea Culpa


Not Berry Sorry at All

In "Stumped" from "Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends," Holley spins the Wheel of Choice to stop a fight between Squirt and Shimmer about a berry they both want. But when he suggests that they both apologize to each other, they just use their "apologies" as a way to sling more abuse at each other.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / BackhandedApology

Media sources: