If you go on national TV to explain why you accidentally killed someone — it might be good to start out with an apology.
Tulsa, Oklahoma reserve sheriff’s Deputy Robert Bates appeared on the Today Show this morning to address how and why he mistook his pistol for his taser and shot and killed a suspect trying to get away.
These kind of mistakes, he said “…can happen to anyone.”
Bates had plenty of back up help. He was surrounded by his lawyer, his wife, and two daughters. The daughters spent most of the 8 minute interview rubbing dad’s shoulders as he spoke.
It was two minutes into the interview before Bates managed to say “First, and foremost let me apologize to the family of Eric Harris” the man he shot. Worse than his slow draw on the apology was that he immediately followed the statement by saying this was the “…second-worst thing that’s happened to me in my life. I had cancer a number of years ago. I didn’t think I was going to get there…I’d rate this as number one in my life of things in my life that I regret.” We’re betting Eric Harris would rate the incident the worst thing that happened in his life.
It is not a bad idea to have a family member or two in the background to support you during an appearance like this — but the constant shoulder massage was distracting. And as a general rule we’d prefer to not see someone appear with their lawyer at their side — but in this case it was useful because Bates’ attorney did a much better job than he did in addressing allegations of police training records having been falsified.
The most important thing that Bates missed, however, is that this is not all about YOU. Instead of talking about how he was unable to sleep and concentrate — he would have been better advised to shoulder a bit more of the blame and no matter what question Matt Lauer asked at the top — start with something like: “First, let me say how deeply, deeply sorry I am for my mistake.”