Apologies are not rocket science — especially if you’re a well-financed, veteran politician with an army of advisors meticulously crafting the perfect avatar for you to present to the public.
However, a bumbled non-apology can protract minor misdeeds into long, drawn-out questions of character with widespread collateral damage.
Former B.C. cabinet minister and real estate developer Kevin Falcon may have realized this last week after he launched his BC Liberal Party leadership campaign. With a slick announcement video, a splashy feature on the front page of The Vancouver Sun, and a fawning op-ed in The Globe & Mail, Falcon’s candidacy landed with more impact than the other two declared entrants, strategist Gavin Dew and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross.
However, Falcon has to contend with his ghosts-of-politicians-past, which may come to define his entire leadership run.
On May 18, CKNW host Mike Smyth asked Falcon if he would apologize for his participation in the infamous BC Liberal Zoom roast, where Falcon was caught laughing at sexist jokes about BC NDP MLA Bowinn Ma made by then-BC Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite.
Falcon explained the mechanics of a “roast”, cited Thornthwaite’s jokes as “an awkward situation to be in”, but insisted that he wouldn’t apologize because he “didn’t tell the joke”.
Now, it is unrealistic to ask someone to atone for every inappropriate moment where they laughed. Although, this incident occurred in a very public setting within the last twelve months, at the expense of a very specific person who endured a well-documented history of targeting from the BC Liberals. It’s not exactly the same as laughing at Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” in 1987.
Nevertheless, I predicted that Falcon’s resistance to apologize would prolong this issue. Of course, within hours, BC NDP MLA Aman Singh put out a video highlighting the footage of Falcon rocking back and forth in his chair, laughing uproariously at Thornthwaite’s sexist jokes about Ma.
The next day, Radio NL host Brett Mineer asked Falcon about the infamous incident.
Once again, Falcon explained the concept of a roast and resisted an apology. However, this time, Mineer asked Falcon why he thought the other participants apologized. They, like him, just laughed in the video, too.
This is where you separate the Christys from the Kevins: Whenever asked why someone else did or said something, the default answer must be, “You have to ask them.”
Falcon, unfortunately, snagged Mineer’s bait.
Falcon responded, “They were politicians and it was in the middle of an election campaign.”
The implication here is that anyone on the video who laughed at Thornthwaite’s jokes, genuinely or nervously, subsequently apologized in a disingenuous manner. Falcon is laying this charge specifically on current BC Liberal MLAs Andrew Wilkinson, Mike De Jong, Jordan Sturdy, and Karin Kirkpatrick: No, they didn’t apologize because they felt shame or because it hurt someone’s feelings, according to Falcon, they only apologized because they were in the middle of an election.
It’s the type of commentary I would make as a political cynic. But as a party leadership candidate, Falcon is effectively slamming caucus members of his own party as phoney.
Kevin Falcon is a BC Liberal politician in the middle of an election campaign...— Mo Amir ॐ This is VANCOLOUR (@vancolour) May 25, 2021
...and BC Liberal politicians in the middle of election campaigns are disingenuous, according to Kevin Falcon 🧐#bcpoli
The rants are back!
Crank it up and share it!🤘
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Worse yet, in downplaying the sincerity of the apologies, Falcon is also downplaying the seriousness of casual sexism — as if participation, active or passive, in casual sexism isn’t a big deal that actually requires remorse.
The BC NDP have already demonstrated a thirst to attack Falcon. But in one week, Falcon armed them with even more ammunition, when he could have put this one matter behind him with a firm, “Of course I’m sorry this happened.”
Instead, Falcon inadvertently buried members of the very party that he hopes to lead. His non-apologetic explanations also draw questions about his own character that the BC NDP will ensure haunt him on the stump.
And the race has only begun.
As more mistakes from his past come into focus, Kevin Falcon needs better tactics to manage his narrative because the launch strategy has been disastrous so far.
Mo Amir is the host of This is VANCOLOUR, a politics and culture podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and www.thisisvancolour.com