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OPINION

No, Julianna Margulies did not actually apologize

Apologizing only for offending someone does not equal acknowledging that words or actions were offensive.

Julianna Margulies did not own that her remarks were offensive. That’s not an apology. That’s the work of a bunch of publicists trying to quickly clean up the mess Margulies made.ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Julianna Margulies recently realized that saying Black people have “been brainwashed to hate Jews” offended a lot of people.

During an appearance last month on “The Back Room with Andy Ostroy” podcast, the actress best known for “The Good Wife” questioned the level of support for Jews in Black and LGBTQ communities since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas stormed into Israel, massacred at least 1,200 people, and took more than 200 others hostage.

After mentioning Jewish support of the 1960s civil rights movement, Margulies said, “The fact that the entire Black community isn’t standing with us, to me, says either they just don’t know or they’ve been brainwashed to hate Jews.” She also castigated LGBTQ people, especially those who identify as gender nonconforming who, she said, “will be the first people beheaded and their heads played like a soccer ball on the field” in places run by extremist groups like Hamas.

First came the backlash, followed by what Margulies tried to pass off as an apology.

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“I am horrified by the fact that statements I made on a recent podcast offended the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities, communities I truly love and respect,” Margulies said in a statement released Friday. “I want to be 100% clear: Racism, homophobia, sexism, or any prejudice against anyone’s personal beliefs or identity are abhorrent to me, full stop.”

Margulies recognized that some were offended by her comments. She did not own that her remarks were offensive. That’s not an apology. That’s the work of a bunch of publicists trying to quickly clean up the mess Margulies made.

Every headline about Margulies claimed she apologized for her comments. She didn’t. Her podcast appearance aired Nov. 21. Only more than a week later when her remarks started getting negative traction on social media did she even say anything about them. And when she did, she shifted away from what she said to how she has worked “tirelessly to combat hate of all kind, end antisemitism, speak out against terrorist groups like Hamas, and forge a united front against discrimination.” She added that she “did not intend for my words to sow further division, for which I am sincerely apologetic.”

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Her intentions are irrelevant. Her words sowed further division. But Margulies did not retract her statement that Black people “have been brainwashed to hate Jews,” as if antisemitism is as innate to us as the texture of our hair or the melanin in our skin. She reduced Black people to a monolith guided by one mind and a binding set of hateful beliefs.

And Margulies, who is Jewish, also did this — instead of citing Jewish support for civil rights in the 1960s as just and humane, she reframed it as transactional, something performed with an expectation that it would someday be repaid. By Margulies’s thinking, Black people are failing to reciprocate.

These days sincere and thoughtful apologies, especially from those with status and power, are rare. As trained by his profoundly devious mentor Roy Cohn, Donald Trump never apologizes. He never apologized for calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five, the Black and brown teens now known as the Exonerated Five, who were wrongly accused of raping and assaulting a white female jogger in 1989.

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Trump offered no regrets for propagating lies about former president Barack Obama’s birthplace in a racist attempt to cast doubt on the first Black president’s legitimacy. And most prominently, there’s been no remorse for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection with his lies about the validity of the 2020 presidential election that he lost.

The former president, whose mendacious machinations have garnered 91 felony counts in four jurisdictions, never apologizes because he views it as a sign of weakness. Also Trump is never sorry for what he inflicts, in words or misdeeds, on others.

By that low standard, Margulies’s non-apology seems robust. But she’s sorry only for the lousy publicity, nothing else. She said what she said. “Never ruin an apology with an excuse,” Benjamin Franklin once said. Margulies offered no excuses, but that might have been an improvement. Instead “sincerest apologies” for her unacknowledged offensive comments are nothing more than crumbs of phony contrition to the Black and LGBTQ communities she deliberately offended.


Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her @reneeygraham.