This week has seen the introduction of a new type of non-apology to American public life. First, Arizona senator Jon Kyl used his time on the Senate floor during a budget debate to claim that abortions make up "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." When it was pointed out that, in fact, abortion funding constitutes about 3 percent of the organization's budget, Kyl shrugged it off. "It wasn't intended to be a factual statement," he said. Oh! a nation sighed, slapping their foreheads. Our politicians don't even have to pretend that they're telling the truth anymore. That will be a lot less confusing!
Not two days later, Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for calling a referee a "fucking faggot" during a game. Bryant, naturally, was agog that anyone reacted negatively. "What I said last night should not be taken literally," he pointed out. Duh! The guy was not actually having gay sex right then.
Responding to criticism by saying "you weren't supposed to take that seriously" is a ballsier cousin of "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" without the apology, and with an implication that you'd have to be kind of dumb to take the offending words at face value. Think of how many dubious statements could be cleared up with this new construction! Here are ten public figures who could have used it to resolve some of their recent utterances.
Donald Trump: "What I said about telling the parents of dead soldiers that their children died so we could 'take the oil' from Iraq should not be taken literally."
Diane Von Furstenberg: "What I said about Chinese people being just a billion disobedient Jews wasn't intended to be a factual statement."
Newt Gingrich: "What I said about America becoming simultaneously radical Islamist and atheist should not be taken literally. (That would be impossible, after all.)"
Andy Cohen: "When I said I would 'stab knives into my own eyes' if Heidi Montag ended up on Bravo, it wasn't intended to be a factual statement. (But the part about her being 'delusional trash' was.)"
Rush Limbaugh: "What I said about people eating as much salt as they want and not exercising should not be taken literally. That's my strategy, and look at me!"
Anthony Weiner: "When I said that the Republican party 'is a wholly owned subsidiary of an insurance industry. That's the fact,' it wasn't intended to be a factual statement."
Marty Peretz: "What I said about Muslim life being cheap, especially for Muslims, should not be taken literally. Even though I later clarified by saying that 'this is a statement of fact, not value.' That also should not be taken literally."
Carl Paladino: "What I said about children being 'brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option' should not be taken literally. (Obviously, they are acid-washed into thinking it, like a pair of perfectly good dungarees that have been turned into a pair of mid-thigh cutoffs at a gay pride parade.)"
Barack Obama: "What I said about my bowling in the presidential alley being 'like the Special Olympics' should not be taken literally. For example, everybody did not get a medal, only me. And Sasha and Malia were not made to feel good about themselves, either."
Rand Paul: "When I said I have to flush the toilet ten times whenever I go number two, it wasn't intended to be a factual statement. (My dad, however ...)"